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Chess as presented by Dun Laoghaire Musical & Dramatic Society 



16TH April 2024 to 20th April 2024

Pavillion Theatre, Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire.

Adjudication Performance 19th April 2024

This is a musical drama that I have not seen in a good few years, but remains a crowd puller especially for the numbers that were brought to the pop mainstream in the 80s which so many remember. It was with great excitement that I drove to Dun Laoghaire for this production of Chess. Patrons were warmly welcomed and directed to their seats very efficiently, and with a full house it was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. Customer service is at its best here. The team was friendly and efficient and I couldn’t wait for the opening. 

The Director was Stephen Fagan. Firstly, Mr Fagan did an exceptional job bringing this musical to life. The direction was highly commendable, with Mr Fagan's vision being evident in every show aspect. For instance, the staging and blocking of the opening number, 'The Story of Chess,' was creatively designed to keep the audience engaged throughout the performance. The Set was superb and multifunctional in so many ways.

The Director seamlessly brought together the cast and crew to create a production that captured the heart and soul of 'Chess.' The attention to detail and the ability to bring out the character’s emotions on stage were awe-inspiring. Overall, the Director's work was outstanding, and the show's success is a testament to their exceptional talent and hard work. The Direction in this production was simply magnificent. I loved the set, the colours, the angles, the choir on either side of the back of the stage dressed beautifully, and the inclusion of this choir in several pieces, which was extraordinarily touching and emotional. I loved Mr Fagan’s direction for this show at every turn. The audience's emotional response was palpable, with many in tears and others on the edge of their seats, fully immersed in 'Chess.' 

The Musical Director was Barry Power. A man of great talent, the music was consistently beautifully executed, and the orchestra was outstanding. Mr. Powers' choice of tempos and dynamics was perfect, particularly in the songs 'Merano' and 'Florence and Molokov, 'where the music's ebb and flow perfectly mirrored the characters' emotional journey. The singers' voices blended beautifully with the music. His ability to communicate the nuances and emotions of the music to the cast and orchestra was impressive. Mr Powers’ hard work and dedication were evident in every note played, and the result was a breathtaking musical score that truly captivated the audience. This orchestra was out on its own regarding quality of sound and professionalism, and with Mr Power at the helm, the cast was in very safe hands. 'Merano,' 'Florence and Molokov,' the glorious 'Pity The Child' which lifted the roof and rightly so, and the unforgettable vision that was 'One Night in Bangkok' and of course stunning 'Anthem' which brought me to the verge of tears. You have an extraordinary gift as a Musical Director. 

The Choreographer was Lauren Dooley. The dances were impeccably choreographed and executed flawlessly by the cast. Ms. Dooley's ability to create unique and entertaining dance routines was impressive, and the dances were a highlight of the show. Her attention to detail and ability to bring out the best in the cast were evident in every dance number. I loved what Ms. Dooley did with the movement here, with “One Night in Bangkok” a stunning highlight. The result was a dazzling display of dance. Ms. Dooley's work was a crucial element in the electrifying energy and excitement of the dance routines, which was palpable in the audience's response.

Clare MacEntee was the stage manager. This production moved gracefully and quickly to Ms McEntee and her teams credit. This was a tightly run area with excellent organization and professionalism, ensuring the show moved freely and maintained a good pace. 

The set design was exceptional and creative, and it played a significant role in the overall positive effect of this musical. The set was multifunctional, and the different levels provided a perfect platform for the cast to sing and act, creating a sense of depth and dimension to the production. The use of colour and texture worked together harmoniously to create a fully immersive environment that transported the audience to different locations. One of the standout features of the set design was the mezzanine level, which was cleverly used for the choir to sing from. I adored the projections on the backstage wall, like a movie showing different elements that represent Chess, and this was very clever and simply lovely. It created an ethereal and haunting effect that was both moving and engaging. The team responsible for the set design should be commended for their hard work and dedication, which helped make this production successful.

The Sound was a combined mastery of sound effects and music cues evident from the show’s beginning. The sound quality was clear, crisp, and the sound levels were expertly controlled, ensuring that every word and note was heard perfectly. The balance between the orchestra and the vocals, ensemble, and soloists was perfect, and the sound design added to the beautiful emotional impact of the show. The transitions between scenes were seamless, creating a smooth and immersive experience for the audience. Overall, the sound was excellent, especially on the front line, without exception. 

The lighting in this lovely production was stunning. The use of colour, intensity, and movement created a dynamic and genuinely stunning environment for the show. The lighting was used to set the mood and tone of each scene, from the bright and energetic "One Night in Bangkok" to the haunting and emotional "Anthem." The lighting design was also used to create a sense of location, from the bright lights of Bangkok to the dark and sombre atmosphere of the Soviet Union. Using moving lights and gobo projections added an extra dimension to the production, creating a visually stunning and immersive experience for the audience. The lighting transitions were smooth and flawless, and the overall effect was breathtaking. 

The costumes in "Chess," the musical, were terrific! I loved how the costumes changed throughout the show, adding a new dimension to the performers' characters. It was visually stunning, with intricate details and impressive use of colour, significantly impacting the stage. Overall, the costumes in "Chess" the musical were outstanding. The costumes' creativity, attention to detail, and functionality were impressive and played a significant role in bringing the characters and the production to life. 

The Hair and Makeup team did a fantastic job in this production. The hair and makeup team created a range of looks that reflected the individual characters' personalities and emotions, which was impressive. Overall, the hair and makeup team's work in this production was exceptional, and their contribution to the show's success cannot be overstated.

