Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chess (1984, 2008)

My position on musicals is, in a nutshell: 'unless written by Peter Townshend, they're all shit.' It's not a very nuanced critical perspective, I concede. Anyway, I downloaded Chess -- the Royal Albert Hall 2008 version -- and, mirabile, I seem to be liking it a lot. Partly this is for the very reasons many reviewers hated it on Broadway (according to Wikipedia: 'critics panned the show, most notably Frank Rich of The New York Times, who wrote that "the evening has the theatrical consistency of quicksand" and described it as "a suite of temper tantrums, [where] the characters ... yell at one another to rock music".' Luckily, quicksand temper-tantrum yelling music is my favourite kind). There are some wonderfully strange moments, necessitated, in part, by the need to inject dramatic excitement into that most undramatic of spectacles, two brainy guys sitting across a chessboard from one another. My favourite is probably 'The Arbiter's Song' and 'The Arbiter's Song (reprise)' where the match-referee in effect sings 'I am the match referee' for about seven minutes. Marvellous.

But mostly I suppose I like this because its music, by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, tastes strongly of Abba, and Abba is intensely loveable stuff.

3 comments:

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

No new Wot this week? You have broken my heart, sir.

Adam Roberts said...

Why do I have to be a heartbreaker? Is it a lesson that I never knew? Gotta get out of the spell that I'm under, my decelerating readerly velocity through these later books.

I hope to get Wotix up for next Friday.

Wally said...

I find myself loving Chess more with time, the lyrics anyhow, though it gets less and less musically interesting and more (yep) like The Abba Musical What Never Was. Apparently Tim Rice was having a bit of a bad time fidelity/divorcewise while writing...well he did something admirable with it in any case. And to the candy-coated northmen's credit, the underscore for the final duet matches the awful ambivalence of its lyrics. Ballsy choice to close the album/show with those two voices in unison, juuuuuuust clinging to their proper tuning.

I'll never forgive Rice for writing Jesus Christ Superstar in his mid-20's, the bastard, but Chess makes me wanna.