02 January 2010

Chess: In Concert

I got Chess: In Concert from Netflix a while back because:

a) I love Josh Groban (playing Anatoly)
b) I love Idina Menzel, too (playing Florence)
c) The guy playing Freddie (Adam Pascal) was Roger in Rent (awesome)
d) Chess has some fantastic music including "Anthem", "I Know Him so Well", "Someone Else's Story", and "One Night in Bankok"
e) The production was shot at the Royal Albert Hall which is ginormous

I was pretty excited to see this because I have the soundtrack to both the original Broadway Chess recording and this new one, too.  They are quite different in structure because Chess was reworked by Tim Rice a number of times in the early 1980s when it first debuted and then other productions tend to mold the story as needed; the "In Concert" production was re-worked by Rice to most closely resemble the original London storyline with a few bits kept from the updates.

I can't say anything about the singing or orchestrations of this performance.  Great voices all around, good balance between the soloists, choir, and orchestra in this huge, huge performance hall.  Good costuming and use of the black/white motifs of the chessboard.  Josh Groban acted quite well (I think this is an intended step toward musical theatre for him) although he could have tried a little bit of Russian accent particularly as the other actors potraying Russians laid it on thick.  Idina Menzel .... amazing (I still can't figure out why she was cast in a non-singing role in Enchanted; makes no sense).

The only drawback to the production was the choreography and dancers.  I thought the choreography was on the poor side for a big production, very stylized, and, after the third-time through the modern, pseudo-improv-inspired 'Chess match' piece, it was pretty boring.  The big set-piece opening to "One Night in Bangkok" was a lame pastiche of South East Asian dance arm movements and hand patterns; the one thing I know about Thai/Balinese/Cambodian, etc. traditional dance is that all the movements are very precise and are very symbolic (the choreo here also looked really under-rehearsed and sloppy; you might not notice from the back of the arena but you certainly notice on close-up from the camera).  I would rather have seen a group of dancers trained in the actual traditional dance type performing to the "One Night in Bangkok" introduction.  It would have lended a little more atmosphere and looked lovely (there is surely a SE Asian dance company or group in or around London who could have been asked).

I'm debating whether to purchase this concert DVD; I have the CD, so I have the best of the production already, but I do like the overall look (and Josh is pretty cute).

Current book-in-progress: The Complete Stories, Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, Illness, and Twitterature
Current knitted item: baby sweater
Current movie obsession: must. watch. My Boy Jack and return it before watching The Edge of Love
Current iTunes loop: "Chill Tracks" mix (currently on an Amy Winehouse/Evanescance shuffle....odd)

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