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London reworking - song list 
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Young Hoofer
Young Hoofer
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Post London reworking - song list
Hello all;

I've been working on a new script for the London version of Chess, since now that the rights are available in the US for the London version I may someday get the chance to work on a production of it! Here's what I'm doing with the show:

ACT I
Scene I - Moscow, 1986
"The Story of Chess" ... Anatoly
This is basically the opening scene from Chess Pa Svenska - Svetlana and Anatoly argue, she basically accuses him of cheating on her when he travels to play chess, then he sings to their son Mischa.

Scene II - Bangkok (Airport, Streets)
"What a Scene" ... Freddie
"One Night in Bangkok" ... Freddie, Company
I linked the two songs together using the "When you make good in any calling..." lyrics from the Sydney version, only having Freddie and Florence sing them together.

Scene III - Bangkok (Hotel)
"Where I Want to Be" ... Anatoly
I used a shortened version of the scene from Broadway leading into this song.

Scene IV - Bangkok (Hotel)
"Commie Newspapers"/"Press Conference" ... Freddie, Florence, Reporters
Basically identical to the London version - cut the second verse of "Press Conference" for length.

Scene V - Bangkok (Hotel)
"Anatoly and Molokov" ... Anatoly and Molokov (imagine that!)
Identical to the London version. Staged so that it's clear they have just watched "Press Conference" on TV.

Scene VI - Bangkok (Arbiter's Chambers)
"US vs USSR"/"The Arbiter"/"Hymn to Chess"
Used the version of "US vs USSR" from RAH 2008 concert, with Florence taking part instead of Walter (who has been cut from my version). Also cut second verse for length. "Arbiter" and "Hymn to Chess" as usual, including the "objections" scene from original London script. "Merchandisers" has been cut because it's long, and I hate it.

Scene VII - Bangkok (Chess arena)
"Chess No 1"/"Arbiter Reprise"
Including TV commentary from original London script.

Scene VIII - Bangkok (Chess arena)
"Quartet"/"Florence and Molokov"
"Quartet" is the London version. I cut Florence's "Who rocked his chair throughout the match, then, etc" from "Florence and Molokov" - I always feel it's a dramatic error to have someone describe an action after it's taken place ostensibly on stage. I think most people miss what she is trying to say - not to mention it always felt out of character for her (makes her act too much like Freddie). Instead she goes right into "Listen you Plutocratic throwback". Instead of "Merano Mountain Inn," she tells them to meet "at the terrace just off the hotel bar."

Scene IX - Bangkok (Hotel)
"Freddie and Florence"/"Nobody's Side"
Used an altered version of the London scene with Walter to lead into it, only without Walter onstage - Freddie is arguing with him on the phone when Florence enters and Freddie rips into her with "I shouldn't have to be dealing with people - where were you when the shit hit the fan, etc". Changed "at the top of a mountain" to "at some damned bar in Bangkok." Used concept album lyrics for end of "Freddie and Florence" - "If you walk out on me, they will have won their first battle, etc" because I think it puts Florence on the attack and gives her more backbone (she says "He would - but he didn't know you, etc" instead of "You know that there's nothing I've done"). As far as staging - I really like the "bar bender" version of "Nobody's Side" from Chess Pa Svenska.

Scene X - Bangkok (Bar)
"Terrace Duet"
Concept album lyrics whenever possible - using Broadway lyrics to avoid references to mountains, etc. Ends with "who'd ever think it," but cutting the second verse. Dialogue from London.

Scene XI - Bangkok (Chess arena)
"Chess No 2"
Identical to London.

Scene XII - Bangkok (Hotel)
"Florence Quits"/"A Taste of Pity"
Identical to London.

Scene XIII - Bangkok (Arbiter's Chambers)
Brief dialogue scene - identical to London (Freddie resigns, Anatoly and Florence run off to the Embassy).

Scene XIV - Moscow (Anatoly & Svetlana's Flat)
"Someone Else's Story"
Svetlana sings this as a response to seeing news of Anatoly's defection on TV. Using Svetlana lyrics from Sydney.

Scene XV - Bangkok (British Embassy)
"Embassy Lament"
Identical to London. Diplomat says "You have a wife and a son?" instead of "And two children?"

