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Maybe he walked, cable cars scare him. (Concert review) 
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Post Re: "cable cars scare him"
JonDeutsch wrote:
I need to ask Cadriel why he is so enamored with "He couldn't wait to join you up here / Maybe he walked, cable cars scare him."

What am I missing? Feels like the thinnest of replacement lines from the concept album that could have been imagined. Please explain why this is such an improvement.

Honestly? It's not the most brilliant lyric in the world, certainly, but it's got a bit of wit and silly charm to it. The line it replaced was a throwaway - "All I could say is moments ago / He was right here, ready and waiting" - and instead it's something that is fun and a bit flirtatious.

I think the London delivery was really what made me love it. Florence sung "Maybe he walked -" and Anatoly interrupted with "Walked?" before Florence sang "Cable cars scare him" and they laughed. It was a warm and lovely moment in the song, and helps make sense out of the kiss scene that follows. And I've just been fond of it ever since.

Quote:
This is one of the many "English translations" from Concept -> RAH that seem to re-enforce the belief Rice has that people just aren't smart enough to appreciate this masterpiece of a musical.

While I think he's taking the wrong perspective on the problem (it's not the masses' fault they're average; that's the job of the masses), I do think he re-wordings present much more simple, one-dimensional meanings that take some of the fun out of it for me.

I don't see the London version (the concert version was basically London, with almost no new variants even in the places where Rice never settled on a line) as being dumbed down. For instance, Florence's switch from "They will destroy you, not rivals, not fame, not success" to "Nothing can harm the successful except for success" in Endgame - it's a major difference in the underlying philosophy, and IMO not for the worse.

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Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:56 pm
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Post Re: "cable cars scare him"
Cadriel wrote:
I think the London delivery was really what made me love it. Florence sung "Maybe he walked -" and Anatoly interrupted with "Walked?" before Florence sang "Cable cars scare him" and they laughed. It was a warm and lovely moment in the song, and helps make sense out of the kiss scene that follows. And I've just been fond of it ever since.


Well, I've never seen the London concert, and I was (wrongly, it seems) presuming that that production was very close to the concept album.

Quote:
I don't see the London version (the concert version was basically London, with almost no new variants even in the places where Rice never settled on a line) as being dumbed down. For instance, Florence's switch from "They will destroy you, not rivals, not fame, not success" to "Nothing can harm the successful except for success" in Endgame - it's a major difference in the underlying philosophy, and IMO not for the worse.


Yes, I'm starting to see that RAH is very similar to the original production, and so I'll restate my context is that my baseline is the concept album lyrics and plot -- which I felt was the smartest and most clever of the bunch. However, your one example does, indeed, demonstrate that not every change was for the worse.

If I were to watch the concert again and notate all the lyrical changes between it and concept, I'd argue that 80% of them got thinner and more direct.

Still, having not seen the stage production, "cable cars scare him" without any acting context reads just plain lame to me. I can imagine how some good acting would add some much-needed adornment to this line.

Just sayin'!

Jon

PS - Having been a Chess fan since 1994, and *still* playing catch-up (I just discovered the Swedish production over the holidays!), I'm thrilled to find some seriously thoughtful and knowledgeable Chessers here.


Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:16 pm
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I used to hate it till I saw the concert. It just does make sense to have a nice line like that. I hate "How could I not, Miss Vassy rergets" and the "All I can say is moment's ago" is just a plain lie or if she's telling the truth then you'll have to find a way for Freddie to come and go before the song.

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Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:41 am
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Post Re: "cable cars scare him"
JonDeutsch wrote:
PS - Having been a Chess fan since 1994, and *still* playing catch-up (I just discovered the Swedish production over the holidays!), I'm thrilled to find some seriously thoughtful and knowledgeable Chessers here.

Well, we try. Have you spent time at Sylvia Stoddard's site? http://squareone.org/Chess/ She stopped updating it around the beginning of 2002, and her bias is toward the '86 London production (although her opinion is fair toward several other variations) but overall it's one of the best information sources about the show's history to that point.

