Sunday 26 April 2015

Noelle Hannibal's CHESS in Concert plays before a standing room only crowd

Montreal does not get a lot of really good musical productions. So when I heard that In The Wings Promotions would be presenting Highlights From CHESS In Concert at La Vitrola on St. Laurent Boulevard I was anxious to see (and hear) it in person.

CHESS originated as a 1984 concept album and has spawned many stage renditions over the past three decades – mainly via  concert presentations. The score is by ABBA composers Benny Anderrson and Bjorn Ulvaeus ("Mamma Mia") and lyricist Tim Rice ("Evita") and it tells the  tale of Cold War intrigue, complex romantic entanglements, and cutthroat chess competition. I am most familiar with it from the concert version with Josh Groban, Idina Menzel  and Adam Pascal in 2008, which I have watched more than once on YouTube.

In The Wings promotions is the baby of the talented Noelle Hannibal. She moved here from Los Angeles 14 years ago and resides in West Island Vaudreuil with her husband.

This was a one night only presentation and performed before a standing room only crowd. “It was definitely a lot of work and I am feeling it today,”  Noelle commented the morning after. “It was the first large show I have produced on my own, so it was a risk. My last cabaret at the Segal studio drew in less than half the capacity, so I didn't want to take a chance. I was thrilled that we had standing room only! I wish we could have done more shows.”

With a powerful score blending pop, rock, and operetta, the cult musical CHESS tells the story of two rival chess masters whose antagonism mirrors that of their respective countries. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, American chess champion Freddie Trumper faces Soviet challenger Anatoly Sergievsky for the world title — and the affections of Freddie’s presumed lover and second, Florence Vassy, a Hungarian-born former refugee torn between the two sides. The songs by   Andersson  and Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Rice, include the top-10 dance hit “One Night in Bangkok,” the classic duet “I Know Him So Well,” and the stirring “Anthem.” 
Left to right: Tamara Clark, Kenny Wong, Marc Ducasin, Mike Melino and Noelle Hannibal.
Besides Hannibal (Florence), the cast included established performers along with up-and-coming young talent including   Mike Melino (Freddie), Jonathan Eidelman (Anatoly), Kenny Wong (Molokov), Tammy Clark (Svetlana), Marc Ducusin (Arbiter), Will Fech (Walter), Corey Tomicic (Emsemble) and Ilana Zackon (Ensemble) with musical direction by Ian Baird and directed by Nadia Verrucci.   Hannibal, Melino and Eidelman really exercised their vocal chords on this night, not an easy job.

In The Wings Promotions provides public relations for theatre companies and events in and around Montreal. They also actively contribute to the Montreal theatre community by producing special theatrical events along with a masterclass series.

Founded in 2011, In The Wings has brought such Broadway personalities as Seth Rudetsky and Natalie Weiss to town for a masterclass  series. Past productions include Corner of the Sky: The Music of Stephen Schwartz, Like Breathing: Musical Theatre Songs for a New Generation, Barefoot Broadway's Highlights from "RENT": In Concert, Music Theatre Montreal's "The Birthday Party," Waterworks Company's "Gidion's Knot,"  Music Theatre Montreal's, "Cabaret,"  CETM's  "South Park: Smaller, Shorter and Definitely Cut,", "Broadway Gals" and "The Ghosts of Broadway,"  In Your Face Entertainment's "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,"  The Becket Players' "Gasoline and Matches,"  CETM's "The Sound of Musicals" and "Barefoot Broadway."

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