Briefly, by way of introduction, this is a sort of "concept blog" that I've recently been thinking about. I'll work on finding some sort of commenting mechanism that isn't the atrocious default Blogspot comments, because I hope to see some of the Chess community come here. For those not familiar with the musical Chess, it's something of a rock opera that spawned several hit singles in the mid-1980s, and went on to have a tumultuous and troubled theatrical life. You may have heard "One Night in Bangkok" or "I Know Him So Well," or perhaps "Someone Else's Story." The London version was a hit, but flawed; the Broadway version, which was also flawed, was panned by the critics and flopped. In the early 1990s, there was a crush of variants of the show, but none of them seemed to stick. There has only been one major attempt to fix the show since, a 2002 production done in Swedish. Chess is mostly performed in amateur productions, although it is constantly rumored to be coming back to London or Broadway in the near future.
By way of plot, Chess is the story of a chess match between a loud, obnoxious American and a Russian who is discontent with his "kept" lifestyle as a grandmaster. As the match falls apart, the Russian falls for the American's second, Florence, a refugee of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. (Or, on occasion, the 1968 "Prague Spring.") He defects to be with her, but through some machinations involving the Russian's wife and family, and often (though not always) Florence's missing father, he is brought back to Moscow by the end. The details vary wildly from show to show, but the music at least is amazing.
The production history of Chess has more or less three eras. The first, spanning from May 1986 to April 1989, was characterized by the three-year run of the London production, as well as the eight weeks the show spent on Broadway in 1988. The second, running from January of 1990 and lasting less than three years, had major companies around the globe trying to pull off the show one way or another, with major tours and variations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The third, which goes from 1993 and continues today, is marked by periodic concerts, local and mostly amateur productions, and the 2002 Stockholm revision.
My goal with this blog is to really delve into the production history and talk about what has gone on with this show and what makes it tick. I have worked dramaturgically on Chess with a number of productions, and I am willing to do so again; I want to create a resource for amateur directors as well as fans to understand a difficult but amazing musical. There are a lot of interesting topics that I will be looking at from a production history standpoint. As far as the show goes, I find that with the exception of a 1992 Off-Broadway production which was just awful, every major and minor variation has at least a good first act and significant problems in the second act. So, the second-act problems will be my main focus, but there will also be more topical approaches to things like the question of Florence's father, the effect of glasnost and perestroika on the show, the way Freddie (the American player) changed across the history of the show, and others.
~This blog is dedicated to the love of Chess.