CHESS at Signature Theatre in Washington DC

Washington DC CHESS principals

Washington DC CHESS principals

Pictured left from top to bottom: Jill Paice (Florence), Euan Morton (Anatoly), Jeremy Kushnier (Freddie), Eleasha Gamble (Svetlana/Dance Captain) and Chris Sizemore (Arbiter).

The Signature Theater hosts CHESS until 26 September. It opened on August 10.

As has become customary over the years, the director of the Washington production has created a unique version of CHESS – the show opens with Florence as a young child separated from her father – Lullaby (Apukad eros Kezen) is used as a rather effective and haunting opening, Florence grows up to be an accomplished chess player in her own right, there is no Merano or Story of Chess, the story takes place firstly in Bangkok and then later in Budapest.

Freddie decides he is actually better off without Florence and doesn’t try to woo her back to him.

Oh – and in case CHESS aficionados are wondering, Someone Else’s Story is sung by Florence in this production.

The drama and love story is up front and fully centre stage and the plot is apparently tighter and more transparent than can sometimes be the case.

It seems as if word of this small production is spreading and the consensus is that this is a good version and well worth seeing. Find out more at the Signature Theatre’s website, where you can also snap up tickets right through until 26 September.

See introduction by the cast:

See clips from the show:

 

11 Replies to “CHESS at Signature Theatre in Washington DC”

  1. It sounds very Interesting , but
    no Merano or Story of Chess,
    For me its not Chess if some of the best songs are missing.

  2. Hhhm,

    Interesting change to the plot – yet again!

    I can’t help feeling that the lack of full orchestra in this clip makes it sound a little empty, even if the look of the thing is slick.

    I adore Nobody’s Side as a song, but never thought it worked well on stage unless the whole esemble joined Florence in the chorus. They did this to great effect in the 1990 UK touring version where the song was actually a very clever and rousing closing number of the show, replacing the Anthem reprise which wasn’t in the premiere anyway.

    I wonder if Nobody’s Side is the closing number of the new American version, and the up-coming new British version too?

    I can’t help feeling that Merano and The Story Of Chess were dropped from this US version because maybe there were not enough people in the choir or a full orchestra to do the songs justice, although Merano was also dropped from the Australian and UK 1990/1 and 1996 versions too.

    Such a shame that such a great score as CHESS is such a difficult show to stage. If it doesn’t look and sound right, all it does is highlight how poor the book is, which is a tragedy because it’s probably one of the best musical score ever.

  3. Great that there is new interest in staging the show, but this performance is pretty poor and out of tune in several places to my ears.

  4. Who couldn’t have been swept away witht he beautiful staging of The Story of Chess in the original London and UK touring productions. But to be honest the Story of Chess and Merano (and for that matter One Night In Bangkok or Quartet didn’t really add anything to the show story wise or develop the plot.

    In the London production Act one at times moved at a snails pace, wheras Act two moved dramatically quickly.

    I believe new the Washington show has used a revised version of the original Broadway show. I beleive there is some sort of legal agreemnet with Richard Nelson who wrote the book that the broadway is deemed as the definitive USA version. Probably a bit of a millstone around the future of the show states wise.

    TSOC is replaceed by Lullabye (we do get to hear the same tune in Quartet.

    It seems to have recieved universally positive praise and there does seem to be some buzz about the show in America at the moment. I beieve an off broadway version back in the 90’s which Tim Rice was involved with got similar positive reviews.

    The new UK touring production from gossip so far seems to imply musically its the Royal Albert Hall version that will be staged (London tweeked).

    I think the major issue with productions is very much down to how the show is staged. The video clip from the Washington show looks very stark, but that was how Michael Bennet originally invisioned the show.

    My favourite version of the show was ther Stockholm production. Quite radically reworked – many songs dropped, but keeping all the key tunes without any substantial melodies lost. I really thought the show had more pace, character development and 2 cracking new songs for Svetlana and Molokov, plus a couple of other new tracks (Moscow chapel scene and Budapest riot) which showed Benny’s more atmospheric classical choral skills off superbly. Can’t think for the life of me why Tim Rice hasn’t yet added English lyrics to these songs.

    Lets hope that the 2 new productions lead to bigger and better things for the show in the UK, USA and internationally.

    If we really want a definitive production I think it wold take all 3 writers plus a director to come together and overhall the show collectively. So far re-writes seem to have been done by Rice or Benny and Bjorn working seperately. Time Rice praised the Swedish version highly and stated that the only reason he was not involved in the show’s overhaul was because of his prior commitments with various Disney works in progress.

  5. I also read about the contractual agreement, that meant the London Version of Chess could never be performed in the USA.

  6. The various versions are indeed fascinating. The thing that bugs me though is whilst it is great giving Svetlana the solo of "Someone Else’s Story", (when they do!) it’s annoying they don’t use the Australian version lyrics that were especially rewritten. Svetlana singing the original Florence lyrics makes no sense if you actually listen to them!

  7. I have a clip of the actress singing Someone Else’s Story with the Australian lyrics on my YouTube channel, and I also have a clip from the actual Australian production of Heaven Help My Heart which was the closing song from the First Act when they staged it there.

    Quite ironic that in Australia the entire show was set in Bangkok, and consequently they dropped Merano, whereas in Sweden the whole show was set in Merano and they dropped "Bangkok"!

    Alex

  8. I saw this production and am going back again in a couple of weeks. I’m most familiar with the concept album; i saw the London show in 1988 but barely remember it. This one seems to be a combination of broadway, London, and new stuff (they are only in Bangkok and Budapest, and it’s the same Chess match shared by two venues).

    The show is good. The small orchestra does well. The ensemble does well as backing choir , but they could not have done Merano or Merchandisers in this small venue. Nobodys Side does
    become a theme and is used in the finale/curtain call. Svetlanas role is stripped to almost nothing (too bad, the actress is good).

    I may post more comments after I see it again Sept 11.

  9. Loved the new Signature Theatre show. I’ve seen the Idina/Josh Royal Albert Hall DVD and the Elaine/Tommy VHS concert version from the ’80s many times. Full cast and orchestras in both. So, I was excited and curious to see an actual staged version in person. The small orchestra was excellent and I could see some of them bobbing their heads to the beat when not performing their instruments. You could tell they were enjoying it as much as the audience. Florence is the center of the show but it’s still quite similar to versions I’ve seen on t.v. and fun to pick out the differences. Great singing, great cast, and quite an impressive set. A well earned standing ovation was given in the show I attended. Bought tickets today to see it a second time in two weeks.

  10. Thank you, Roger – I saw the show last night (9/7) and agree that this is an impressive show – acting, vocals, ensemble, orchestra, sets and lighting. Beautiful and powerful! I really don’t understand the boorish theatre people who want to dump on everything Eric S. does – he has a great talent for directing! Also, why not be happy with this "version" as opposed to the others out there? This is the one being presented…my God, it’s sort of like the snobbery of Maria Callas recordings! Go see "Chess" at Signature – it is a powerful evening of musical theatre.

  11. Full cast and orchestras in both. So, I was excited and curious to see an actual staged version in person. The small orchestra was excellent and I could see some of them bobbing their heads to the beat when not performing their instruments. You could tell they were enjoying it as much as the audience. Florence is the center of the show but it’s still quite similar to versions I’ve seen on t.v. and fun to pick out the differences. Great singing, great cast, and quite an impressive set. A well earned standing ovation was given in the show I attended. Bought tickets today to see it a second time in two weeks.

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