Scene XVI - Bangkok (Airport)
"Anatoly and the Press"/"Anthem"
Identical to London.

ACT II
Scene I - Budapest, 1987
"Hungarian Folk Song"/"Heaven Help My Heart"
Arbiter announces Chess championship as at the top of the show in London version, with date, players and venue changed (Anatoly is playing Viigand). TV Presenter dialogue from London is used. New line added for TV presenter talking about media speculation about Florence and Anatoly's relationship. A very short version of the dialogue about Budapest from Broadway appears here, only it's Florence and Anatoly arriving at their hotel together (instead of Florence and Molokov) - includes line about "my honeymoon was here," only Anatoly says it. Anatoly leaves for the interview, Florence sings "Heaven Help My Heart."

Scene II - Budapest Hotel
"The Soviet Machine"
Identical to London. Cut reprise of bridge from "US vs USSR" for length. At the end, brief dialogue where Molokov calls TV studio to set up interview (uses much of Walter's dialogue - "remember last night I was saying the interview shouldn't be vicious, etc"). Then Molokov sings "Is this the tide in my affairs, etc".

Scene III - Budapest, TV Studio
"The Interview"
Freddie is revealed as the interviewer (note this is the first time we see Freddie in Act II - I like the shock value!). Scene basically identical to London. Svetlana shown arriving in Budapest with Mischa.

Scene IV - Budapest, Hotel
"Argument"
Restored from concept album. Surrounded by much-shortened version of dialogue from the equivalent scene in Broadway.

Scene V - Budapest, Hotel
"I Know Him So Well"
Chance encounter between Florence and Svetlana at the hotel bar. I swapped the lyrics a bit because I've always felt Florence's lyrics fit Svetlana better - now Svetlana starts the song and says "won a few more moments, who can tell" and Florence gets "learned a little more before I fell."

Scene VI - Budapest (Various)
"The Deal"
Basically identical to London - a few lyrical swaps so that Molokov has Walter's part. Also includes vague threatening overtones towards Mischa from Molokov - I felt that gives Svetlana a little more drive to try and convince Anatoly to throw the match. Uses concept album lyrics after Freddie comes in, and includes "Nobody's Side" reprise from London.

Scene VII - Budapest
"Pity the Child"
Private confrontation between Freddie and Florence. He tries to get her back (uses some dialogue from Broadway and some from Sydney). Song is a footlight moment for Freddie (it's not on live TV this time!!).

Scene VIII - Budapest (Bar)
"Talking Chess"
Uses RAH 2008 lyrics. Removed mention of "Walter."

Scene IX - Budapest (Chess arena)
"Endgame"
I haven't worked this one out in detail yet - I'm planning to use the lyrics with Freddie from RAH 2008 ("How straightforward the game when one is free from distraction") and also assign some of the chorus' lyrics to Freddie as solos ("Listen to them shout, they saw you do it, etc"). I want to keep it as a highly conceptualized piece like the original London production, and I think that this would represent Anatoly feeling pressured by Freddie's words to him in the previous scene - Freddie wants him to win for the good of chess and its fans. After Anatoly's final lyrics ("Is there no one in my life, etc"), I would have Mischa enter and they would repeat a dialogue I wrote for the first scene which goes like this:

MISCHA
*Papa?

ANATOLY
*Yes, Mischa?

MISCHA
*You’re going to win, right?

ANATOLY
*I hope so, Mischa.

MISCHA
*And then you’ll come home?

ANATOLY
*Yes, Mischa. I promise.

So basically, it gives us a framework for understanding Anatoly's decision is for his son - he wants to win so he will be champion in his son's eyes, and then return home to be with him.

Scene X - Budapest
"You and I"
Haven't worked this one out in much detail at all really - I think I'll basically stick close to the London version, but just reorganize things so that maybe Florence finds out (from Molokov) about her father possibly being dead BEFORE "You and I," so that the show can close without the "Anthem" ending (Cadriel's got me convinced on that point). Also want to add some sort of reconciliatory gesture between Freddie and Anatoly.

I'd love to hear some thoughts on this!!

