Concept Album Cover
|Productions||1984 European concert tour
1986 West End
1989 Carnegie Hall concert
1989 Skellefteå concert
1990 United States Tour
1994 Gothenburg concert
1995 Los Angeles
2001 Denmark tour
2003 Broadway concert
2005 Norway concert
2007 Los Angeles
2008 Cape Town
2008 London concert
2010 U.K. tour
Chess is a musical with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, formerly of ABBA, and with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story involves a romantic triangle involving two chess grandmasters, an American and a Soviet, fighting over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other—all in the context of a politically-driven, Cold War-era tournament between the two men. Although the protagonists were not intended to represent any specific individuals, the character of the American was loosely based on Bobby Fischer, while elements of the story may have been inspired by the chess careers of Russian grandmasters Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov.
As had been done with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita, a highly successful concept album of Chess was released in 1984. The first theatrical production of Chess opened in London's West End in 1986 and played for three years. A much-altered U.S. version premièred on Broadway in 1988, but survived only for two months. Chess is frequently revised for new productions, many of which try to merge elements from both the London and Broadway versions; however, no major revival production of the musical has yet been attempted either on West End or Broadway.
- 1 Development
- 2 The original album
- 3 West End staged production, U.K. (1986–1989)
- 4 Broadway staged production, U.S. (1988)
- 5 Other staged productions, concerts, and recordings
- 5.1 1989
- 5.2 1990
- 5.3 1994
- 5.4 1995
- 5.5 1996
- 5.6 2001
- 5.7 2002
- 5.8 2003
- 5.9 2007
- 5.10 2008
- 5.11 2010
- 5.12 2010 - 2011
- 5.13 2011
- 5.14 2011-2012
- 5.15 2012
- 5.16 2013
- 6 Main characters
- 7 Differences among the major versions
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Lyricist Tim Rice had long wanted to create a musical about the Cold War. During the mid-'70s, he had discussed writing a musical about the Cuban Missile Crisis with his usual collaborator, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, but that idea never came to fruition. In the late '70s, Rice got the idea to tell his Cold War story through the prism of the long-standing U.S.-Soviet chess rivalry; he had earlier been fascinated by the political machinations of the 1972 "Match of the Century" between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. However, when Rice wanted to start working on the new musical in early 1979, Lloyd Webber was already well underway with his own independent musical Cats. (Premiering two seasons later in the West End, Cats became one of the most successful musicals of all time and was also the first one to employ a huge engineering staff to supervise its many technical elements, a paradigm which would be adopted for Chess in numerous capacities during its development.)
Subsequently, American producer Richard Vos suggested to Rice to work with Andersson and Ulvaeus instead, knowing that they were looking to develop and produce projects outside of ABBA. An ardent fan of the group, Rice agreed. He later wrote that he felt no reservations because "there is a sense of theatre in the ABBA style". With Vos also in attendance, Rice met with the two in Stockholm for the first time in 15 December 1981 in order to discuss the concept, and they quickly signed on to the project.
ABBA stopped performing in early 1983, due to tensions between the two couples as well as their recent divorces.
All through 1983, the three men worked on the music and lyrics. Rice would describe the mood of particular songs he wanted, then Andersson and Ulvaeus would write and record the music and send the tapes to Rice, who would then write lyrics to fit the music, and send the resulting tapes back to Andersson and Ulvaeus and so on.
Some of the songs on the resulting album contained elements of music Andersson and Ulvaeus had previously written for ABBA. For example, the chorus of "I Know Him So Well" was based on the chorus of "I Am An A," a song from their 1977 tour, while the chorus of "Anthem" used the chord structures from the guitar solo from their 1980 ABBA song "Our Last Summer".
Ulvaeus would also provide dummy lyrics to emphasize the rhythmic patterns of the music, and since Rice found a number of these "embarrassingly good" as they were, incorporated a few in the final version. The most well known example is "One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble". One song, which became "Heaven Help My Heart," was recorded with an entire set of lyrics, sung by ABBA's Agnetha Fältskog, with the title "Every Good Man", though none of the original lyrics from this song were used.
Partly to raise money in order to produce the show in the West End and partly to see how the material would fare with the public, it was decided to release the music as an album before any stage productions were undertaken, a strategy that had proven successful with Rice's two previous musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.
Owing in part to the different countries in which the lyricist and composers resided, recording on the album musical of Chess began in Stockholm in early November 1983, with Andersson recording the many layered keyboard parts himself along with other basic work at their usual Polar Studios, and choral and orchestral work was then recorded in London by The Ambrosian Singers along with the London Symphony Orchestra. The album was then sound-engineered and mixed back at Polar by longtime ABBA sound engineer Michael B. Tretow.
The original album
The double LP, often referred to as a concept album or album musical, was released worldwide in the autumn of 1984. Liner notes included with the album featured a basic synopsis of the story in multiple languages along with song lyrics and numerous photos. The music on the album was described by The New York Times as "a sumptuously recorded...grandiose pastiche that touches half a dozen bases, from Gilbert and Sullivan to late Rodgers and Hammerstein, from Italian opera to trendy synthesizer-based pop, all of it lavishly arranged for the London Symphony Orchestra with splashy electronic embellishments". The album featured pop stars Murray Head, Tommy Körberg, Elaine Paige and noted actor Denis Quilley in the role of Molokov.
A single from the album, "One Night in Bangkok," with verses performed by Murray Head and choruses performed by Anders Glenmark became a worldwide smash, reaching No.3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The duet "I Know Him So Well" by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson held the Number One spot on the U.K. singles charts for 4 weeks, winning the Ivor Novello Award in the process as the Best Selling Single ('A' Side). In addition, the tune was later covered not only by Whitney Houston and her mother Cissy as a duet for her sophomore release Whitney, but also by Barbra Streisand, who recorded it originally for The Broadway Album released in 1985. However, the track was deleted from the album due to lack of space and remained unreleased until it was featured on her 1992 album "Highlights from Just for the Record".
On 27 October 1984, a concert version of the Chess album was premiered by the original cast in London's Barbican Centre and then performed in Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris with final presentation on 1 November in Berwaldhallen in Stockholm.
In 1985, music videos were filmed for the songs "One Night in Bangkok," "Nobody's Side," "The Arbiter," "I Know Him So Well," and "Pity the Child," featuring the performers from the album, and directed by David G. Hillier. These were released together in a VHS video entitled Chess Moves.
The original concept album received critical accolades, with Rolling Stone raving that the "dazzling score covers nearly all the pop bases", Kurt Ganzl's Blackwell Guide to the Musical Theatre on Record telling readers about the "thrilling exposition of an exciting piece of modern musical theater occurring before the event" and Time declaring that the "rock symphonic synthesis was ripe with sophistication and hummable tunes".
