Previews: 9 January 1990 Opened: 11 January 1990 Closed: At this venue 21 January 1990 Tour Ended: 13 May 1990
It took nearly two years for a second US production of Chess to materialise after its disappointing failure on Broadway. Various regional theatres showed interest, but it was at the Jackie Gleason Theatre of the Performing Arts in Miami Beach where the first new interpretation took shape. Directed by Des McAnuff with a new book by Robert Coe, this production was based on the Broadway script, but with various cuts and amendments to the dialogue. It was set in the present day, had only one location - Bangkok and a visual design inspired by the London production.
Des McAnuff A lot of people in musical theatre think Chess is the great score of the '80s. On one end it`s like Puccini and at the other it's like the Who. It really runs the gamut and was the big motivation for my doing this project.
At the time, Tim Rice was working on his new adaptation of the piece, due to open in Sydney during February of the same year. Perhaps it would have been better if the producers had waited and used this new version, but they decided to work with the Broadway script.
The new book very much stuck with the Broadway style, i.e. lots of dialogue occasionally interrupted by a song. Several songs were cut, including US v USSR, Merchandisers, Let's Work Together, Hungarian Folk Song and Apukad. Florence's father (now a Hungarian chess champion) had died in the 1956 uprising.
Many of the humorous lines of the Broadway script were removed and so the overall feel of the piece was even more downbeat. The songs that remained did little to lift the spirits - all the more humorous ones having been cut. The Arbiter was the only moment of light relief. This had been moved back to near the top of the show and staged with a 'kids from Fame' style choreography, making the Arbiter seem a weak and unimportant character. This had already been established to a degree, by his somewhat camp solo re-enactment of the story of chess at the very start of the show. At the other end of the show was the strange relocation of Someone Else's Story, sung by Florence after Anatoly's departure for Russia. Freddie was much more likeable in this version and he did seem to genuinely love Florence - though they were not in a physical relationship by the start of the story. Florence seemed to regret what was happening between her and Anatoly and sorry for the distress it caused to Freddie. Anatoly was less likeable, a known womaniser and supposedly unfaithful to his wife on a number of occasions.
Reviews and audience reaction was mixed and so it struggled to find a big enough audience. Dates in Los Angeles and San Francisco were cancelled and the tour, originally intended as forty weeks and an ambition to return to Broadway, ended early in Southern California. Initial investment was set at $1.2 million, but this almost tripled to $3.5 million as the project developed. This was due to increased ambitions for the set design and the future of the production i.e. the hope of taking it onto Broadway. Technical problems beset the first preview and changes continued to be made during its run at the Jackie Gleason. Some scenes were apparently cut, removing some fifteen minutes from the length of the show.
Scene and Song List
THE STORY OF CHESS
The Arbiter begins the song on his own, enacting the story as a solo piece until "thus invented chess." At which point the stage lights up with a large under lit chess board, almost the full size of the stage. The chorus proceed to move large chess pieces around the board during the rest of the story. By the end of the song the board is clear and the Arbiter is once again on his own. The lights of the board having reduced down to one white square.
WHAT A SCENE
Anatoly and Molokov WHERE I WANT TO BE
Introductions Objections THE ARBITER
CHESS 1 THE ARBITER (Reprise) Yoghurt
QUARTET Discussions re arranging a meeting
Walter, Florence and Freddie - Advertising, Freddie's 'cheating' and the proposed meeting YOU WANT TO LOSE YOU ONLY FRIEND?
NOBODY'S SIDE (Cafe then SPA and finally the bar and restaurant)
Molokov, Anatoly and Florence waiting for Freddie TERRACE DUET
Hotel Reception - Anatoly phones Florence... Freddie & Walter leave, Anatoly arrives, they kiss
NO CONTEST (In the hotel ballroom - chess table)
PITY THE CHILD
Underground Car Park: Walter, Flo and Anatoly
HEAVEN HELP MY HEART
Freddie's Hotel Suite - Florence and Walter, Florence comes to speak with Freddie
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK
A Thai Restaurant - Anatoly and Florence, Anatoly's friends and news of Svetlana in Bangkok YOU AND I
YOU KNEW BETTER / YOU AND I - Svetlana & Anatoly Molokov and Anatoly - About family problems back in Russia
WHO NEEDS A DREAM / YOU AND I (Reprise) Freddie and Florence. Florence asks him to request a week long postponement of the match
Arbiter, Freddie and reporters - Freddie asks for one weeks postponement FREDDIE GOES METAL Molokov and Walter - A possible deal...
STORY OF CHESS (Reprise) Arbiter denies postponement. "Each game of chess..."
I KNOW HIM SO WELL Hotel bar, Florence and Svetlana. They talk at the end... Anatoly, Florence, and Svetlana - News of Anatoly's brother's accident...
Buddhist Temple - Photo shoot with Freddie, Anatoly arrives, talks about not playing the match
TV Reporter: Freddie Trumper retains his title... Airport - Anatoly and Svetlana then Anatoly and Florence YOU AND I
Walter and Florence
SOMEONE ELSE'S STORY
Florence: Carolee Carmello Freddie: Stephen Bogardus Anatoly: John Herrera Molokov: David Hurst Walter: Gregory Jbara Svetlana: Barbara Walsh The Arbiter: Ken Ard
The Chorus: Edward Connery, Dina Dailey, Valerie Depena, Justine DiCostanzo, Tom Flynn, Timm Fujii, Philip Hernandez, Kim Lindsay, Pat Moya, Brenda O'Brien, Steve Ochoa, Thomas James O'Leary, Tom Rocco, Carol Denise Smith, Larry Solowitz, Vernon Spencer, Nephi Jay Wimmer, Susan Wood, Michael Gerhart, Malinda Shaffer
The Creative Team
Revised book: Robert Coe Director: Des McAnuff Choreography: Peter Anastos Additional Choreography: Wayne Cilento Scenic Design: David Mitchell Costume Design: Susan Hilferty Lighting Design: Ken Billington Sound Design: Gary Stocker