Thanks for this. I might have stumbled across it before, but I'm going to read it again. However, I must say I actually disagree with her top-line assessment of the concept album plot. I do not believe, in fact, that there was a "love triangle" in the traditional sense. I think this is where Rice's subtle savvy in depicting people's emotions and motives might have been missed by many (I try to say this humbly, because I really don't know -- I only know that my view on it is more complex).
I actually believe that Rice was playing around with the "15 types of love" philosophy"
(based on the 5 types of love
that the Greek philosophers coined) in Chess. In that context, here's my version of the Chess "love matrix:"
* Florence and Freddy shared a "companionate love" and "tough love."
* Florence and Anatoly shared three types: "romantic, puppy and infatuation love."
* Anatoly had a "patriotism love" (i.e., love of country / see "Anthem").
* Freddy had a "romantic love" with Chess (which he was afraid to admit to, and became brash to guard his inner, more vulnerable self)
* Anatoly had an "infatuation love" for Chess (i.e., "when the wheel slows down...")
* And, of course, the most cynical and wonderful thing about the plot and lyrics is everyone's uniform and unabashed "self-love" and narcissism!
So, I think Rice exploring the different types of love in this story, and demonstrating how they affect relationships and activities in different situations. If you can even consider this assessment as valid, then I'd say a "love triangle" is really way too simplistic of a description of the scene that has been painted in Chess!
Ha! OK, I'll try to keep that in mind. So, let me quickly tell you my "Stockholm story"...
I was cleaning up the thousands of MP3s I downloaded via torrents years ago, and I stumbled across a whole host of Chess-related MP3s. So, I threw them on my Zune (my portable media player) and brought it with me on my holiday break. I just threw it on every night as I went to bed, and a foreign-language version of Chess came on, with remarkably high-quality production. I mean, it's the first time since the concept album that I've heard audio and production quality remotely in the same ballpark. So, I woke up and checked out the album info on the screen, and I learned it was a Swedish production. So, I listened, and was struck by how powerful and well-done it was. It was the first time I was physically excited (now, now...I mean in the tingles in the skin way that a musician gets!) by a production of Chess since I first heard the concept album 16 years earlier.
Then... the Arbiter song came on (jag vill se schack) and I was just blown away by the re-imagined version of this tune! I listened to it like 5 more times in a row. I really dug it. I especially liked the mash-up between the traditional Arbiter theme and the ??? theme (the theme that's in the second 1/2 of Press Conference and closes out "The Interview" in Chess in Concert).
I love that secondary theme, and I think it works so well within the context of the Falco-meets-Bananarama
production of The Arbiter song that it just blew me away.
Then I heard "The Argument" in the Swedish production soundtrack -- wow. I mean, they added about 5 more decibels of anger to that song in the orchestration alone. Just when you thought the Concept Album nailed it, I think the Swedes took it to a whole new level of "pow."
Many of the other songs fared well, too, but those two tracks really stuck out to me (as well as some -- not all -- of the new songs introduced).
So, I immediately went online to learn more about it, and learned that it was one of the few officially sanctioned versions (makes sense) and... that there was a DVD of the production! So, I went about buying it in about 1/2 a heartbeat. Received it two weeks ago, and I have watched it 3 times so far.
Top-line comments about the Stockholm production:
* Live orchestration matched the recorded one quite well. Usually, live suffers. I think there was a lot of pre-loaded sequencing and voice-overs in the live production (or in the mastering of the audio for the DVD) which help make it sound amazing for a live soundtrack.
* The stagecraft was, at times, inspiring, artful and beautiful. At other times it was bizarre. Overall, it was engaging and entertaining.
* The acting was interesting. I say interesting because I'm not sure if what I'm going to describe was the work of the actors or the work of the director. Let me hit the points by character:
-- I found Florance to be one pissed-off woman! Her glances at people were almost always the kind that look like she was ready to cause some bodily harm. And, she would so quickly vacillate between empathetic and flirty to super-uber-angry-woman that it was a bit jarring. But, her vocal performance was really astonishing overall.
-- I found Anatoly to be remarkably charismatic and in control. His personality dominated, and I felt like he was not a pawn in anyone's game but his own. He also has the most sophisticated of dispositions.
-- Freddie was a bit over-the-top, but I think it a cute, love-him-because-you-hate-him way. However, in Pity the Child, I think he hit 'peek emotion' too early and had nowhere to go from there.
-- The Arbiter. Ummm... Let me just start off by saying... WOW. And then, WTF? And then, brilliant. I really have no context for a performance like this, but I must say that I presume there is some showcasing precedent for this in theater in general or maybe specifically in Swedish theater. He's part Joker, part Rick Astley. One of my jokes to my fiancee as we were watching it was "I feel like I was just rickrolled!
" But I have to say that he demonstrated charisma and presence that stuck with me. His performance were nothing if not memorable, and downright entertaining. And THAT'S with me not understanding a single word he's saying! In fact, I'd be so curious as to what he's singing about in the reprise, when he's flirting and posing with Florence.
-- Overall, I'd say the tone was more dramatic, angry and sad than how the Concept Album feels, or how the Chess in Concert felt. Both concept and concert felt more light-hearted and "British" in their tone: serious, yet amusing. The Swedes just seem to pull of a darker, more dour tone. Again, not sure if that was the acting or the direction (or both). Or... the culture?
OK, I've blathered on enough. It's just that I'm still digesting it, so it's all so fresh and interesting.