The first West End production of Chess since 1986 is to star Michael Ball, Alexandra Burke, Murray Head, Tim Howar and Cassidy Janson. This epic musical love story will open at the London Coliseum on Thursday 26 April 2018 (Press night on Tuesday 1 May 2018) for a strictly limited 5 week season.
This is the fourth production in collaboration with English National Opera by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade, who brought Sunset Boulevard, Carousel and Sweeney Todd to the London Coliseum, the home of ENO. Michael Linnit and Michael Grade also produced 42nd Street, currently playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Michael Ball, Britain’s leading musical theatre star, will perform the role of Anatoly. For 30 years Michael has been starring in musical theatre productions in the West End and on Broadway winning critical acclaim and awards for his stage work and recording career. He is a double Olivier Award winner, multi-platinum recording artist and radio and TV presenter.
Alexandra Burke is Svetlana. Alexandra rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor in 2008, and currently stands as one of the most successful winners of the show selling well over 4 million records in the UK alone. Alexandra released the winners single ‘Hallelujah’, which became the current European record holder for single sales over a period of 24 hours, selling 105,000 in one day. In 2014 she made her West End debut playing the lead role of Rachel Marron in the much acclaimed musical, The Bodyguard . A UK tour followed. In August 2016, Alexandra starred as Deloris Van Cartier in the musical Sister Act, a new production directed by Craig Revel Horwood which toured the UK. 2018 saw Alexandra sign a new album deal with Universal / Decca. The album entitled ‘The Truth Is’ is released in March 2018 with a headline tour in September 18.
English actor and recording artist Murray Head is most recognised for his international hits Superstar (from Jesus Christ Superstar) and One Night in Bangkok from CHESS. He performed the role of world chess champion Frederick “Freddie” Trumper in the original London West End stage production of Chess that premiered on 14 May 1986. The show ran in London until 8 April 1989. He has also performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair in the West End. He will take on the role of The Arbiter.
Singer Tim Howar is best known as the lead vocalist with Mike + the Mechanics. He made his West End debut as the male lead in Peggy Sue Got Married. He has also appeared in West End productions of Rent and Rock of Ages. In his native Canada he starred in Broadway productions of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Miss Saigon, Tommy, The House of Martin Guerre and Les Misérables. He will perform the role of Freddie.
Cassidy Janson is Florence. Her most recent project was the LEADING LADIES trio along with Amber Riley and Beverley Knight. Previous to this Cassidy played Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Other theatre credits include Ruth in Dessa Rose at the Trafalgar Studios opposite Cynthia Erivo, Tick Tick Boom for the Menier Chocolate Factory starring alongside Neil Patrick Harris. Janson was a member of the original London cast of Wicked and played standby Elphaba.
CHESS was written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Evita), and the original London production starred Elaine Paige, Murray Head and Tommy Korberg. That production, which ran for three years at the Prince Edward Theatre, followed a highly successful recording featuring the same stars, and included the international hit singles I Know Him So Well and One Night In Bangkok. Other well-known songs from the score include Anthem, Someone Else’s Story, Heaven Help my Heart and Pity The Child.
CHESS tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends. Two of the world’s greatest chess masters, one American, one Russian, are in danger of becoming the pawns of their governments as their battle for the world title gets under way. Simultaneously their lives are thrown into further confusion by a Hungarian refugee, a remarkable woman who becomes the centre of their emotional triangle. This mirrors the heightened passions of the political struggles that threaten to destroy lives and loves.
Featuring English National Opera’s award-winning Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by John Rigby with choreography by Stephen Mear, this new West End production will be directed by Laurence Connor, whose recent credits include School of Rock and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in the West End, Les Misérables on Broadway, and the international Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour.
The show’s reputation has never been higher; there have been countless versions produced all over the world. The return of the sensational score to the London stage is an important and exciting musical theatre landmark.