The album became a Top 10 hit in the U.K., West Germany and South Africa, reached number 47 on the US Billboard 200, number 39 in France, number 35 in Australia, and for seven weeks remained at number 1 on the Swedish album chart due in no small part to the composers' Swedish heritage. The recording also received several prestigious awards, including the Goldene Europa from Germany, the Edison Award from the Netherlands and the Rockbjörnen from Sweden.
- The American – Murray Head
- The Russian – Tommy Körberg
- Florence – Elaine Paige
- Molokov – Denis Quilley
- The Arbiter – Björn Skifs
- Svetlana – Barbara Dickson
The protagonists, simply called the "American" and the "Russian" for the original album, were sung by Murray Head and Tommy Körberg, respectively. The part of Florence, initially the American's second and subsequently the Russian's lover, was sung by longtime British pop star Elaine Paige, while the part of Svetlana, the Russian's wife, was sung by Barbara Dickson.
West End staged production, U.K. (1986–1989)
Chess premièred in the West End on 14 May 1986 at the Prince Edward Theatre  and closed on 8 April 1989. The original production was originally set to be directed by Michael Bennett; however, after casting the show and commissioning the expansive set and costume designs, he withdrew from the project due to health reasons. Shortly afterward, on July 2, 1987, Bennett died from AIDS-related lymphoma at the age of 44.
The show was rescued by director Trevor Nunn, who with considerable technical difficulty, eventually shepherded the show on to its scheduled opening. The three principal singers from the concept album, Elaine Paige, Tommy Körberg and Murray Head reprised their roles on stage, however due to prior commitments, Barbara Dickson was unable to appear. Siobhán McCarthy played the part of Svetlana as a result.
According to set designer Robin Wagner, as interviewed for the book Set Design, by author Lynn Pecktal, the original Bennett version was to be a "multimedia" show, with an elaborate tilting floor, banks of television monitors, and other technological touches. Realizing he could never bring Bennett’s vision to fruition, Nunn applied his realistic style to the show instead, although the basics of the mammoth set design were still present in the final production. These included three videowalls, the main of which featured commentary from chess master William Hartston, and appearances from various BBC newsreaders rounding out the package.
The London version expanded the storyline of the concept album, adding considerable new recitative, and attracted several West End stars, such as Anthony Head (Murray Head's brother), Grania Renihan, Ria Jones, David Burt, and Peter Karrie, during its three-year run, and was a massive physical undertaking, with estimated costs up to $12 million.
Eight months later, the nomination and a win came in for the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical, and the show received three 1986 Laurence Olivier Award nominations for Best Musical, Outstanding Performance by an Actor (Tommy Körberg) and Outstanding Performance by an Actress (Elaine Paige) as well. In the categories of Best Musical and Outstanding Performance by an Actor, Chess lost to The Phantom of the Opera, by Rice's former collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The premiere of the musical provoked an overall mixed to favourable verdict from the critics and, according to Variety, created "one of the bigger West End mob-scenes in recent memory". Most of the naysaying notices had comments ranging from "far too long" and "shallow, improbable story masquerading as a serious musical" from The Sunday Times to The Guardian's conclusion that, "A musical is only as good as its book, and here one is confronted by an inchoate mess."
Other newspapers posted rave reviews however. The Daily Telegraph wrote that the show was "gift-wrapped and gorgeous...compels admiration," The Times noted that "it turns out to be a fine piece of work that shows the dinosaur mega-musical evolving into an intelligent form of life" and Today called it "gripping, eye-catching.. nearly a major triumph".
In addition, Michael Ratcliffe wrote in Observer that the "operetta plot which would have delighted a mature Lehar is dramatised in a buoyant, eclectic and stirring theatre-score" and called Körberg "the indisputable star of the show". Sheridan Morley in International Herald Tribune complimented the show's "remarkably coherent dramatic shape" and "staging of considerable intelligence and invention".
The president of the International Chess Federation—"The Arbiter"—speculates on the origins of the game of chess ("Story of Chess") before announcing the location of the upcoming world chess championship: Merano, Italy. As the townsfolk prepare for the occasion ("Merano"), the current world chess champion, Frederick "Freddie" Trumper of the United States, arrives with his second and implied lover: Hungarian-born, English-raised Florence Vassy ("What a Scene! What a Joy!"). Florence privately derides Freddie for his bad boy attitude and brash behavior ("Commie Newspapers"), which immediately gets out of hand when he assaults a journalist who questions his relationship with Florence ("Press Conference"). Freddie's Soviet Russian challenger, Anatoly Sergievsky, as well as Alexander Molokov, Anatoly's second, bicker ("Anatoly and Molokov"), and Anatoly in solitude laments the selling out of his dreams to get to where he is today ("Where I Want to Be").
The opening ceremony features the American and Soviet delegates each vowing their side will win ("Difficult and Dangerous Times"), The Arbiter insisting on a clean game ("The Arbiter"), and marketers looking to make a profit ("The Merchandisers"). During the increasingly intense match, Freddie suddenly bursts out of the arena, leaving the chessboard on the floor ("Chess #1") and Florence to pick up the pieces with Anatoly, Molokov, and The Arbiter, whereby she promises to bring Freddie and Anatoly back together diplomatically ("Quartet"). It turns out that Freddie engineered the outburst for the American media company, Global Television, though Walter de Courcey—the company's representative in Freddie's delegation—criticizes the stunt as ludicrous. Florence and Freddie fight until he spitefully turns the argument toward her missing father, believed captured by Soviet forces during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution ("1956: Budapest is Rising"). She reflects cynically about chess and politics ("Nobody's Side") before heading off to the Merano Mountain Inn for the peaceful meeting she has scheduled between Freddie and Anatoly. Freddie does not immediately turn up, leaving Anatoly and Florence awkwardly alone together; however, they eventually embrace as surprising romantic feelings arise before being interrupted by Freddie, who has been working out new financial terms with Global TV ("Mountain Duet").
The chess tournament proceeds, culminating in a series of victories for Anatoly with only one more needed to make him winner of the tournament ("Chess #2"). Due to Freddie's atrocious attitude, Florence finally deserts him ("Florence Quits"), whereby Freddie ponders how his unhappy childhood left him the man he is today ("Pity the Child"). He sends The Arbiter a letter of resignation, resulting in Anatoly's becoming the new world champion. Anatoly now defects from the Soviet Union and seeks asylum at the British embassy ("Embassy Lament"). Florence, accompanying Anatoly, reflects on their strange, new-found love ("Heaven Help My Heart"). Walter tips off the press as to this recent news story and they ambush Anatoly and Florence ("Anatoly and the Press"). When the mob of reporters asks Anatoly why he is deserting his country, he tells them that his land's only borders lie around his heart ("Anthem").
