Thursday, April 7, 2016


So many people I talk to hate Chess. I've never seen it, and honestly, if I did, I would probably hate it too, but it was one of the first musicals I bought myself (I don't know why) and it was the FIRST musical where I found out that a mezzo-soprano could be the female lead... or even the ONLY voice part for women. That was a big thing to a girl who was being forced by her first voice teacher to learn classical soprano but was, and wanted to be, a belter.

There are several recording of Chess and you'll get a different experience by listening to any of them because the play has changed so many times. As we know from the musicals that proceeded this, any time you have to revise the book every time a new production is put on, you know it has a weak book. I grew up with the Broadway cast (starring Judy Kuhn, who is so great, as Florence). I have tried to work all the female songs from Chess into my repertoire at some point but no one ever supports this decision. I think "Nobody's Side" is SUCH a great pop song and the "Mountain Duet"/"Terrace Duet" has these killer harmonies... I don't even mind how overly dramatic the music is to this show.

The London recording, which came first, is surprisingly the better recording (something I'll probably never say again). Elaine Paige is INCREDIBLE as Florence, and, for once in my life, I don't even mind the fact that Murray Head's vocals have so many effects on them. (But HOW does that work in the actual theater??) My favorite part of the entire recording is the guitar solo* at the end of "Pity the Child" -- PLEASE let that have happened on stage! Oh my God, this guy plays the craziest solo in theatre history and it's SO GOOD and all I'm imagining is what could be happening on stage while this solo is happening. I hope it wan't just for the recording, and that they did do the solo during the show, and that there was just highly stylized chess playing happening.

There is a 2009 concert version of Chess that I urge you to never listen to. It's the most complete recording as far as I can tell and it is hilariously bad. I don't know what they were doing. It's full of A+ talent, and yet, somehow, it's just awful.

So, look, if you like legitimate rock music, which I obviously do, you might like some parts of Chess.   It was written by the ABBA guys, so, it's relatively legitimate. I like rock AND I like ABBA, so there was basically no way for me to not like Chess. It's not the best, but at least it was an original story, and I do think it is underrated.

Music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Lyrics by Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus
Book by Tim Rice or Richard Nelson

*listen to this crazy guitar solo. I love it so much.

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