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Monday, September 13, 2010

Inspire Me Monday--Chess

When my sister was a senior in high school and I was a junior, she was taking part in a showcase for her choir group and needed a solo to sing for it.  Her choir teacher directed her to a piece called "Nobody's Side" from a semi-obscure musical from the eighties.  She loved it.  I loved it.  The whole family loved it.  So we bought the CD.  And proceeded to wear it completely out.

Ever hear of a little song called "One Night in Bangkok" ?  Bet you didn't know it was from a musical.
A musical with lyrics written by Tim Rice (Think Aladdin, the Lion King and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and music by the guys from Abba.  Their real names are Benny Andersson and Bj√∂rn Ulvaeus.  But really, I only ever remember that it was the guys from Abba.

I won't go much into the plot of the musical, since A. I've never seen it and B. it seems a little racy.  Yep, a musical about playing Chess is racy.  If you don't believe me, go back and listen to One Night in Bangkok one more time.  Suffice it to say, it is about a love triangle (but there's kinda four players...does that make it a love quadrangle?  Can anybody even tell me what a quadrangle is?!)  playing out between American and Russian Chess Players set against the backdrop of the Cold War.  Keeping up with me?  Chess.  Love.  Cold War.  Lots of other stuff.  

But the bottom line is, the music is amazing.  

So back in 2008 they revived it in London as "Chess in Concert" with Josh Groban as the Russian and as Florence, Idina Menzel (who played Elphaba in Wicked, and probably more memorably for those not well-acquainted with Broadway, she played McDreamy's somewhat jilted girlfriend Nancy in Enchanted. Did you know the girl who did Ariel's voice in the Little Mermaid and Barbie's voice in Toy Story 3 also played McDreamy's secretary in Enchanted.  It has nothing to do with anything about this post, I just enjoy making obscure connections.)  

Watching Chess in Concert helped me fall in love with Chess again.  The musical.  Not the game.  I'd rather listen to NPR than play Chess. And that is saying something.   But when Josh Groban and Idina Menzel are singing about it I am totally down for that!

Here are a few clips, some better than others.  The first one is my favorite.  Two women, both in love with the same guy.  Gut wrenching.

The first song we fell for. I love the haunting chorus at the start (1956...Budapest is Rising. 1956...Budapest is fighting...1956...Budapest is falling...) She's singing about how she feels working for the arrogant and antagonistic American.

Josh Groban doing his thing. This guy really loves Russia. hehe

And here's a quick interview Josh Groban did about how it came together

And here's a bonus to the Concert version...this song was not included in the original. Though I love it too! And you get a little more of a taste of Svetlana's side.


Erin said...

Ohh I will have to check this musical out. I never knew what it was about but I love Linda Eder and she sings a song from Chess (Anthem) on one of her albums. It has been one of my favorite tracks. I will have to check out the rest of the show.

Carolanne said...

Awesome. That's all there is to it. I'm with Josh on this one, I think as soon as someone hears it they think "where has this been all my life?". The lyrics are so clever ("I see my present partner in the imperfect tense" What English major can resist?) And the music is gripping. Love, love, love, love it.