From the gun to the tape: CHARIOTS OF FIRE at The Grand Theatre
When I was invited to go to opening night of the Grand's production of CHARIOTS OF FIRE, I couldn't have been more excited. I was familiar with the story and was excited to see how it would play out on the stage, having seen the popular movie all those years ago. I knew the Grand would do a fantastic job as they always do, but I wasn't prepared for just how innovative and immersive this particular theatre experience would be.
Running ensemble in the Grand Theatre's production of Chariots of Fire. Photo Christina Kuefner.
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? As we were seated and the rest of the audience was shuffling in, there was one very glaring difference to the way that patrons are typically sat for a show on the Spriet Stage: Some of the audience members were sat on the stage. Yes, you read that correctly. Anyone who knows the story of CHARIOTS OF FIRE will know that the story centers on a race between two runners who, after overcoming a variety of obstacles, are chosen to join the Olympic team to compete in the Paris games. This innovative seating arrangement allows for some of the patrons to serve as race spectators, seating on bleacher-style seating and taking part in the story in small but meaningful ways.
Wade Bogert-O'Brien as Eric Liddell and the running ensemble in the Grand Theatre's production of Chariots of Fire. Photo Christina Kuefner.
The next thing to notice is the track on which the runners compete. To make the experience truly immersive, the track starts out on the stage proper, but then runs through a section of the audience, allowing the audience to truly be part of the action as the story is laid right at their feet. As the patrons were finding their seats, the actor-athletes began their warm ups, moving across the stage and across the track portion in the audience, starting the action and drawing the crowd into the story before the show even had officially begun. This was extremely effective at bringing the action closer to the audience, which helped to build the feelings of excitement, anticipation, competition, and energy that permeate the story.
Harry Judge as Harold Abrahams in the Grand Theatre's production of Chariots of Fire. Photo Christina Kuefner.
Whether you're a fan of the Academy Award-winning movie or are unfamiliar with the story altogether, The Grand Theatre's production of CHARIOTS OF FIRE will instantly carve out a place in your heart for this tale of friendship, competition, perseverance, and striving for one's personal best. From the gun to the tape, this is a production built on great storytelling, creative set design, emotional music, and unforgettable performances by a world-class cast.
Wade Bogert-O'Brien as Eric Liddell in the Grand Theatre's production of Chariots of Fire. Photo Christina Kuefner.
On your mark, get set, go! Tickets are still available for CHARIOTS OF FIRE, which runs until May 5. Tickets are available online or by calling (519) 672-8800.