For my part, you can ignore anything I said about the Stockholm production from around 2003 and into 2004 - once I saw the video it totally changed my opinion. Worth watching even if you don't understand a word of Swedish.

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Fri Jan 15, 2010 5:53 am
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Post Re: "cable cars scare him"
Cadriel wrote:
Well, we try. Have you spent time at Sylvia Stoddard's site? http://squareone.org/Chess/


Thanks for this. I might have stumbled across it before, but I'm going to read it again. However, I must say I actually disagree with her top-line assessment of the concept album plot. I do not believe, in fact, that there was a "love triangle" in the traditional sense. I think this is where Rice's subtle savvy in depicting people's emotions and motives might have been missed by many (I try to say this humbly, because I really don't know -- I only know that my view on it is more complex).

I actually believe that Rice was playing around with the "15 types of love" philosophy" (based on the 5 types of love that the Greek philosophers coined) in Chess. In that context, here's my version of the Chess "love matrix:"

* Florence and Freddy shared a "companionate love" and "tough love."
* Florence and Anatoly shared three types: "romantic, puppy and infatuation love."
* Anatoly had a "patriotism love" (i.e., love of country / see "Anthem").
* Freddy had a "romantic love" with Chess (which he was afraid to admit to, and became brash to guard his inner, more vulnerable self)
* Anatoly had an "infatuation love" for Chess (i.e., "when the wheel slows down...")
* And, of course, the most cynical and wonderful thing about the plot and lyrics is everyone's uniform and unabashed "self-love" and narcissism!

So, I think Rice exploring the different types of love in this story, and demonstrating how they affect relationships and activities in different situations. If you can even consider this assessment as valid, then I'd say a "love triangle" is really way too simplistic of a description of the scene that has been painted in Chess!

Quote:
For my part, you can ignore anything I said about the Stockholm production from around 2003 and into 2004 - once I saw the video it totally changed my opinion. Worth watching even if you don't understand a word of Swedish.


Ha! OK, I'll try to keep that in mind. So, let me quickly tell you my "Stockholm story"...

I was cleaning up the thousands of MP3s I downloaded via torrents years ago, and I stumbled across a whole host of Chess-related MP3s. So, I threw them on my Zune (my portable media player) and brought it with me on my holiday break. I just threw it on every night as I went to bed, and a foreign-language version of Chess came on, with remarkably high-quality production. I mean, it's the first time since the concept album that I've heard audio and production quality remotely in the same ballpark. So, I woke up and checked out the album info on the screen, and I learned it was a Swedish production. So, I listened, and was struck by how powerful and well-done it was. It was the first time I was physically excited (now, now...I mean in the tingles in the skin way that a musician gets!) by a production of Chess since I first heard the concept album 16 years earlier.

Then... the Arbiter song came on (jag vill se schack) and I was just blown away by the re-imagined version of this tune! I listened to it like 5 more times in a row. I really dug it. I especially liked the mash-up between the traditional Arbiter theme and the ??? theme (the theme that's in the second 1/2 of Press Conference and closes out "The Interview" in Chess in Concert).

I love that secondary theme, and I think it works so well within the context of the Falco-meets-Bananarama production of The Arbiter song that it just blew me away.

Then I heard "The Argument" in the Swedish production soundtrack -- wow. I mean, they added about 5 more decibels of anger to that song in the orchestration alone. Just when you thought the Concept Album nailed it, I think the Swedes took it to a whole new level of "pow."

Many of the other songs fared well, too, but those two tracks really stuck out to me (as well as some -- not all -- of the new songs introduced).

So, I immediately went online to learn more about it, and learned that it was one of the few officially sanctioned versions (makes sense) and... that there was a DVD of the production! So, I went about buying it in about 1/2 a heartbeat. Received it two weeks ago, and I have watched it 3 times so far.

