Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chess in Concert

Tonight on PBS (check your local listings for tonight's time and rebroadcast times), Great Performances will be presenting Chess in Concert.

For those unfamiliar with Chess, it's a mid-80s rock musical from Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (of ABBA fame) with lyrics by Tim Rice. Many non-musical fans may at least be familiar with one song, One Night in Bangkok, which was released as a single by Murray Head and I still hear on the radio from time to time today. The show is centered around a chess championship focused on American and Russian rivalry in the match. The American's manager falls in love with the Russian player, creating an odd sort of love triangle. There are also some cold-war style elements as government agencies are involved in the American-Russian relations.

As far as I've seen, the show doesn't get played much (at least locally)...Lynette and I drove ~80 minutes to see it when it was playing at a small community theatre up in Northern Utah many years ago.

While I'd much rather see them broadcast the actual show, I'm sure the concert will be wonderful. The general plotline is moderately week at points. There are a few scenes which are great to see acted out (the endgame scene is a lot of fun), but honestly a lot of the show felt like filler for the music. Which is why the concert should be great. There are some wonderfully powerful songs in the mix and Great Performances has gathered a great cast.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Josh Groban belt out Pity the Child or Where I Want to Be and I am sure Idina Menzel will be awesome for Nobody's Side or Someone Else's Story. I could take or leave a few of the songs, but most of them are filled with great emotion and I am stoked for this show.

For those in the Salt Lake area, the show will be on KUED tonight (June 17) at 7PM and will rebroadcast at 1AM on the 22nd.

If you watch it, let me know what you think.


Okie said...

Well, it just started and I noticed a couple of errors in my initial post, the most notable being that I assumed Josh Groban would be playing Freddy...silly me. I should have assumed him to play the Russian (Anatoly?).

Anyway, just figured I'd clarify. Josh Groban = the Russian and Adam Pascal = the American.

Now, to enjoy the concert. :)

Brian_from_OH said...

Just finished watching it with my wife here in Columbus, OH. I've poked around a bit on the web and definitely see the confusion about the different versions. I cannot disagree with any of the comments I've seen about the show in general.

However, I have to say that we were both blown away from some of the individual performances. My wife and I are both classically trained musicians with fairly significant theater backgrounds (we appreciate good talent). What I can tell you is that some of the things that they can pull off vocally (especially Adam Pascal) are pretty damned amazing. You just don't find people out there that can do stuff like that - and they were still doing some of the most incredible stuff 2 hours into the show. I found myself completely wrapped up into several of the songs.

Bottom line, regardless of whether you like the entire show or not, you should see what the leads do with the songs. If you've Tivo'd it, then you should be able to edit the show on the fly as they say. . .

Okie said...

Thanks for the comment Brian.

After sleeping on my initial reaction, I think my main complaint was that it wasn't the plot/songs I already loved.

However, I definitely agree with you that the music was amazing. There are numerous times when the songs stretch the singers to their limits, and the performances last night were definitely incredible.

I did record it and will certainly enjoy watching many of the key numbers again and again.

Ben said...

How can one outside of the US get a copy of this wonderful concert special?? :)

Okie said...

I don't see it for sale yet in their store, but I suspect they'll have it up for sale at some point.

You can get to the store here: LINK

Ben said...

Cool, thanks. Wish there was somewhere to download it while I wait for it to arrive in Australia. Have ordered it from the UK :|