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Chess in Concert
Chess in Concert
Actors: Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, David Bedella
Director: Hugh Wooldridge
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     2hr 25min

Starring multiplatinum artist Josh Groban, Tony-winning Idina Menzel (Wicked) and Tony nominated Adam Pascal (RENT), Chess In Concert revives the eclectic yet wonderfully pop 1984 concept album featuring the music of ABBA'...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, David Bedella
Director: Hugh Wooldridge
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Pop, DTS, Musicals
Studio: Reprise Records
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 06/16/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 2hr 25min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Almost Unreservedly Excellent
Anonymous | London | 06/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Four items make this a must-have. The first is Josh Groban singing the classic "Anthem", where, as the Russian chess champion, Anatoly, he avows his love for his homeland. As Anatoly's discarded wife, Svetlana, the amazing Kerry Ellis totally nails "Someone Else's Story." There's "The Story of Chess", where the Chorus perform Tim Rice's witty take on the evolution of the game. Finally, the Quartet, where Florence (Idina Menzel), Anatoly, his minder Molokov and the Arbiter deplore how chess has sunk from "a model of decorum and tranquillity" to "a battleground for rival ideologies to slug it out with glee."

Having seen the original London West End production in 1986 with Elaine Paige, I was lucky enough to witness this superb 21st Anniversary production in the Royal Albert Hall, London, last year. Tim Rice has tightened up the plot of love and betrayal played out in the setting of chess championships in the Cold War. Florence, who manages the American champion, falls for the Russian; complications - political, ethical, personal - ensue. From the moment the outstanding Chorus bursts into "Merano" - blending chess with commercialism as a tiny Central European town prepares to welcome the world - right to the devastating "Endgame" and final twist, the dramatic pace never lets up.

In this DVD, hopefully the sound difficulties of this production will have been ironed out. As to the cast - they were fantastic!! Groban is a revelation: a brilliant actor as well as singer. Kerry Ellis was a showstopper. As Florence, Idina Menzel, (so good in Wicked (2003 Original Broadway Cast), was too strident for my taste, lacking subtlety and roundness in acting. ("Heaven Help My Heart" doesn't register, and "Nobody's Side" pales away.) However, her "You and I" with Groban still tugs the heartstrings: "we go on pretending / Stories like ours Have happy endings."

The wonderful David Bedella (Jerry Springer: the Opera), makes a great, sinister Molokov. And Adam Pascal gives his charismatic ALL as Freddy, the tormented American bearing luggage from the past: "Pity the Child." Marti Pellow (of pop group Wet Wet Wet) was a disappointment as the Arbiter, a little under-performed I felt.

Rice's lyrics are trenchant, tender, intelligent, witty. The music, by Benny and Bjorn of ABBA, is a perfect rock score, conveying all the emotions and tensions necessary and fully matching the lyrics.

In the main, this is a superb production of a classic and underestimated musical."
My First Round Of "Chess"
Aubrey Ward III | Englewood,NJ | 06/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I've heard of "Chess" but never got around to seeing a live production or listening to a soundtrack. As an ABBA fan I was always curious what kind of musical Benny and Bjorn would produce since their ABBA pop-rock tunes were so incredible. Then PBS announced a special concert version of "Chess" featuring Josh Groban, Idina Menzel and Adam Pascal. So I watched it....

Wow! "Chess In Concert" really looked and sounded impressive. The only thing was I had trouble with the diction. I had to put the captions on to truly understand what was happening on stage. Once I got to view the lyrics with the vocals I was very impressed and kinda blown away by it all.

I'm not a "Grobanite" but I have to admit that Josh Groban (Anatoly) did a good job both vocally and dramatically. Adam Pascal (Frederick) never disappoints me. I could listen to his raspy rock voice all day long. Same with Idina Menzel (Florence). No, I'm not a "Grobanite" but this "Renthead" was very pleased to see the original Maureen and Roger share the stage again.

I also liked Kerry Ellis as Anatoly's wife, Svetlana. Ellis has a really neat voice that seems to be very sweet but with a touch of edginess (and what an irony that both Menzel and Ellis played the role of Elphaba in "Wicked"). The cast had a nice mix of classical operatic voices and rock opera wailers. The score is the same way with a blending of ballads, anthems, and toe tapping dance tracks.