Top-line comments about the Stockholm production:

* Live orchestration matched the recorded one quite well. Usually, live suffers. I think there was a lot of pre-loaded sequencing and voice-overs in the live production (or in the mastering of the audio for the DVD) which help make it sound amazing for a live soundtrack.

* The stagecraft was, at times, inspiring, artful and beautiful. At other times it was bizarre. Overall, it was engaging and entertaining.

* The acting was interesting. I say interesting because I'm not sure if what I'm going to describe was the work of the actors or the work of the director. Let me hit the points by character:

-- I found Florance to be one pissed-off woman! Her glances at people were almost always the kind that look like she was ready to cause some bodily harm. And, she would so quickly vacillate between empathetic and flirty to super-uber-angry-woman that it was a bit jarring. But, her vocal performance was really astonishing overall.
-- I found Anatoly to be remarkably charismatic and in control. His personality dominated, and I felt like he was not a pawn in anyone's game but his own. He also has the most sophisticated of dispositions.
-- Freddie was a bit over-the-top, but I think it a cute, love-him-because-you-hate-him way. However, in Pity the Child, I think he hit 'peek emotion' too early and had nowhere to go from there. :)
-- The Arbiter. Ummm... Let me just start off by saying... WOW. And then, WTF? And then, brilliant. I really have no context for a performance like this, but I must say that I presume there is some showcasing precedent for this in theater in general or maybe specifically in Swedish theater. He's part Joker, part Rick Astley. One of my jokes to my fiancee as we were watching it was "I feel like I was just rickrolled!" But I have to say that he demonstrated charisma and presence that stuck with me. His performance were nothing if not memorable, and downright entertaining. And THAT'S with me not understanding a single word he's saying! In fact, I'd be so curious as to what he's singing about in the reprise, when he's flirting and posing with Florence.
-- Overall, I'd say the tone was more dramatic, angry and sad than how the Concept Album feels, or how the Chess in Concert felt. Both concept and concert felt more light-hearted and "British" in their tone: serious, yet amusing. The Swedes just seem to pull of a darker, more dour tone. Again, not sure if that was the acting or the direction (or both). Or... the culture?

OK, I've blathered on enough. It's just that I'm still digesting it, so it's all so fresh and interesting.

Jon


Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:23 pm
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Keep in mind that the swedish production is blessed in having Tommy Korberg from the concept album reprise his role as Anatoly (The Russian).

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Fri Jan 15, 2010 6:24 pm
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Also keep in mind that none of the lyrics are translated. They are rewritten, so many songs have an entire new meening.

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Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:05 am
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Yes, the Tommy Korberg presence added not only continuity, but quality and presence to the Swedish production. And I figured most of the songs had new lyrics because the scenes would simply not make sense with the original lyrics in place (there are some user-generated translations on YouTube).

Kind of fun not knowing what exactly is going on, even though you have a general knowledge of what must be going on, despite the changes.

Overall bizarreness award still stands with the Arbiter character... would love to understand if this is some sort of archetype of Swedish (or Scandinavian) theater, or just a random, bizarre personality drummed up by the Chess in Sweden director.

Jon


Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:17 am
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I have yet to see the full video so I'll have to order it sometime.

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Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:09 pm
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Post Still looking for the music from the original production
Does anyone have a recording from the original London production? I can't find it anywhere online.


Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:23 pm
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It has nothing to do with Scandinavian theatre traditions. I just believe that the dual personality was written for the actor who is a great comedian, instead of trying to make a baritone the typical pop-tenor.

Also there is no London Cast recording of Chess. It was never recorded since the it was basically the concept album with mainly the same actors and music.

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Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:07 am
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I was referring to the bootleg that was referred to on this page:

http://squareone.org/Chess/merch.html

High-baritonne wrote:
Also there is no London Cast recording of Chess. It was never recorded since the it was basically the concept album with mainly the same actors and music.


Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:17 am
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