The Props team created various functional and visually appealing items for this production. One of the standout props in the show was the chessboard, which was used throughout the production and was integral to the plot. The chessboard was beautifully crafted, and its intricate design added to the lovely visual. The Props team's attention to detail was also evident in the smaller items, such as the newspapers, books, and letters used throughout the show. These items were all period-appropriate and most definitely added to the overall appearance of reality most effectively. 

Máirín Hayes played the part of Florence. Ms Hayes was a stunning character in this production. Her physical appearance and manner were charming and striking, and Ms Hayes carried herself with grace and elegance throughout the show. Her acting was superb, and she brought strength and emotion to this part of Florence that was genuinely captivating. Her character was seamless and believable. But it was her vocal prowess that truly shone. Her voice was rich and powerful, with a beautiful tone that filled the theatre with every note. Her rendition of "Nobody's Side" was a particular highlight, with her voice soaring effortlessly through each note of every song in this young lady character, which was a joy to watch and listen to. 

Jack Hopkins played the part of Anatoly. This was a superb portrayal of Anatoly and was inspiring and emotional. Mr Hopkins' vocal range is impressive. From the moment he first stepped on stage, he commanded the audience's attention with his commanding presence and powerful voice. His rendition of "Anthem" was particularly moving, with his soaring vocals sending chills down the audience's spine, and his delivery of the song's poignant lyrics left many in tears, including me. A fabulous performance, well done. 

Gavin Molony played the part of Freddy. Mr. Molony, as Freddy, delivered an outstanding performance vocally and in terms of acting ability in this production. His rendition of "Pity The Child" was breathtaking, sung with such a range and tone that it left a lasting impression on me. Acting-wise, Mr. Molony brought a calm and confident energy to the character that was both admirable and endearing. As a world champion at Chess, he portrayed the character with knowledge and confidence in his gift that was impressive, even if somewhat cocky at times. This balance of trust and vulnerability made his performance so compelling to watch. Overall, Mr. Molony's performance as Freddy was nothing short of incredible. His exceptional talent and dedication to the role shone through in every aspect of his performance, creating a fully realized and multi-dimensional portrayal that was a true highlight of the show. His vocal range and acting ability were stunning, and his performance of "Pity The Child" was an unforgettable moment in the production. I will use one word to summarise Mr. Molony's performance as Freddy Trumper. And that word is Incredible. 

Leonna Condron played the part of Svetlana. From the moment she arrived on stage in her stunning white ensemble, Ms Condron commanded attention with her captivating stage presence. Ms Condron's singing voice was breathtaking, with a velvet-like quality that added a layer of depth and emotion to the character of Svetlana. Her vocals and diction effortlessly conveyed the character's vulnerability, strength, and determination. 

Ms Condron possessed a remarkable physical presence on stage. Her movements were graceful, fluid, and captivating, which added to the overall impact of her performance. She brought a unique approach to the character of Svetlana that made her stand out from the rest of the cast. Ms Condron's interpretation of the character was compelling and authentic, which made her portrayal all the more believable and relatable. 

Overall, Ms. Condron brought her A-game to every aspect of the role, from her singing to her stage presence, and her glamour and finesse to every character were evident in every scene. Her performance was a pleasure to watch; a beautiful role played superbly. 

Brian Dennison played the part of Molokov. Mr Dennison's portrayal of Molokov was another excellent performance. From the moment he stepped onto the stage, Mr. Dennison commanded attention with his powerful and commanding presence. His delivery of Molokov's lines was impeccable, with a perfect balance of menace and charm that kept the audience on edge throughout the show. Mr Dennison's performance was a crucial element in this show's success. 

Mikey Deasy played the part of Walter. Mr Deasy demonstrated a strong understanding of strategic principles, which was portrayed well. Ultimately, his acting capabilities shone when this character changed, and his lapse of judgment cost him a potential victory, which was very well played. Good stage presence. 

David Hynes played the Arbiter. While there may have been a few fleeting moments of nervousness in the opening scene, Mr. Hynes quickly found his footing and delivered a solid performance throughout the rest of the production. His vocal abilities were excellent, and he brought a lovely, strong character to the stage. His attention to detail in his appearance was impeccable, and his stage presence was commanding. Mr. Hynes's performance in his solo number, "The Arbiter," was awe-inspiring. He showcased his vocal range and demonstrated his ability to command the stage. His facial expressions and body language conveyed a sense of authority and control essential to the role. Overall, Mr. Hynes's performance as the Arbiter was excellent, and his talent and dedication to the role were evident in every moment he was on stage. 

This Chorus was an exceptional group of performers who brought artistry, precision, and energy to the awe-inspiring show. From the opening number, 'The Story of Chess,' to the powerful “One Night in Bangkok,” the Chorus demonstrated beautiful harmonies and shone in the numbers. In 'Merano,' they transitioned effortlessly between the Italian and English lyrics, displaying their versatility and skill. Their execution of the complex harmonies and rhythms in 'One Night in Bangkok' was remarkable. 

Overall, this Society has a strong foundation and many strengths to build on. From start to finish, this was a simply profound and visually enchanting production. I firmly believe this society will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come, and I wish you all the best of luck. Thank you again for the privilege of being your Adjudicator for this marvellous spectacle that was your magic for this year. It was a pleasure.

Caroline Daly Jones

Adjudicator 2023 / 2024 

Photos by Ken McFarland Photography / Edits by David Hynes

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