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Mark
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Past musical roles:
Dickon, The Secret Garden
Josh Baskin, Big: The Musical
Freddy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Franz/Dennis, Sunday in the Park with George
Frederic, The Pirates of Penzance
Historian/others, Spamalot

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Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:09 am
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Post Re: London reworking - song list
It looks pretty good from a first look- I'll probably give some more in-depth thoughts later.

My two main notes for now would be to first off cut the objections scene in part 1...it's largely pointless, drags down the momentum of the ceremony a bit, and serves only to set up "The Merchandisers", which you've already (quite rightly) cut. My other thought is more of a personal note, but I've long felt "Pity the Child" should be the song immediately prior to "Endgame", as it is on the concept album. Musically it works really well and there is that feeling of once we get in/out of Freddy's head we're there to move into Anatoly's via "Endgame". The difficulty with doing that, though, is that "Talking Chess" needs to be sequenced elsewhere and it's hard to find another place where it can slot in logically. But then, maybe it's not even a necessary bit, as it mostly just confuses Freddy's character and weakens Anatoly's championship a bit. I like it myself, but I don't think you're really losing much by letting it go.


Also, do you have a copy of the Sydney script? I've been dying to find a recording or script of it somewhere as I know next to nothing about the show apart from some general differences.


Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:17 pm
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Young Hoofer
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Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:06 pm
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Post Re: London reworking - song list
Thanks for the thoughts!

A pretty complete write up of the Sydney production can be found on Sylvia Stoddard's Chess website: http://squareone.org/Chess/

_________________
Mark
_________
Past musical roles:
Dickon, The Secret Garden
Josh Baskin, Big: The Musical
Freddy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Franz/Dennis, Sunday in the Park with George
Frederic, The Pirates of Penzance
Historian/others, Spamalot

Up next:
???


Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:16 am
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Post Re: London reworking - song list
Sydney script is still online. I do not know how to post a link in here but google "Sydney chess script angelfire" and it will come up.


Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:34 pm
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Post Re: London reworking - song list
Sydney Chess: Act One and Act Two.

There is one key flaw to your approach: you can't go with the split-match format and expect it to work. As a fundamental matter of dramatic principle, the split-match format is the key weakness of the London show. For their flaws (all of them have second-act problems), the later variations have a much greater coherency, which stems from the fact that the single chess match acts as a framing event for the dramatic action. The whole show has to be about the match between Freddie and Anatoly, no divided focus or the audience is confused.

And all of this doesn't escape the fact that the main flaws of Chess itself are the reason no version of the show, in my opinion, will ever work (one can only come up with a better variation). The problem is, the story is too high-brow. The idea of a story about people's relationships set against an international chess match, which would at the same time illustrate and illuminate the Cold War's East/West conflict, tries to cover too many bases at once, and aside from the love triangle, I'd argue it's pretty much only entertaining to intellectuals.

Tim Rice actually has some very high-brow ideas in all of his shows, but his work with Andrew Lloyd Webber made them far more accessible because ALW was the romantic to TR's cynic and paired TR's intellectual and complicated ideas (if not always Sondheim-level lyrics, and they often weren't) with a simplistic, familiar sounding style of score that made it palatable to the ears of audiences (director Jim Sharman has pointed this out, and TR himself has said their respective outlooks are because "I had too much love as a child and Andrew had too little"). Without ALW, and with the composers of ABBA on their first musical, there were bound to be issues like this. The hit singles like "One Night in Bangkok," "I Know Him So Well," and "Someone Else's Story" proved Benny, Bjorn, and Tim were still on the mark as pop songwriters, but that was about all Chess had going for it.

What also works against it is that the plot is trying to be more about the two opponents than the show's actual protagonist: Florence. No matter the version, everything in the actual plot happens to -- or because of -- her. But the show almost never makes her central to the proceedings in any version, trying to make you care about the American or Russian chess player. Unless and until someone tries a rewrite that puts Florence at the focus, it's not going to work.

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Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:24 am
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Post Re: London reworking - song list
Could it be said though that the two-tournament format would work better on film than on stage?

Anatoly cleaning Freddie's clock in '86 then defending his title in '87?

Basically go back to the concept album and rework dumping some of Trevor Nunn's worse aspects?


Mon Jul 29, 2013 3:17 am
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