A year later, Anatoly is set to defend his championship in Bangkok, Thailand ("Golden Bangkok"). Freddie is already there, chatting up locals and experiencing the Bangkok nightlife ("One Night in Bangkok") because he has become Global TV's special presenter for the tournament. Florence and Anatoly are now openly lovers, and worry about Freddie's sudden reappearance as well as the impending arrival of Anatoly's estranged wife, Svetlana, from Russia ("One More Opponent" / "You and I"), which Anatoly suspects is part of Molokov's plan to shame him into returning to the Soviet Union. Molokov, meanwhile, has trained a new protégé, Leonid Viigand, to challenge and defeat Anatoly ("The Soviet Machine").
Walter, now Freddie's boss, manipulates Freddie into embarrassing Anatoly on live TV during an eventually heated interview between them ("The Interview"). Molokov, who indeed is responsible for Svetlana's presence in Bangkok, blackmails her into making Anatoly lose the match. Walter, who has been promised the release of certain American agents if he can ruin Anatoly's play, informs Florence that her father is still alive though imprisoned in Russia, and that he too will be released if she can convince Anatoly to lose. Neither of these ploys work to get Anatoly to throw the game, however. As a result, Molokov and Walter team up to get Freddie to personally persuade Anatoly and Florence, knowing that Freddie is vengeful toward Anatoly and interested in winning back the love of Florence; however, Freddie's attempts fail ("The Deal").
Svetlana and Florence talk one-on-one for the first time about their respective relationships with Anatoly. Florence ultimately admits that it would be best for Anatoly to return to Svetlana and their children ("I Know Him So Well"). Anatoly, meanwhile, is sent an anonymous letter telling him to go to Wat Pho, which he does; to his surprise, Freddie appears, having decided to merely facilitate a brilliant match, regardless of his own personal conflicts with Anatoly. Because of this new change in attitude, Freddie informs Anatoly of a significant flaw in Viigand's play that will help Anatoly win ("Talking Chess").
In the deciding game of the match, with the score at five games all, Anatoly manages to take a superb win against Viigand. The victory comes even as Svetlana castigates Anatoly for wallowing in the crowd's empty praise and Florence expresses similar annoyance with him for casting aside his ideals ("Endgame"). Later, Florence confesses her sentiments that he should return to his family in the Soviet Union and the pair reflects on the conclusion of their romance ("You and I: Reprise"). Walter later approaches Florence with the news that Anatoly has defected back to the U.S.S.R., meaning that her father will certainly be released. He startlingly admits, however, that no one actually knows if her father is still alive. Florence breaks down, telling Walter that he is using people's lives for nothing, before repeating Anatoly's prior sentiments that her only borders lie around her heart ("Finale").
- Frederick Trumper, The American – Murray Head
- Florence Vassy – Elaine Paige
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – Tommy Körberg
- Alexander Molokov – John Turner
- Walter de Courcey – Kevin Colson
- The Arbiter – Tom Jobe
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Siobhán McCarthy
- Mayor of Merano – Richard Mitchell
- T.V. Presenter – Peter Karrie
- Civil Servants – Richard Lyndon, Paul Wilson
† The multiple songs listed here are often merged on recordings into a single track.
‡ Song is alternately titled "U.S. vs U.S.S.R."
Broadway staged production, U.S. (1988)
After London, the creative team decided that the show had to be reimagined from the top down. Trevor Nunn brought in playwright Richard Nelson to recreate the musical as a straightforward "book show" for New York's Broadway audiences. Nunn brought in new, younger principals after he disqualified Paige from the role of Florence by insisting Nelson recreate the character as an American. The story changed drastically, with different settings, characters, and many different plot elements, although the basic plot remained the same. As Benny Andersson put it to Variety: "The main difference between London and here is that in London there is only about two or three minutes of spoken dialog. Here, in order to clarify some points, it is almost one-third dialog". The changes necessitated the score to be reordered as well, and comparisons of the Broadway cast recording and the original concept album reveal the dramatic extent of the changes. Robin Wagner completely redesigned the set, which featured a ground-breaking design of mobile towers that shifted continuously throughout the show, in an attempt to give it a sense of cinematic fluidity.
The first preview on 11 April 1988 ran 4 hours with an unexpected 90 minute intermission (the stage crew reportedly had problems with the sets); by opening night on 28 April, it was down to 3 hours 15 minutes. But despite a healthy box-office advance, the Broadway production did not manage to sustain a consistently large audience and closed on 25 June, after 17 previews and 68 regular performances. "And there I was, on closing night, singing and sobbing along," later wrote Time magazine critic Richard Corliss.
Overall, the show (capitalized at $6 million) since its opening, according to Variety, "has been doing moderate business, mainly on the strength of theater party advances," but by mid-June it mostly have been used up. Gerald Schoenfeld, co-producer of the show, elaborated on the reasons for folding the production: "The musical had been playing to about 80 percent capacity, which is considered good, but about 50 percent of the audience have held special, half-priced tickets. If we filled the house at 100 percent at half price, we'd go broke and I haven't seen any surge of tourist business yet this season. The show needs a $350,000 weekly gross to break even, but only a few weeks since its April 28 opening have reached that.... You have to consider what your grosses are going to be in the future" (USA Today, June 21, 1988).
The Broadway production picked up several major award nominations. It got five nods from the Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Actor in a Musical (David Carroll), Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Judy Kuhn), Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Harry Goz), Outstanding Music (Andersson and Ulvaeus) and Outstanding Lighting Design (David Hersey). Carroll and Kuhn also received Tony Award nominations in Leading Actor in a Musical and Leading Actress in a Musical categories. None of the nominations resulted in the win, but Philip Casnoff did receive the 1988 Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance. Original Broadway Cast recording of the musical was nominated for 1988 Grammy Award in the category Best Musical Cast Show Album (won by the Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods).
Later on, the musical had developed a cult following based primarily on the score as heard on the original concept album (Frank Rich noted in his book Hot Seat that "the score retains its devoted fans"), while Nelson's book became a frequent target of scorn from critics and fans alike[who?], though it still has its supporters[who?]. Many subsequent attempts have been made to fix its perceived problems, but nonetheless, Nelson's book is still used in many American productions, because a contractual stipulation, ostensibly, prevents the London version, which many believe to be the source of the show's popularity and appeal, from being performed within the United States. However, the May–June 2011 production in Charlotte, North Carolina, relied much more heavily on the West End version than the Broadway version, and was very similar to the 2010-2011 UK touring version.
