Walterdale Theatre premieres Chess

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After a 13-year absence, Matt Boisvert is returning to theatre as a lead in Chess opening tonight at Walterdale Theatre.

The former St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus put his career on hold after honing his skills in 20 productions from Alice in Wonderland to Grease.

During the following years, Boisvert dabbled in improv, the visual arts, filmmaking and a band before coming full circle back to theatre.

He decided to make a comeback after attending Citadel Theatre’ production of Alice Through the Looking Glass and seeing the cast’s joy in performing.

“I remembered the St. Albert Children’s Theatre and how much fun we had. Our rehearsals were long, but we were there because we loved it. It was never about making money,” said Boisvert.

Chess is a politically driven musical with music by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and lyrics by Tim Rice.

It’s the height of the Cold War era. Two chess grandmasters, an American and a Soviet, prepare to battle for the world championships.

At stake is an international rivalry for world supremacy. Caught in the middle is a woman who manages one competitor but falls in love with the other.

“It was inspired by the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky match of the century. But at its heart, it’s a love story and how the power of politics interferes with the lives of people,” said director Kirsten Finlay.

Boisvert plays Freddie Trumper, the American grandmaster loosely based on Bobby Fischer. Although brilliant at strategy, Freddie is a misogynistic narcissist displaying severely undeveloped social skills.

“Freddie is very charming although he can be quite unbearable. He’s the opposite of me in so many ways. He demonizes other people and he’s sexist. That was the hardest part for me. Some of those lines were hard to say. But you don’t outright hate him. You get sucked in by his charisma,” said Boisvert.

Freddie’s personality wasn’t the only challenge. The music demanded he hit a few high Bs and B-flats such as in Pity The Child. Although his two-octave range was well formed, the push was on.

“I stopped drinking coffee and wine and ate more fresh fruit. After changing my diet, suddenly I had all the notes in the range I needed and some I didn’t need.”

Chess was a hot commodity during Finlay’s graduating year and has been a back-burner directing project for several decades.

She noted that while society’s priorities have shifted since the ’80s, many issues are still applicable.

“A lot of things are still relevant today such as xenophobia and sexism, the way we judge people and other cultures. And today we still see governments making decisions and not thinking about how they affect people.”

Two other St. Albert actors have nabbed smaller roles. Russ Farmer plays Nikolai, a Soviet enforcer and Najm Abaza takes on multiple roles in the ensemble.

Preview

Chess
July 6 to 16
Walterdale Theatre
10322 – 83 Ave.
Tickets: $15.75 to $19.75 Call 780-420-1757 or at tixonthesquare.ca

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Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.