LOOK around you. Do you really know the person you sit opposite at work as well as you think you do? Do you honestly know how talented the man in the finance room is? Are you aware the dinner lady at your child’s school may have the most incredible sounding voice?

I couldn’t help but wonder this as I watched Chess The Musical by Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead Theatre Company on Tuesday.

I have to confess, I wasn’t too sure what I was in for that night. I know nothing about chess the game, I knew very little about this musical other than it was where “I Know Him So Well” came from and I had no idea what the quality of an amateur dramatic performance would be in a big theatre such as the Theatre Royal Windsor.

I am delighted to inform you I was pleasantly suprised, okay more like blown away on all accounts.

I do happen to sit next to two colleagues who are part of Am-dram groups and I am now looking at them in a completely different light.

If what I witnessed on Tuesday is anything to go by then I am impressed.

The talent that oozed out into the audience by SWMTC during Chess was breathtaking.

An incredibly powerful and brilliant group of musicians in the pit did drown out the chorus line a little in the first few numbers, but this was soon adjusted as the voices of the chess pieces came through and the story unfolded.

It didn’t matter that I know absolutely nothing about chess other than there’s a queen involved. This was a love story – as most musicals usually are. But played out during the Cold War, through games of chess and with a fabulous twist of espionage and politics.

Now that is right up my street.

The music though. This was like no other. Written by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to lyrics by Tim Rice, of course this was going to be powerful.

But it doesn’t matter how incredibly gifted the lyric and score writers are, the music is nothing without great voices delivering them.

And SWMTC provided just that.

Olivia Shepherd as Florence was captivating and spellbinding. She hardly moved while singing and didn’t need to. Her voice held my attention every time she appeared and I was hooked.

Damian Sollesse as the Arbiter fitted into his role as snuggly as he did the stilleto heels he strutted around in. My only complaint would be I wanted him on stage ALL THE TIME. He’s fantastic!

Every cast member shone. There was great choreography, incredible music and the best use of a drop-screen I have ever seen.

You must see this and you must re-consider how well you know people. Because if they are part of an Am-dram they could be hiding a voice you never knew was there!

Chess The Musical

by Music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Lyrics by Tim Rice.

Chess The Musical is at Theatre Royal Windsor, in Thames Street until Saturday. To book visit www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk or call the box office on 01753 853 888.

Rebecca Curley