In 2001, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle Tim Rice admitted that after the "comparative failure of Chess, his all-time favourite, he became disillusioned with theatre." He commented, "It may sound arrogant, but Chess is as good as anything I've ever done. And maybe it costs too much brainpower for the average person to follow it".
Many critics panned the show, most notably Frank Rich of The New York Times, who wrote that "the evening has the theatrical consistency of quicksand" and described it as "a suite of temper tantrums, [where] the characters ... yell at one another to rock music". Howard Kissel of New York Daily News complained that "the show is shrilly overamplified" and "neither of the love stories is emotionally involving," while Newsweek magazine called the show a "Broadway's monster" and opined that "Chess" assaults the audience with a relentless barrage of scenes and numbers that are muscle-bound with self-importance".
A few reviewers, however, praised it very highly. William A. Henry III wrote an exceptionally sympathetic review in Time: "Clear narrative drive, Nunn's cinematic staging, three superb leading performances by actors willing to be complex and unlikeable and one of the best rock scores ever produced in the theater. This is an angry, difficult, demanding and rewarding show, one that pushes the boundaries of the form" (Time, May 9, 1988). His sentiments were echoed by William K. Gale in Providence Journal: "A show with a solid, even wonderfully old-fashioned story that still has a bitter-sweet, rough-edged view of the world ... exciting, dynamic theater ... a match of wit and passion."
Richard Christiansen of Chicago Tribune suggested that "Chess falters despite new strategy," yet concluded his review: "Audiences forgive a lot of failings when they find a show that touches them with its music, and Chess, clumsy and overblown as it sometimes is in its three hours-plus running time, gives them that heart". Welton Jones wrote in The San Diego Union-Tribune that Chess "has one of the richest, most exciting scores heard on Broadway in years ... Sadly, the music has been encumbered with an overwritten book and an uninspired staging ... Truly, this is a score to be treasured, held ransom by a questionable book and production".
All critics agreed, though, on the three leading performances by Judy Kuhn, David Carroll and Philip Casnoff. They were showered with praise — "splendid and gallant" (Newsweek), "powerful singers" (The New York Times), "remarkably fine" (New York Post) — especially Kuhn, whose performance Variety called a "show's chief pleasure".
Benny Andersson commented on the negative Broadway reviews: "I really don't know why they don't like it ... I do know that most of the audiences so far stand up and cheer for everyone at the end. They appear to get emotionally involved with the show, and they really like it" (Variety, May 4, 1988).
The American version has different settings and a completely different Act 2 from the West End, London version. In particular, the entire show is about one chess match, not two. Act 1 involves the first part of the match, which is held in Bangkok, Thailand, while Act 2 handles the conclusion, and is set in Budapest, Hungary. Also, the incumbent champion is switched in the American version (that is, Anatoly Sergievsky rather than Freddie Trumper) as is the winner of the final Sergievsky-Trumper match (i.e. Trumper rather than Sergievsky).
In 1956, a Hungarian revolutionary, Gregor Vassy, calmly explains to his daughter Florence the history of chess, before the two are separated in the midst of a violent rebellion in Budapest ("Prologue" / "The Story of Chess"). Decades later at a press conference, a brash American chess player, Freddie Trumper, relishes the crowd's affection in Bangkok ("Press Conference"), while the current world champion, a young Russian named Anatoly Sergievsky, and his second, Molokov (a KGB agent), watch with curiosity and disdain ("Where I Want to Be"). During the match ("Chess"), Freddie accuses Anatoly of receiving outside help via the flavor of yogurt he is eating, and Freddie storms out, leaving his second, Florence (now an émigrée in the U.S. who escaped Hungary during the 1956 uprisings) in an argument with The Arbiter and the Russians. Florence later scolds Freddie, but he insists that she should unwaveringly support him ("You Want to Lose Your Only Friend?").
Freddie, supposed to attend a meeting with Florence and Antoly to smooth things over, is sidetracked by the nightlife ("One Night in Bangkok") and shows up late, stumbling upon the scene of Anatoly and Florence who—having waited a while for Freddie's arrival—quickly developed feelings for one another and are now holding hands ("Terrace Duet"). When Freddie accuses Florence of conspiring against him, she decides to leave him ("Florence Quits" / "Nobody's Side"). As the match continues, Freddie, distracted by his developing personal problems, flounders, finishing the first act with 1 win and 5 losses; one more loss will cost him the match. Anatoly surprises everyone by suddenly defecting from the Soviet Union. Answering reporters' questions about his loyalties, he declares that national borders do not matter to him as much as the borders around his heart, i.e. his new-found love for Florence ("Anthem").
Eight weeks later, everyone is in Budapest to witness the conclusion of the match ("The Arbiter" / "Hungarian Folk Song"). Florence is elated to be back in her hometown of Budapest, but dismayed that she remembers none of it ("Heaven Help My Heart"). The scheming Molokov offers to help her find her missing father and starts "investigating" the fate of Florence's father. The plot quickly spins into political intrigue involving the Russians' attempts to get Anatoly back ("No Contest"); even Svetlana, Anatoly's estranged wife, has been flown into Budapest to pressure him to return to the Soviet Union. These threats strain Anatoly's relationship with Florence ("You and I"), and she shares her woes with Svetlana ("I Know Him So Well"). The boot is on the other foot, and the stress of personal problems now impedes Anatoly's ability to play chess, so that Freddie starts winning games until they are tied 5–5. Molokov brings Florence to see a man claiming to be her father ("Lullaby"), and implies that harm will come to the man if Florence remains with Anatoly.
During the final game Anatoly realizes that despite all the harm he has brought with his defection, he cannot hurt his true love, Florence, by depriving her of her father. He chooses to recant his defection and makes a tactical error during the game. Freddie immediately takes advantage of the blunder and proceeds to win the game and the match, becoming the new world champion ("Endgame"). Anatoly returns to Russia a broken man.
Florence is waiting for her father so they can leave for America when she is approached by a stranger who introduces himself as Walter. He confesses to her that the old man is not her father and her father is most likely dead. It seems that the Soviets struck a deal with Walter, a secret CIA agent, that if they managed to get Anatoly back, they would release a captured American spy. Their initial attempts at getting Anatoly back by using Svetlana and other family members had failed, and they had finally succeeded by using Florence. As the curtain closes, Florence has left Freddie, been lost by Anatoly, and lost the father she never had, and she realizes, like Anatoly, that love is all that matters ("Anthem – Reprise").
