Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No Wrong Moves in This Game of Chess

A friend of mine sent me this link the other day as a gag on how ridiculous 1980s pop videos were. She also noted that "the dance sequence on the chess board starting at around the 3:05 mark of the video is particularly riveting with the white dancers trying to squeeze in a few of those newfangled break-dancing moves into their otherwise jazz-dance-esque routine."

One Night in Bangkok video

Now any normal person would watch the link, mock its ridiculousness and then move on. Not me. I'm reminded of what a fun song this was and hence feel the need to educate my friend on the concept from which this video was based. One Night in Bangkok was a song from the Tim Rice Broadway play Chess and if you've seen the musical it makes a lot more sense! It's all about a Cold War rivalry chess match between an American chess player and a Russian chess player. It was fabulous - albeit now quite politically outdated. The musical was based upon the real-life chess tournament of Bobby Fischer and Victor Korchnoi.

I saw this musical as a pre-teen and it was an introduction to two things that would impact the rest of my adolescence. The first of those was realizing my insatiable love of the theatre (and also my perhaps innate desire to spell this word "theatre" instead of "theater" because it makes me feel fancy). My parents took me to the City to watch this production and before the show I saw men in tuxedos and ladies in fabulous sequined-dresses (it was the late 80s) dancing to "Mac the Knife" in a fancy club. I thought, "This must be what the cool grown-ups do" and I vowed one day to be a cool grow-up like that.

The second introduction was an awareness of AIDS. My uncle, who lived in New York City at the time, gave us tickets to see Chess because his good friend was in it. I learned that his friend, Nephi, had AIDS and died shortly thereafter. The latter introduction was not a fond one, but important nonetheless.

Here is to the game of chess, cheesy 80s dance moves and Broadway plays. You can check out books on chess or the soundtrack to the musical chess in our library's catalog.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services