Michigan Tech Theatre to present Cold War-focused musical ‘Chess’

The story is set during the Cold War and follows a grandmaster chess tournament between American and Soviet opponents, but has a deeper meaning.
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 8:37 PM EDT
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Starting Wednesday night at the Rozsa Center in Houghton, the Michigan Tech Theatre group will present its production of ‘Chess.’

The story is set during the Cold War and follows a grandmaster chess tournament between an American, a Soviet and a young woman caught in the middle.

However, Director Trish Helsel said that there is a deeper meaning to the musical.

“‘Chess’ is a musical about... not chess,” said Helsel. “It uses chess as a vehicle to present ideas. There are a lot of songs in the show that really touch on the point of chess being a battleground. It’s a battleground for rival ideologies.”

The musical has two versions. The West End version first premiered in 1986 and the Broadway version in 1988.

According to Helsel, this production follows the Broadway version.

The cast and crew have been working on the production since January. Many of them are looking forward to showing off their hard work.

“This is probably the most complex character that I’ve played as far as showing ranges of emotion,” said Spencer Drow, who plays the character Ivan Malakov. “But also, he’s Russian, so in training to try and get at least a passable Russian accent in there, and sing in Russian, I’ve definitely had to do a lot more preparation.”

Others are excited to fill their favorite kind of role, such as Bradley Maycroft with his character Freddie Trumper.

“He just looked up my alley, very arrogant,” said Maycroft. “I like playing characters that are arrogant and have a lot of volume to them.”

While for others, like Nick Lieffers, this is their first professional production. Lieffers plays Anatoly Sergievsky.

“Being in college, the production is just a lot more professional, things move a lot faster,” said Lieffers. “But there also is just a level of respect among everybody, even among the crew, the directors, and the cast.”

The musical is roughly three hours long, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

There will be four chances to attend, from Wednesday, April 12 to Saturday, April 15.

Helsel noted that the musical does contain adult themes and is not suited for children.

For more information, check out the event’s page by clicking here.