- Frederick Trumper, The American – Philip Casnoff
- Florence Vassy – Judy Kuhn
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – David Carroll
- Ivan Molokov – Harry Goz
- Walter Anderson – Dennis Parlato
- Arbiter – Paul Harman
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Marcia Mitzman
- Gregor Vassy – Neal Ben-Ari
- Young Florence – Gina Gallagher
- Nikolai – Kurt Jones
- Joe, Harold (Embassy officials) – Richard Muenz, Eric Johnson
- Ben – Kip Niven
† Song appears on album, but was deleted from production and is not found in the script licenced for production.
‡ Song featured in the Broadway production, but was unrecorded for the cast album.
Other staged productions, concerts, and recordings
Carnegie Hall and Sweden
A few months after the show closed on Broadway, in January 1989, the concert version was performed in Carnegie Hall by the original cast in a sold-out benefit performance. In September of that year, Judy Kuhn joined forces with two main principals from the West End production (Körberg and Head) in Skellefteå, Sweden, where they performed in two concert presentations of the musical during finals of the 1989 chess World Cup tournament.
Chess was now a mixed success, combining the popularity of a smash hit album and the problems of a critically derided script — in other words, fertile ground for those seeking to "get it right," even though historical conditions and the fall of the Soviet Union severely compromised the timeliness of the story. The first major attempt at a revival was the American tour, which ran from January to July 1990. This tour, which starred Carolee Carmello, John Herrera, and Stephen Bogardus, was staged by Des McAnuff, who was brought in at the eleventh hour when Trevor Nunn declined to be involved. Robert Coe, the playwright who worked with McAnuff on revising the show, restored most of the original song order from the West End version and deleted the new songs written for the Broadway version, but had only four weeks to complete a complex rewrite. (The performing editions in the United States retain Nelson’s book.) The seven-month-long tour was not a major success, but it did garner some positive reviews. A tour in the United Kingdom, starring Rebecca Storm and mostly based on the London production, was a smash. Also in 1990 was the production at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois, near Chicago. Directed by David H. Bell and starring Susie McMonagle, David Studwell and Kim Strauss, it featured another reworking of the Nelson script. Bell's version has been performed in Sacramento and Atlanta as well.
Chess was, even in 1990, trying to keep itself modern; the ending of the Cold War was noted in all new versions of the show. Once the Soviet Union fell, the modernization attempts died out, and the clock was set back: Tim Rice's 1990 rewrite that played a brief run off Broadway went all the way back to 1972. The Chess mania that had begun in the U.K. more or less died down to a string of occasional productions of the Broadway and West End versions for the next decade.
Tim Rice was involved in a 1990 production in Sydney, Australia, where Jim Sharman directed a total rewrite done primarily by Rice. It starred Jodie Gillies, David McLeod, and Robbie Krupski, with the action shifted to an international hotel in Bangkok during the chess championships, and was a critical and popular success. A later Australian production opened at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne in 1997, with Barbara Dickson taking the lead role of Florence (not Svetlana, as she had sung on the original studio cast album). Co-stars included Derek Metzger and Daryl Braithwaite.
In July 1990, this completely new version of Chess premièred in Sydney, Australia, performed at the MLC Centre's Theatre Royal. This version was spearheaded by Tim Rice, who brought in parts from each of the previous versions, as well as what had been his original conception for the Broadway version. The production was directed by Jim Sharman. No cast recording was made of this version.
The Sydney version further streamlined the plot, having both acts take place at a single chess match in a single city (Bangkok). This version takes place in the late 1980s. Florence's nationality was changed from Hungarian to Czech, which changed the year that the Soviets overran her country from 1956 to 1968 (with an accompanying change in the lyrics of "Nobody's Side" from "Budapest is falling" to "Prague and Mr. Dubček"). As in the London version, in this version Anatoly defects from the Soviet Union, wins the match, then decides to return to the Soviet Union at the end, leading to the possibility that Florence's father, if he is still alive, will be released from prison.
Many of the numbers were lengthened considerably from London, with an extended "One Night in Bangkok" near the top of the show. "Heaven Help My Heart" ended the first act, with "Anthem" and "Someone Else's Story" (sung by Svetlana with new lyrics) in the second. "The Soviet Machine" and "The Deal" were also extended considerably.
- Frederick Trumper, The American – David McLeod
- Florence Vassy – Jodie Gillies
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – Robbie Krupski
- Alexander Molokov – John Wood
- Walter de Courcey – David Whitney
- The Arbiter – Laurence Clifford
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Maria Mercedes
Chess in Concert: Gothenburg, Sweden
This is an audio recording of a concert performance (not a full stage production) at Eriksbergshallen in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1994. The songs and lyrics are largely identical to the original album, with the addition of "Someone Else's Story" from the Broadway version and "The Soviet Machine" from the West End version.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Anders Glenmark
- Florence Vassy –Karin Glenmark
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Tommy Körberg
- Alexander Molokov –Johan Schinkler
- The Arbiter –Lars Risberg
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Lena Ericsson
Palmerston North, New Zealand
One of the earliest amateur productions of Chess was presented by The Manawatu Theatre Society in 1994, in the Palmerston North Opera House – the last production in that venue before it was torn down to make way for a car park. Robert Rimmer directed the show, Stephen Fisher was Musical Director, Dean McKerras choreographed (and played the Arbiter).
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Patrick Kelly
- Florence Vassy –Jackie Nairn
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Glen Nesbitt
- Alexander Molokov –Paul Lyons
- The Arbiter –Dean McKerras
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Wendy Flintoff
In 1995, the Los Angeles production of Chess at Hollywood's Hudson Theater starring Marcia Mitzman (who played Svetlana in the original Broadway production) as Florence and Sean Smith as Anatoly received critical praise. For their performances both Mitzman and Smith won an Ovation Award and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award.
U.K. Nationwide tour
Chess was once again revived in the U.K. for a nationwide tour in 1996. The cast included Jacqui Scott, and Tim Rice was involved in some re-ordering of the piece. Notably having the show's finale as the song "Nobody's Side".
