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July 17, 1987 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I THEATER

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-

London Stage

Continued from Paged 52
gasps and even, at times,
shrieks, from the audience.
Millions were obviously
spent on the production but it
pays off. The total effect is
overwhelming.
Chess isn't in the league of
the other two shows. The
score was created by two
members of the enormously
successful pop group, ABBA
— Benny Andersson and
Bjorn Ulvaeus. Lyrics are by
Andrew Lloyd Webber's
former collaborator, Tim Rice.
This is the most contem-
porary score of the three
shows, with some rock
numbers. But again, the for-
mat is operatic, or operetta, if
you will. Mostly everything is
sung.
Interestingly, the music for
Chess was created ahead of
the book and an album was
recorded and released before
the show was produced. This,
of course, flies in the face of
conventional musical theater
which mandates that the
book, or libretto, is created
first and that the musical
score serves that foundation.
Sadly, Chess proves the old
rule true. For the book is its
undoing. It just doesn't work.
The basic story is about a
world championship chess
match between an American
and a Russian. This is used as
a metaphor for the East-West
struggle. The show purports
to show how ordinary people
are used as mere pawns in
this conflict (the pun is in-
tended) and how their lives
are destroyed by the struggle
between the great powers.
That's what it's supposed to
be about. But it doesn't real-
ly play that way. It goes off on
various tacks and you are
never really sure about the
direction until the end, when
they finally "tell" you what
they should have conveyed
through the action.
The score for Chess,
however, has some very in-
teresting pieces in it. And
they are most effectively orc-
chestrated and performed.
The staging is perhaps the
most elaborate of any of these
three shows. It is not only
high-tech but also multi-
media. At the back wall and
along the sides of the stage
are literally dozens of TV
monitors and screens. At
times many different images
are projected, at times a few
single huge images.
Sometimes the action on the
stage is simultaneously pick-
ed up by a live TV camera and
projected on a huge screen or
on a series of small monitors.
It is all very flashy.
The stage floor is a huge
chessboard, with individual
squares that light up. This en-
tire floor rises and falls, turns,
rotates, and tilts.

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