Last night, Jennifer and I went to see the Willows Theatre’s production of the musical “Chess”. It was the worst production of anything we have ever seen at the Willows, or just about anywhere else.
I discovered the music of “Chess” in the ‘80s with the song “One Night in Bangkok” on MTV. It has remained one of my favorite songs. Jennifer came to “Chess” from the song “Anthem” which had been covered by Linda Eder. Both of us eventually acquired the album, and thought about seeing the musical.
A few years after we were married, we were in San Jose, and happened to be walking around downtown, and we came across a theatre there who were putting on the show. Unfortunately the tickets were out of our range at the time, and we both had to leave disappointed.
Then last year, when the Willows Theatre announced their return season, we saw they were doing “Chess”, and we knew we had to see it. We’d been looking forward to this for almost a year, but last night destroyed our concept of the show and our trust in the Willows.
The acting was stiff. The choreography was horrible. The sound was mushy, and not all of the singers could project well enough to carry their voice to the back of the theatre (and it’s not a big theatre). The secondary male lead was horrible; he couldn’t sing in the range the songs were written, and we kept thinking his voice would crack. And he sang “One Night in Bangkok” and muffed it. Badly. There was live music this time at the Willows with a bari sax, a cello, a violin, and electric keyboard, and drums and guitar. But the violinist couldn’t hit the right notes. There was even one song where the musicians were supposed to play in a minor key (we think), and they couldn’t even play that convincingly enough. If you’re going to be dissonant, you’ve got to do it big and with confidence.
The only redeeming part of the show was the female lead. She had a great voice, and carried things.
I have no idea what show this reviewer and this reviewer went to see, but it certainly wasn’t the one we attended. We feel we wasted 3 hours of our lives, not to mention the money we spent on the tickets, and gas getting there. We’ll certainly not be going back to the Willows Theatre anytime soon.