I want to talk Chess.

Chess?

Those of you who have seen the show might have recognized these lyrics from the musical Chess. Though a concept album was released in 1984, Chess first played for London audiences in 1986. It eventually came to Broadway in 1988, but unfortunately ran in New York City for only two years.

As one might deduce from its title, the musical is quite literally about the game of chess. Audiences follow The American (Frederick Trumper), Florence Vassy (The American’s second and assumed love inamorata), and The Russian (Anatoly Sergievsky). The plot thickens when the American and Florence travel to Merano, Italy for the world chess championship, where The American is to face The Russian. Par for the course with Broadway shows, matters of the past and matters of the heart complicate things for each chess player and questions of loyalty arise: loyalty to one’s homeland, loyalty to one’s family, loyalty to one’s heart… I won’t spoil anymore of the plot, but I encourage all to see this beautifully written piece and to do so with a box of tissues in reaching distance.

The music of the show is incredible. Written by ABBA musicians Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, along with lyrical genius Tim Rice, the album features upbeat, pop-style songs such as “One Night in Bangkok,” and “Nobody’s Side,” as well as heartbreaking duets such as “I Know Him So Well,” and “You and I.” The cast album caters to audience members of all tastes.

 

1984 Björn and Benny with Tim Rice start recording chess
Bjorn, Tim, and Benny

I believe it is high time for a revival of this musical. Though developed on principles that addressed the tensions between Soviet Russia and the United States wrought by the Cold War, the story is still incredibly relevant today. This is illustrated by the issues of immigration and United States relations with Russia that are front-burning news in modern circulation. Whether you believe that art imitates life, or life imitates art, you’re right.

I am disheartened by the fact that a great number of my peers have never heard of this wonderful piece of work. It tells a beautiful story of loyalty and passion and has an album that is beautifully written. Though I cannot provide you all with a revival, I can provide you with some amazing performances from this titular piece of theatre brilliance. Thank you Benny, Bjorn, Tim, and all involved in the creation of Chess.

If you’d like to know more about the musical, check out this website!

If you’d like to hear one of the phenomenal aforementioned duets performed by Barbara Dickinson and West End’s original Florence Vassy, Elaine Paige, check out this performance!

Finally, if the stage show never makes it to an area near you, check out the concert version of the musical featuring Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis, and Marti Pellow! I’ve worn my DVD copy out already! See the trailer: Chess in Concert

If nothing else, give the cast album a try. I promise that your ears and heart will thank you. Happy Monday to all!

Love and Light,

Emily Kate ❤

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