Saturday, April 27, 2013

Barn Players "Chess" review by andiam

Another triumph Rating: 5

The Barn Players, Inc.

The Barn Players have established themselves over the
past few years as one of the best--if not the best--
venue for fully staged musicals in the KC area.
Starlight and Broadway Across America may have more
star power, but the Barn's intimate setting more than
compensates for the lack of big-name stars.

The rarely produced "Chess" is another triumph, at
least equal to the wonderful productions in the past
few years of "Curtains" and "Drowsy Chaperone."
Inspired by (though not in any way actually based on)
the Fischer-Spassky chess match of 1972, this show is
the powerful story of the way that people become pawns
(an apt metaphor) in the games politicians play.
(Comparisons to "Tosca" and "Aida" come to mind).

It would be redundant to mention all of the fine
actors/singers. The casting is excellent from top to
bottom. Among the secondary characters, however, Josh
Kreuger is convincing as the brash American chess
genius (much more amiable than the real-life Fischer),
and Kipp Simmons is especially effective as the
Machiavellian Russian diplomat who dominates the lives
of the participants.

The success of a production of this show, however,
rests on the abilities of the two leads--the Russian
champion, Anatoly, and the love interest of the two
competitors, Florence. "Anthem" is one of the great act
I finales in the repertoire, requiring an operatic
voice for its full effect, and Robert Hingula was equal
to the task. Rebecca Johnston, as Florence, not only
sings beautifully but also fully inhabits the
character, with a finely nuanced performance that makes
the audience feel her inner turmoil. This is a
performance I will remember for a long time.

The Barn may be a "community theater," but it would be
hard to imagine any professional company surpassing
this production.

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