A CLS Chess Success
City of London School stages a large musical every two years as its Upper School Production. This autumn’s show was the Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus/Tim Rice 1980’s epic sung-through musical ‘Chess’; its sell-out four-show run in the Winterflood Theatre concluded this Thursday with an emotional, soaring finale in front of a packed audience.
In many ways ‘Chess’ was a natural choice as the follow-up to the 2016 CLS production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. It was watching a performance of this show in the 1970s that Abba songwriters Andersson and Ulvaeus decided that they too had ambitions to write a musical. As Abba’s career developed and their own personal relationships their respective wives and fellow Abba members disintegrated, they became increasingly frustrated by the strictures of the three-minute pop song. Abba’s final studio recording (before their hugely anticipated new material which is due next year) was the plaintive, epic ‘The day before you came’. This six-minute pop masterpiece points the way to the musical direction of ‘Chess’, which is an incredibly rich, ambitious choice for a school to stage.
The School’s production – directed by Miss Dobson - was an extraordinary achievement even by its own very high standards. With a cast of thirty from both CLS and City of London Girls, the show was led by an incredibly talented nucleus of lead performers. These are roles written for mature adults in times of both personal and professional crisis; senior pupils from both schools performed them with huge skill. Backed by an outstanding 13-piece band under the baton of Musical Director Mr Harrison, the sheer scale of the music and the variety of genres which the score encompasses was astonishing. Nobody who lived through the 80s can have failed to relish ‘I know him so well’ and ‘One night in Bangkok’. Equally impressive was the staging, with its clever use of projection and a clear visual sense of the ideological and personal enmity between East and West.
This is a production that will live long in the memories of all who were fortunate enough to have seen it and for those who put it together and took part; it will be a highlight of their school careers. We look forward to next term’s student production of ‘N1’, an original work by Senior Sixth Former Isaac about homelessness in London.
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‘Chess’ was a natural choice as the follow-up to the 2016 CLS production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.