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Bridge & Humor: Bridge The Musical by Simon Cocheme

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Bridge: The Musical By Simon Cocheme

Chess (music by Bjorn and Benny of Abba, lyrics by Sir Tim Rice) was a big hit in London’s West End in 1986, although it was less of a success on Broadway in 1988.

Bridge’s response is long overdue!» «What about A Hand of Bridge?» I hear you cry. Yes, but it isn’t exactly a musical. Composed by Samuel Barber in 1959, A Hand of Bridge is the shortest opera that is regularly performed, lasting less than 10 minutes.

Two couples play a hand of bridge, during which each character sings an arietta. The synopsis reads:

The contract is 5, played by Bill, after the opponents competed in clubs. Bill, a lawyer, recalls a former lover and wonders where she is now. Geraldine, his wife, laments not loving her dying mother while she was still well. David fantasizes about what he would do if he were as rich as his boss. Finally, Sally (dummy) recalls a hat she saw in a shop window earlier in the day. What on earth is going on here?

It seems that the librettist was not a bridge player. Surely Bill should be recalling the bidding and wondering where the K is. Geraldine should be lamenting not having recalled her six-card diamond suit. David should be fantasizing about ducking the K when Bill takes the finesse. Only Sally, recalling that hat, is blameless; following the play as dummy can be very tiring when thoughts of millinery are intruding.

It gets worse. I found a performance on YouTube where the bidding starts while the dealing is still in progress. There are frequent bids out of turn, and dummy goes down before the opening lead, which then comes from the player sitting over dummy. A perfect case-study for an ACBL class of novice tournament directors!

Now on to my own creation, Bridge: The Musical. I have gone for the Mamma Mia! formula, taking well-known songs and weaving them into a story. Chess had some risque lyrics («I don’t see you guys rating/ the kind of mate I’m contemplating») and I am sure I can match them by altering a couple of the songs to include squeeze and protecting her honor.

This is the synopsis: Overture (Bridge over Troubled Water). Act I. The scene is a bridge club, run by Red Pepper, a Vietnam vet. One of the members, Regina, is in a troubled relationship with Jacques and believes he doesn’t really love her (Wooden Heart). Lucy, a free spirit, picks up a wonderful hand with eight diamonds (Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend). She overbids and the other three players comment (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds). She is extremely fortunate that her partner, Francisco, puts down an excellent dummy and Regina and Jacques eye it jealously (I Wanna Hold Your Hand). Lucy plays poorly. With three tricks left, she realises she has cut herself off from a winner in dummy (I Left My Heart in the Hand of Francisco), while Regina and Jacques console Francisco (Your Tiny Hand is Frozen).

Act II. A new member, Roy, has joined the bridge club and Regina wonders whether he could be right for her (From a Jack to a King). She is partnering Lucy. Regina makes a trial bid (Help), but Lucy thinks it shows a control (Stupid Cuebid) and they end up in a slam, going down. On the next deal, Regina, sitting over declarer, plays a high card to prevent her partner being endplayed and the players at the table burst into a chorus of approval (Second Hand Rose). The other tables take over and celebrate her coup (Crocodile Rock). Roy is impressed and says he will give Regina a ring. She interprets the word optimistically (Diamonds Are Forever). The whole company then extol the virtues of bridge while the proprietor sings of a hand with 0-7-0-6 distribution (Sgt. Pepper’s Lovely Heart-Club Hand).

Sounds good, eh? Has anyone got Stephen Sondheim’s phone number?


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