Aside from the lavish staging (including a huge on-stage orchestra and a small army of choir singers), the powerful vocals and the dramatic score the story of "Chess In Concert" was easier to follow than I thought it would be. It's your basic love triangle scenario with Frederick losing his partner, Florence, to Anatoly except that Anatoly is already married with kids. Then things get more complicated because of politics, greed and chess tournaments.

Overall, even if you don't buy "Chess In Concert" then you should at least rent this or catch it on public television because this is a sensational performance by a large assortment of talented singers and dancers. One way you can identify a good musical is if you're caught humming the tunes after the show is done. I've got at least five on my mental IPOD as we speak (The Arbiter, Nobody's On Nobody's Side, Pity The Child, One Night In Bangkok, I Know Him So Well). "Chess In Concert" is good."
Chess in Concert
RSM | Pittsburgh, PA | 06/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I watched "Chess in Concert" last night as PBS featured it on "Great Performances." I imiagine that I will now have to purchase both the DVD (Since I don't imagine it will ever be turned into a regular feature film) and the CD, which will be the third different version in my collection.

I fell in love with the show when I first heard the original concept album with Murray Head, Elaine Paige and others back in 1984 when it was first released, and it is still the version I listen to most. I saw the original Broadway cast featuring David Carroll and Judy Kuhn in one of its 48 performances at the Imperial Theater in NYC. That production was very underrated and should have run much longer, but it was the same season that NYC got "The Phantom of the Opera" which swept the Tony Awards. When David Carroll sang "Anthem" to end Act I, he had the audience out of their seats cheering and applauding even before the song was finished, something I only saw one other time (Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls"). I also saw a nice production of it by the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera in the 90s. One can only imagine what it would have been like had Michael Bennett not become ill and having to withdraw from staging it...Trevor Nunn did it instead.

Which brings us to this version of "Chess in Concert." As Tim Rice explains at the beginning, it has been a work-in-progress, and they have tightened up the book quite a bit, keeping the best of the songs on both of the CDs I do have. The plotlines regarding Global TV were not there originally which give the character of Freddy more to do in Act II. However, the Broadway version had a slightly different ending regarding the Soviets' release of Florence's father who supposedly had been imprsoned since the 1956 Hungarian uprising--they gave her an old man who turned out not to be her dad at all. This version leaves it up in the air at the end.

There have now been reprises put in which were not there at first, as well as a couple of new songs I previously did not know. The performances here are quite fine, with Idina Menzel being the standout as Florence. Her character now has the weight of that of Anatoly, which makes the romance between them more plausible. Josh Groban as Anatoly does well in his acting debut, and Adam Pascal is good as well.

And the staging of some of the big numbers ("The Story of Chess," "The Merchandisers," and "Bangkok/One Night in Bangkok") is excellent, given the concert setting, using the choir and dancers effectively.

Anyone who is into this show will want to purchase the DVD for their collection, as well as the audio CD."
I'm a purist, and this was better than the original
D. Ricci | Texas | 12/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I love Broadway musicals. I love them in their original form. I winced when the changed the lyrics in Oklahoma and deleted songs in The King And I for the sake of movie audiences. Don't mess with the original, that's my creed.

I have to find a new creed. This concert version of Chess messed with the lyrics, added songs, moved songs and changed the plot of one of my favorite musicals of all times. And I'm thrilled. It was a masterful retelling of the original story. Almost every change, every expansion, every redirection helped the story. My one minor quibble was that they sang *Endgame* before the game was over. But that was minor. The filler, the backstory, even the moving *The Story of Chess* to the beginning of the show were all moves that were beneficial to the show.

Chess has always been a bit of a Broadway oddity, with it's unconventional plot and occasional oddly arhthmic song. It is hard to understand unless you read the synopsis carefully. It's dated too, being a product of the Cold War. But those problems were swept away by the masterful rewrites and edits. Yeah, I missed a favorite line or two, but the ones that replaced them were just as good, probably better than the originals.

And no doubt they brought the top talent to this piece. Groban and Menzel nailed every note and sang with emotion and lungpower. Adding a bit more grist for the Soviet wife and inventing the role of the Broadcaster were not just filler. They were sweetners. I knew the musical back to front, but now, I understand it better. If you are a fan of Chess or of Brodway at its best, I recommend this in my most enthusiastic terms. If you can watch it without tears, you are a better man than me."