Danish tour and Complete Cast Album
In late 2001, an English-language Danish tour was created starring a largely British cast, directed by Craig Revel Horwood. A two-CD album of the tour was released, entitled Chess: Complete Cast Album, becoming the first recording to feature the complete songs of the West End version of the musical (with the addition of the Broadway version's "Someone Else's Story," given to Svetlana in Act 2). The tour also followed the West End version of the musical in plot as well as score (minus small portions of underscoring); however, this was pulled from circulation, to be replaced with a much shorter, trimmed-down version closer to the original concept album.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Zubin Varla
- Florence Vassy –Emma Kershaw
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Stig Rossen
- Alexander Molokov –Simon Clark
- Walter de Courcey –James Graeme
- The Arbiter –Michael Cormick
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Gunilla Backman
In late 2001, rumours began to circulate about a new production in Stockholm. Written entirely in Swedish, with lyrics and book by Björn Ulvaeus, Lars Rudolffson, and Jan Mark, it attempted to streamline the story back to its original form and eliminate the aspects of political potboiler that had come to define the show. Featuring new musical numbers (Svetlana's "Han är en man, han är ett barn" ("He is a man, he is a child") and Molokov's "Glöm mig om du kan" ("Forget me if you can" from the demo song "When The Waves Roll Out to Sea") and focusing on material from the concept album, the Stockholm version was a drastic rewrite. Notable cast members included Tommy Körberg, reprising his role as Anatolij, as well as Helen Sjöholm as Florence and Anders Ekborg as Freddie. It was filmed for Swedish television, and has been released on a Swedish-language DVD.
The Stockholm production was nominated for eight national Swedish Theatre Awards Guldmasken and won six of them, including Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Helen Sjöholm), Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Tommy Körberg), and Best Stage Design (Robin Wagner). The Original Swedish Cast CD "Chess På Svenska" peaked at number 2 on the Swedish album chart.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Anders Ekborg
- Florence Vaszi –Helen Sjöholm
- Anatolij Sergievskij, The Russian –Tommy Körberg
- Alexander Molokov –Per Myrberg
- Domaren (The Arbiter) – Rolf Skoglund
- Svetlana Sergievskaja – Josefin Nilsson
Actors Fund of America Benefit Concert, U.S.
Presented on September 22, 2003 in the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway. It was produced without set or costume changes, and with the orchestra onstage. The show was a combination of both the Broadway and London versions, mostly following the London version with regard to music but the Broadway version in terms of the plot, though the Broadway subplot with Florence's father is absent; also, Act 1 takes place in Merano and Act 2 takes place in Bangkok, like in the London version. The show, which was recorded, was directed by Peter Flynn, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli and musical directed by conductor Seth Rudetsky.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Adam Pascal
- Florence Vassy –Julia Murney
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Josh Groban
- Alexander Molokov –Norm Lewis.
- The Arbiter –Raúl Esparza
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Sutton Foster
Multimedia concert, Los Angeles, U.S.
Presented September 17, 2007 at the Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, California. Mixture of London and Broadway versions. The cast included Susan Egan (as Svetlana), Kevin Earley (as Anatoly), Ty Taylor (as Freddie), Cindy Robinson (as Florence), Thomas Griffith (as Molokov), Tom Schmidt (as Walter) and Matthew Morrison (as The Arbiter), with the ensemble, choir and 27 piece orchestra on stage. The concert was directed by Brian Michael Purcell, choreographed by A. C. Ciulla, with musical direction by Dan Redfeld. A portion of the proceeds went to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Ty Taylor
- Florence Vassy –Cindy Robinson
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Kevin Earley
- Alexander Molokov –Thomas Griffith
- Walter de Courcey –Tom Schmidt
- The Arbiter –Matthew Morrison
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Susan Egan
Chess in Concert: Royal Albert Hall, U.K.
On the 12 and 13 May 2008, Warner Bros. Records produced a concert version of Chess together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, involving two performances at the Royal Albert Hall. This version, comprising almost no dialogue or set, but otherwise following the West End version in plot and music, was recorded for release as a 2-CD cast album and DVD, both entitled and marketed simply as Chess in Concert. It was also broadcast on American PBS channels in June 2009. Tim Rice stated in the concert's programme that this version of Chess is the "official version," after years of different plot and song combinations. Though the plot and score is entirely based on that of the West End production, this version also adds in two Broadways songs: "Prologue" and "Someone Else's Story."
The audio recording contains most of the material from the concert except a few lines of dialogue (present on the DVD); it also mislabels and misorders a few songs, such as "Florence and Molokov" for "The American and Florence." The DVD also includes an opening speech given by Tim Rice introducing the cast, which is omitted from the CD.
- Frederick Trumper, The American – Adam Pascal
- Florence Vassy – Idina Menzel
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – Josh Groban
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Kerry Ellis
- The Arbiter – Marti Pellow
- Alexander Molokov – David Bedella
- Walter de Courcey – Clarke Peters
- Civil Servants (in "Embassy Lament") – Cantabile
- The Mayor of Merano - Andrew Playfoot
The third Hungarian production of Chess opened on 7 and 8 August 2010, in the open-air theatre of Margaret Island, Budapest, by the crew of the famous Hungarian premiere of Dance of the Vampires. The cast includes Géza Egyházi as Anatoly, Éva Sári as Florence, János Szemenyei as Freddie and Tímea Kecskés as Svetlana. This concert production closely follows the script of the Royal Albert Hall production of 2008 (though the songs "Hymn of Chess," "The Merchandisers," "The Arbiter (Reprise)," and "Talking Chess" were cut). After two performances on August 7 and 8, the production moved into an indoors theatre, the Magyar Színház, in October. It was produced by PS Produkció and directed by Cornelius Baltus. The Hungarian lyrics were written by Ágnes Romhányi, the choreographer was Karen Bruce, and the stage and costume design were created by Kentaur.
Arlington, Virginia, U.S
The first major American revival of Chess since 1993 opened at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) on August 8, 2010 and ran until October 3, 2010. The musical followed the story of the original Broadway version of the show, though it streamlined the book and reordered some of the songs. This production was produced by The Signature Theater Group and directed by Eric Schaeffer. The cast included Jeremy Kushnier as Freddie, Euan Morton as Anatoly, and Jill Paice as Florence.
2010 - 2011
A production directed by Craig Revel Horwood had a 10 month run around the UK and Ireland. It was an actor-musician production, with 25 out of the 30 cast members playing instruments.
Changes to the libretto included the removal of "Merano" and "Walter and Florence".
The tour started with previews on 27 August 2010 in Newcastle, then continued on to Northampton, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Salford, Cardiff, Bradford, Southampton, Nottingham, Norwich, Plymouth, Milton Keynes, Truro, Birmingham, Southend, Belfast, Bristol, Woking, Torquay, Dublin, High Wycombe, Glasgow and ended at Politeama Rossetti, in Trieste, Italy. The creative team included Tony Award winning orchestrator Sarah Travis and set designer Christopher Woods.
