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Rock musical ‘Chess in Concert’ makes a move to Columbus’ Shedd Theatre

Courtesy of Red Generation Photography

Those who think chess is just a game old people play at the park are wrong. In the Senior Repertory of Ohio (SRO) Theatre Company’s production of the rock musical “Chess In Concert,” chess is about love, competition and political conflict during the Cold War.

The musical is scheduled to run seven performances from Friday until June 10 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center’s Shedd Theatre. Friday’s opening performance is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

The musical tells the story of a love triangle between American chess star Freddie, Russian chess champion Anatoly and Hungarian-American love interest Florence. Director Joe Bishara said chess has a meaning deeper than that of a musical storyline.  

“Chess is a metaphor for life. Think about the different games you play every single day,” Bishara said. “You have a chess game that you’re dealing with in your professional life, you have a chess game you’re dealing with in your personal life.”

Bishara said the show resembles chess in that it has several layers, similar to a chess board.

“That is what I think appeals to me in the show,” he said. “There is a lot more going on than just a game.”

Doubling his roles in the production by playing Anatoly, Bishara said he primarily focuses on directing at this point in his career but was happy for the opportunity to act in “Chess In Concert.”

“I’ve known this show for 20 years, it has been one of my dream shows. So the challenge of both directing and being in it is a lot of fun,” Bishara said. “I feel like I can have more of a presence in the outcome of a production that I am directing. But, I enjoy acting for the challenge of it.”

Liz Wheeler and Matt Clemens play the show’s other lead characters, Florence and Freddie, respectively. Wheeler and Clemens mentioned the advantages and enjoyments of having a director be involved with the acting.

“He runs around a lot,” Wheeler said, laughing. “He is always wanting to see things from the outside as well as be a part of them. I find it very fun and exciting.”

Clemens said he has worked with other directors who could not pull off the same thing Bishara is doing for “Chess in Concert.” He said Bishara’s knowledge of the play enables him to take on both roles.

“(Bishara) knows this show so well that he can easily change hats to go back and forth,” Clemens said. “Joe is doing a great job, he knows what he is doing.”

The music for “Chess In Concert” is by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA with lyrics written by Tim Rice, who has worked on Walt Disney productions such as ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and ‘Aladdin.’

“The music first came out as a concept album and a couple of the songs went to the top of the charts,” Bishara said. “Most people know the songs once they hear them.”

Clemens said the pop/rock music is a nice break from traditional musical styles, and it’s what he enjoys most about “Chess in Concert.”

“The best part of the show is truly the music,” Clemens said.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students at the box office the day of the show and can be purchased before the show by calling SRO Theatre’s box office at 614-258-9495.

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