Steve and I share many things in common, but one of the things I am eternally grateful for is the fact he does not mock my love of musicals. In fact, and I am sure he will thank me for announcing this on the internet, he seems to love them just as much as I. It is difficult to pick a favourite but The King and I and Les Miserables are high on the list. It was the latter that my lovely boy treated me to as part of my Christmas present last year. Since, he has surprised me with tickets to see The Sound of Music and later this month I get to watch the incredible Hairspray live. This morning he called to say he has booked another pair of tickets for Chess in February next year.
Chess, I don’t think, is as wildly known as it should be. It certainly wasn’t known to me when I watched an amateur production in Lancaster some years ago. It is quite a while since it toured as a production (the original West End production only lasted three years) but a new national tour reaches Birmingham Hippodrome from 8th-12th February 2010, and this lucky lady gets to go!
You may find the story a little bizarre – a chess tournament. But anyone who knows a little of Cold War politics will understand there is something much more sinister behind such a seemingly simple encounter. Supposedly loosely based on ‘similar’ events, the narrative follows a ‘maverick’ American chess champion and his show-downs with a Russian counterpart. And if this were not gripping enough, the characters, attitudes and actions personify perfectly the dark mistrust and propaganda of the Cold War era.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a real musical without a romantic element. So what fits perfectly with nuclear threat and chess? A kind of love quadrangle, obviously. Two men, two women – as far as I recall it all gets a little Shakespearian!
The music is so wonderfully 80’s (opened in London in 1986) and created by ABBA legends Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with lyrics by the incredible Tim Rice. Below I have included videos from You Tube of two of the more famous tracks in the musical for your enjoyment. The ABBA element can certainly be felt but it is those amazing 80’s outfits (and hair styles) that had me grinning with delight! I may insist to Steve that we dress accordingly when we watch in February!