Did you get all that? Don’t worry, there’s no need to—watch it and you’ll settle in just fine. Although Tim Rice claims this is the “official version” of the musical, I would disagree (I should point out that one of my goals in life is to make the definitive theatrical version)—Chess still needs some ironing out. Until that happens however (and it’s doubtful it ever will), Chess In Concert fills the void admirably. It’s a stunning, emotionally-fulfilling performance of one of the greatest musicals ever devised. And you should get it for that reason alone.
On DVD, Chess In Concert looks absolutely beautiful. The concert was filmed live with several cameras, and Reprise Records has done a remarkable job in preserving the event in an anamorphic widescreen presentation. On the soundtrack end of the spectrum, Chess In Concert may be viewed with either a dazzling 5.1 Dolby Digital track or a 2.0 Stereo Surround option. Very large yellow English subtitles are available, should you find it hard to follow the lyrics. The only special feature to be found on the disc is a trailer for the program. The DVD case itself houses an informative booklet with some new liner notes by Tim Rice.
Tim Rice also appears in the concert’s prologue (which can only be seen by accessing “Play All” from the menu—if you select Act I, you’ll miss this completely), introducing the cast and conductor David Firman. For the diehard fans, Reprise Records has also issued two releases of Chess – In Concert on CD. A 2-disc set presents the musical in its entirety (which is also titled Chess In Concert), while a single-disc edition, Highlights From Chess In Concert, treats listeners to the 19 major tracks from the production.
Bottom line: Chess In Concert isn’t the ultimate adaptation that it could be. Many of the performances could be handled by better people. But this is a stage musical. Not a movie. So sit back, relax, and take in the latest first account of Chess on video.