Newcastle, buckle up. Chess The Musical is coming to the Civic Theatre this month and with it, a 32-piece orchestra, 200-strong choir and vocal powerhouse Silvie Paladino.
The delightful Paladino is one of Australia's most versatile and talented entertainers. Her family "discovered" her voice at the age of nine and she won Channel Ten's Young Talent Time in 1986 when she was 15.
Her first theatrical role was Eponine in the Australasian tour of Les Misérables at the age of 18. Her stage credits to date include Hair, Cats, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia!, Sideshow Alley, The King And I and Jerry's Girls, and she is a regular at Carols by Candlelight for the Nine Network. Paladino has even shared the stage with Michael Bolton.
Chess, though, holds a special place in her heart.
"I did Chess in 2012 in Melbourne for The Production Company," she tells Weekender.
"They were doing three shows a year and those shows would run for five to 10 performances. It gave performers like me the opportunity to touch on these musicals that wouldn't necessarily come to Australia.
"It's one of those roles where the music, for me, sits so well with my voice. They write some incredible songs, those ABBA boys."
Written in 1984 by Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus with world-renowned lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Chess tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Newcastle's own David Harris will return from New York to share the stage with Paladino, supported by a principal cast of familiar faces: Marty Worrall, Marissa Saroca, Christopher Allan, Matt Edwards and Amy Vee. The show will be directed by Edwards' wife, Erin James, working with musical director Dan Wilson and choir leader Kim Sutherland OAM. All up, 280 performers will be on stage - including the largest choir ever assembled for a musical theatre production in Newcastle.
Wilson said it was a phenomenal opportunity for local performers to watch Paladino and Harris in action.
"Erin and I are pinching ourselves that we get to work with these uber-talented professionals and present a show of this scale at the Civic Theatre," he says.
"The Chess soundtrack is phenomenal and includes the international hit singles I Know Him So Well and One Night In Bangkok and other well-known songs such as Anthem, Someone Else's Story,Heaven Help My Heart and Pity The Child."
Paladino last performed at the Civic "in 1994 or '95 for Cats", she says, and is looking forward to working with Harris.
"Beautiful David - I've known him for many years now so it's great to be working with him in this way. We've only ever done concerts before together."
Singing was only a hobby for Paladino until she won the Italian Song Festival as a teen, followed by Young Talent Time. Then she decided to take it more seriously.
"I've never looked back," she says.
"I was brought up by 'new Australians' who came here in the '50s and struggled to keep food on the table and make ends meet and because of that I have no ideas of grandeur. I feel very blessed to do what I do and I love what I do.
"I've never done anything else and have been very fortunate to have been able to maintain a career in show business. I believe my talent and what I do is through no reward of mine. It's not something that I've done, it's something that's been given to me. I don't feel any different to anyone else, it's just what I do.
"At the end of the day we're not curing cancer, we're performers and you can't take it too seriously.
"The best part of the industry, for me, is the people. I've got wonderful friends around me who have been doing this as long as I have and we celebrate each other's milestones and successes."
When asked about her experiences on the Michael Bolton tour in 2018, she laughs.
"It was great, a real blast from the past for me," she says.
"When I was on stage with him to sing How Am I Supposed To Live Without You as a duet, I told him how I used to listen to that song as a young teen and have a cry about being in love with boys and them not loving me back.
"I think he thought I was a crazy woman."