Friday, June 26, 2009

Must Watch Friday - CHESS

Because she knows it'll torture PHS editor Michelle Styles, Donna Alward joins us with a post on the musical theatre extravaganza, CHESS.

Not long ago I discovered Josh Groban was in a production of Chess, and better yet, it was going to be on PBS's Great Performances. I taped it on my DVR and last weekend the girlies and I got some snacks and settled in for the ride.

Chess was first produced in 1986 and written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame. With lyrics by the renowned Tim Rice, even those unfamiliar with the production will recognize songs like "One Night In Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well" - the latter made popular by Whitney and Cissy Houston.

ABBA composers Andersson and Ulvaeus created their first musical theater work more than a decade before striking pay dirt with their phenomenon, Mamma Mia. It was the inspired idea of lyricist/librettist Rice to match the pair with his cold war tale: the East/West Chess Championship and the romantic triangle that develops between the Russian and American competitors and the beautiful woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Chart topper Josh Groban (Awake, Closer, Noel) sings the Russian player, Anatoly; Rent Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominee Adam Pascal is the American Freddie, and Tony-winner Idina Menzel (Wicked Witch Elphaba, Nancy of Enchanted) is Florence, the woman between them.

It takes some work to get into Chess at the beginning, because as a true romance reader/author I was itching to get to the love story. Plus the music is at times dissonant and edgy; it suits the mood of an anxious Cold War defection tale. Pascal plays the cocky Freddie so that you want to hug him and throttle him at the same time, Menzel's voice is diamond-sharp and precise, and Josh...well, Josh is Josh. Glorious. I hope he does more theatre productions.

The girls had a fantastic time watching as well, enjoying the music and asking political questions in the right places.

This production was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall - simply gorgeous.

I snagged this clip of Josh singing Anthem...but not at the Royal Albert because I couldn't find one of the quality I wanted.

It was well worth the watch and several of the songs are still stuck in my head.

Donna's current release is HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE - out now. Up next for her is attending RWA Nationals in Washington DC...her first national con and her first trip to the US Capital!

1 comment:

  1. Some people are into torture!

    I have ordered my audio cd of the highlights... the dvd comes out on 6July...but I think I will listen more than watch...