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People who like the musical Chess, where do I start if I want to get into that show??? Do I listen to the soundtrack first? Watch the concert? Watch a boot?


I know people who have gotten into it all sorts of ways—I think there are a lot of good answers and it’s hard to know which will appeal to you. Here’s some general advice:

  • If you want to see actors/singers you already like, if you’re into theater at all there is probably at least one version of Chess with someone you know in it. The 2008 Chess In Concert (which is available on DVD, so a lot of people have seen it) has Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Kerry Ellis, etc. The 2003 Chess In Concert (which was professionally filmed is and not available for purchase, but was leaked) has Josh Groban, Julia Murney, Adam Pascal, Norm Lewis, Raul Esparza, Sutton Foster, etc. The 1990 Long Beach Civic Light Opera production has Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. The 1998 Chess In Concert has Alice Ripley and Brian d’Arcy James (but you may not get to see it). The 1988 Broadway production and 1989 Chess In Concert (the latter is another one which was professionally filmed and a copy of that is around) have Judy Kuhn. And so on, really…
  • If you want a version beloved by hardcore Chess fans (this is purely the impression I get from other fans around Tumblr and I can’t claim to actually speak for Chess fans as a whole), popular album choices include the 1984 Concept Album (It produced big radio hits and inspired this whole mess, and not for nothing) and the 2002 Danish Tour Album (which is in English, and preferably you want to track down the Complete Cast Album even though you can’t easily buy it anymore). Popular productions for watching (ahem) include the 1990 Long Beach Civic Light Opera again (though mostly in comparison to the Broadway production, which it is based on and commonly considered to be an improvement upon), the 1990 Sydney production (which is very different from pretty much any other version of Chess but many people really like what they did with the story), and the 2003 Swedish production (which is in Swedish, but it’s also professionally shot and available for purchase—they have an album too). The 2010 UK Tour is very unconventional in their staging but is notable for, you know, not being several decades old, which has its benefits.
  • If you want to go back to basics and understand where all of these productions and concerts came from and how they came to be so different from each other—it all started with the 1984 Concept Album, and then the 1986 London production (recordings are around, but… almost 30 years old), and then the 1988 Broadway production (an album and other recordings are around, but you know, same). is a great source of information about these earlier productions and the early history of the show in general from someone who was a fan when they were happening.

Uh, good luck, I guess!

Unlike a lot of musicals, it’s one I’d recommend starting with audio recordings. I’d say the Danish Tour Cast is a great introduction for being very complete. And the concept album for being the more famous versions.
As far as videos, I’m super fond of the UK Tour, which is also really well filmed (I forget I’m watching a bootleg sometimes).
These are all ones I’ve shared with non-fans who have gone on to enjoy the show, so they’re probably more accessible than some of the alternatives.

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