"Each game of chess means there's one less variation left to be played," we are informed as the latest round of the World Chess Federation's world championships are played out, first in Merano, Italy, then in Bangkok, Thailand. Read more
Written by great musical lyricist Sir Tim Rice, with music by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Chess will be returning to London for its first major revival in the capital for over 30 years, at the London Coliseum.
Chess is set around a chess tournament between two grandmasters, one American, the other a Soviet. Between them, apart from a chess board, is a woman who manages one of the men, and who falls in love with the other.
Michael Ball will play Russian chess grandmaster Anatoly Sergievsky. Ball was last seen on the London stage in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which ran at the Adelphi Theatre. He was a member of the original Les Miserables cast, and has also appeared in The Phantom of the Opera (Raoul) and Aspects of Love (Alex Dillingham).
Alexandra Burke will play Svetlana Sergievsky. She is best-known for winning the 2008 series of The X Factor. She took over from Beverley Knight in the West End production of The Bodyguard at the Dominion Theatre, and played Deloris in a UK touring production of Sister Act in 2016.
The cast also includes Cassidy Janson (Beautiful) as Florence Vassy, Tim Howar (Rock of Ages) as US grandmaster Frederick Trumper and Cedric Neal as The Arbiter.
The musical started life as a concept album recorded in 1984, and it featured Elaine Paige, Murray Head, Tommy Körberg and Denis Quilley. It introduced the world to songs such as "I Know Him So Well" and "One Night in Bangkok", with the former holding the number one slot in the UK singles chart for four weeks, and winning an Ivor Novello Award. "Anthem" has become a musical standard, and performed by the likes of Michael Ball, Josh Groban and Kerry Ellis. The original performers of the album went on to perform the songs at a concert at the Barbican Centre, a production which toured some major European cities.
In 1986, the stage version of the musical premiered at the Prince Edward Theatre directed by Trevor Nunn (after Michael Bennett was forced to withdraw with illness). Paige, Körberg and Head reprised their roles from the concept album for the musical, and were joined by the likes of Anthony Head, Ria Jones and David Burt. The show ran for three years, and received three Olivier Award nominations, including one for Best Musical.
The show first opened on Broadway in 1988, reimagining the West End version for an America audience. Playwright Richard Nelson was brought on board by Nunn to work on the show, changing many elements of the plot, characters, and settings.
This new production at the London Coliseum will be directed by Laurence Connor, who directed both School of Rock and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in the West End, with choreography by Stephen Mear. It runs at the Coliseum from 26th April to 2nd June.
American grandmaster chess player Freddie Trumper, the current world champion, arrives in Merano for the Chess World Championships. When put to the test by Russian grandmaster Anatoly Sergievsky, it’s more than just chess and pride on the line, as a love triangle develops between the pair and Trumper’s second, Florence.