- The American –James Fox
- Florence Vassy –Shona White
- The Russian –Daniel Koek
- Alexander Molokov –Steve Varnom
- Walter de Courcey –James Graeme
- The Arbiter –David Erik
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Poppy Tierney
On 8 February 2011, Mirvish Productions announced a Toronto run of the U.K. touring production arriving in September 2011. The Toronto run follows the end of the U.K. tour. In this limited run, most of the UK Tour cast transferred with the notable exceptions of Daniel Koek and Poppy Tierney. Instead, Tam Mutu played Anatoly and Rebecca Lock played Svetlana. Further changes to the libretto included the removal of "The Merchandisers".
A production of Chess, directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams, was produced by the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in the summer of 2011. The creative team for the production included musical director Michael Morwood, set designer Alison Allen, and sound designer Martyn J Hunt. The cast included Tom Solomon as Anatoly Sergievsky, Tim Rogers as Freddie Trumper, Julie Stark as Florence Vassey, Lori Haley Fox as Svetlana, James Dinsmore as Molokov, Stephen McCarthy as Walter and Leighton Rafferty as The Arbiter. It played from 21 July to 27 August 2011.
Bielefeld, Germany in coproductin with Theater und Philharmonie Thüringen (Altenburg/Gera)
A German version of Chess (with the songs performed in English) was produced by the Theater Bielefeld (Municipal Theatre Bielefeld) in Bielefeld, Germany for their 2011/2012 season. The production was directed by Kay Kuntze and choreographed by Götz Hellriegel. It opened on September 25, 2011 and is planned to run until April 21, 2012. The creative team included musical director William Ward Murta and set and costume designer Duncan Hayler. The cast included Alex Melcher as Frederick Trumper, Veit Schäfermeier as Anatoly Sergievsky, Roberta Valentini as Florence Vassy, Karin Seyfried as Svetlana Sergievsky, Jens Janke as The Arbiter, Frank Bahrenberg as Alexander Molokov and Michael Pflumm as Walter de Courcey. This Production is coproduced with Theater und Philharmonie Thüringen, where it opened on September 28, 2012 under musical Director Thomas Wicklein. The cast includes Alex Melcher as Frederick Trumper, Christian Alexander Müller as Anatoly Sergievsky, Anne-Mette Riis as Florence Vassy, Vanessa Rose as Svetlana Sergievsky.
New York City, New York
Chess in Concept 2012: A benefit performance for the Actors Fund of America
On July 30, 2012 Chess was presented in concert at La Guardia Arts/Lincoln Center for one night only. The cast included Broadway veterans Robert Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde, Les Misérables, Spider-Man), Natascia Diaz (The Capeman, Man of La Mancha), Drew Sarich (Les Misérables, Lestat, Rocky), and Tamra Hayden (Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret), who had previously appeared together in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
Billed as "one last variation" this entirely through-sung version returned to the original concept album for its musical structure, Tim Rice's original scenario, and incorporated virtually all of the London score. Director/arranger Christopher Martin (Founding Artistic Director of the Classic Stage Company) had been in discussions for a decade with Tim Rice about this approach to CHESS, focusing on the Russian and American players and the woman who manages one and falls for the other, played out against the heated US versus USSR rivalry during the Cold War.
- Frederick Trumper, The American – Drew Sarich
- Florence Vassy – Natascia Diaz
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – Robert Cuccioli
- Alexander Molokov – Raymond Jaramillo McLeod
- The Arbiter – Gus Solomons, Jr.
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Tamra Hayden
Musical Director/Supervisor: Valerie Sciarra Producer/Director/Arranger: Christopher Martin Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French (London)
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Palmerston North's second production of Chess ran from August 17-August 25, 2012, in the Regent On Broadway.
Director: Steven Sayer Musical Director: Barry Jones Choreographer: Michelle Robinson
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Pete Flynn
- Florence Vassy –Val Andrew
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Chris Crowe
- Alexander Molokov –Bruce Sinclair
- Walter de Courcey – Damian Thorne
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Amy Hunt
- Danny Goodman
- Paul Lyons
- Shane Browne
- Andrew Mock
The show was produced by the Abbey Musical Theatre.
Directed by Gale Edwards,and mounted by The Production Company Chess starred Alinta Chidzey, Bert La Bonte, Mark Dickinson, Martin Crewes, Michael Falzon, Silvie Paladino and Simon Gleeson Chess was staged at Melbourne’s prestigious State Theatre, and backed by Orchestra Victoria under the musical direction of David Piper. The predominantly monochromatic costuming was designed by Krystal Giddings, with set design by Shaun Gurton. Choreography was by Tony Bartuccio. The role of the Arbiter (played by Michael Falzon) was expanded slightly by sharing the Florence Vassy (Silvie Paladino) song ‘Nobody’s Side’ between the two characters. As with all The Production Company ventures, Chess ran for 10 performances at Melbourne’s Arts Centre, from August 18–26, 2012.
- Frederick Trumper, The American –Martin Crewes
- Florence Vassy –Silvie Paladino
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian –Simon Gleeson
- Alexander Molokov –Bert La Bonte
- Walter de Courcey –Mark Dickinson
- The Arbiter –Michael Falzon
- Svetlana Sergievsky –Alinta Chidzey
The Production Company was nominated for twelve Green Room Awards 2012 for Chess, eventually winning seven. Chess was also nominated for 2 Helpmann Awards, with Silvie Paladino winning Actress in a Leading Role on 29 July 2013.
|Green Room||Actress in a Leading Role||Silvie Paladino||Won|
|Actor in a Leading Role||Simon Gleeson||Nominated|
|Actress in a Supporting Role||Alinta Chidzey||Won|
|Design - Lighting and/or Sound||System Sound (sound)||Won|
|Paul Jackson & Robert Cuddon(Lighting)||Nominated|
|Design - Set and/or Costume||Krystal Giddings - (Costume)||Won|
|Shaun Gurton(Set Design)||Nominated|
|Musical Direction||David Piper||Nominated|
|Outstanding Musical Production||The Production Company||Won|
|Helpmann Awards||Actress in a Leading Role||Silvie Paladino||Won|
|Best Choreography||Tony Bartuccio||Nominated|
Union Theatre, London, UK
The Union Theatre in London will present a stage production of Chess from February to March 2013, following the story line of the 2008 Chess in Concert. Tim Rice reportedly gave the Union Theatre "exclusive permission to use the new adaptation to mount a fully staged version of this epic musical."
East West Players, Los Angeles, California, U.S
East West Players, the longest running professional theater of color in the US, is presenting a full production of the UK version of Chess with a multi-cultural cast May–June 2013 at the 230-seat David Henry Hwang Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The production has garnered excellent reviews from the Los Angeles Times. This production is directed by Tim Dang with musical direction by Marc Macalintal and choreography by Marc Oka.
- Frederick Trumper, The American – Victor E. Chan
- Florence Vassy – Joan Almedilla
- Anatoly Sergievsky, The Russian – Elijah Rock
- Alexander Molokov – Ray A. Rochelle
- Walter de Courcey - Michael Alexander Henry
- The Arbiter – Ryan Castellino
- Svetlana Sergievsky – Carey Rebecca Brown
Ensemble includes Cesar Cipriano, Stephanie Mieko Cohen, Jasmine Ejan, Shay Louise, D.T. Matias, Maegan McConnell, Alex Sanchez, and Justin Vasquez.
|Frederick "Freddie" Trumper||Tenor||"The American": The United States' champion—a self-absorbed, fame-and-fortune-seeking, short-tempered, Russophobic bad boy, who either matures, aiding Anatoly a year after his own defeat, or remains selfish and wins (depending upon the version).|
|Anatoly Sergievsky||Baritone/Tenor||"The Russian": The Soviet Union's champion—a troubled father and husband who despises the propaganda and politics of the tournament, eventually deciding to defect from his homeland, even at the cost of deserting his family.|
|Florence Vassy||Mezzo-Soprano or Belter||Freddie's strong-willed English (though, American, in the Broadway version) second and paramour, who was born in Budapest and separated from her presumably captured or killed father during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, having now no further knowledge of his whereabouts (though she is of Czech birth in the Sydney version); she feels strained by Freddie's brashness and falls in love with Anatoly, eventually becoming his mistress.|
|The Arbiter||Baritone/Tenor||The coldly objective, no-nonsense referee of the championship tournament and also the president of the International Chess Federation.|
|Molokov||Bass or Bass-Baritone||Anatoly's slick second who is also, in fact, a manipulative KGB agent; in the West End version his first name is mentioned as Alexander; in the Broadway and Sydney versions, it is Ivan.|
|Walter de Courcey||Bass-Baritone||A media personality of the tournament and a secret CIA agent; his surname is sometimes spelled "de Courcy."|
|Svetlana Sergievsky||Mezzo-Soprano or Belter||Anatoly's estranged wife who, under Molokov's machinations, tries to persuade Anatoly to return to his homeland; although upset at Anatoly's betrayal, she also understands that Florence has given Anatoly something she cannot herself. (In actual Russian, her surname is stylized as the feminine "Sergievskaya.")|
Differences among the major versions
|Version||Notable plot points/variations||Notable song additions/omissions||Commercial recordings||Other notes|
|Original concept (1984)||Act 1 is set in Merano, Italy; Act 2 in Bangkok, Thailand. Lacks a fully articulated plot.||Chess (1984), the original concept album; Chess Pieces (1986), the original album's Swedish "best of" compilation; Chess: The Concert Tour (1984); and Chess in Concert (1996), the Gothenburg concert cast recording (in English).||Only version to include the song "Argument" with that title and as between Florence and Anatoly. The characters known as Freddie and Anatoly in all later versions here known only as The American and The Russian, respectively. The character of Walter, present in all later versions, not yet conceived.|
|West End production (1986–1989)||Each act presents a separate chess tournament with Act 2 occurring a year after Act 1. Act 1 is set in Merano, Italy; Act 2 in Bangkok, Thailand. During Act 1, Freddie is the champion challenged by Anatoly. Anatoly wins in Act 1. During Act 2, Anatoly is the champion challenged by Viigand, the new Soviet grandmaster after Anatoly's defection. Anatoly wins again in Act 2.||Addition of "Commie Newspapers," "Press Conference," "Florence and Molokov," "Der Kleiner Franz," "Chess #2," "Anatoly and the Press," "One More Opponent," "The Soviet Machine," "The Interview," and "Talking Chess," all absent from the original album. Division of the original album's "Opening Ceremony" into several individual songs: "Dangerous and Difficult Times," "The Arbiter," "Hymn to Chess," "The Merchandisers," and "The Arbiter (Reprise)."||Chess: Complete Cast Album (2001), the Danish tour recording (in English); Chess in Concert (2009), a live recording of the Royal Albert Hall concerts (both an audio CD and a DVD of the performances); and Highlights from Chess in Concert (2009), the Royal Albert's corresponding "best of" compilation.||Only major version to include the character Viigand and the songs "Commie Newspapers," "Der Kleiner Franz," "Anatoly and the Press," and "The Interview." Various songs arranged in the plot differently than on the original album. Minor lyrical alterations and song extensions or reductions throughout, compared to the original album. Renaming of the original album's "The Russian and Molokov" to "Anatoly and Molokov" and "The American and Florence" to "1956 – Budapest is Rising." Molokov's first name mentioned as Alexander.|
|Broadway production (1988)||Both acts present the same chess tournament with Act 1 showing the first half of the tournament and Act 2 the last half. Anatoly is the champion challenged by Freddie. Freddie wins in Act 2. The prologue is set in Budapest, Hungary during the 1956 uprising; Act 1 in Bangkok, Thailand; and Act 2 in Budapest again. Includes a sub-plot in which Walter introduces Florence to a man deceitfully claimed to be her long-lost father.||Addition of "Someone Else's Story," "Hungarian Folk Song," "A Whole New Board Game," "Let's Work Together," and "Lullaby." Omission of the West End's "Merano" sequence, "Commie Newspapers," "Embassy Lament," "The Soviet Machine," "The Interview" sequence, and "Talking Chess." The West End songs "1956 – Budapest is Rising," "Mountain Duet," and "The Deal (No Deal)" are somewhat altered musically and lyrically, and renamed "You Want to Lose Your Only Friend?," "Terrace Duet," and "No Contest," respectively. The original album's "Argument," during Act 2 with Florence and Anatoly, is altered and renamed "How Many Women," now during Act 1 with Florence and Freddie.||Chess: Original Broadway Cast Recording (1988); also the direct inspiration for a karaoke CD by Pocket Songs.||Only major version to include "Hungarian Folk Song," "A Whole New Board Game" and "Lullaby." Major lyrical alterations and different song orderings in the plot than the West End production. "Chess Hymn" appears on the recorded album for this version, but was deleted from production and is not found in the licenced script. Molokov's first name is Ivan. Florence's father is mentioned by name (Gregor Vassy). Omission of the character Viigand.|
|Sydney production (1990–1991)||Both acts present the same chess tournament in one single setting: Bangkok, Thailand. Many new plot points; most of the beginning occurs at a Bangkok hotel and immediately contrasts the romantic couples Freddie and Florence with Anatoly and Svetlana (the latter never appearing so early on in other versions). Otherwise, the major storyline is similar to the original West End production, though with Freddie playing against Anatoly throughout. In Act 2, Anatoly wins.||Addition of "Cocktail Chorus," "Tournament Song," and "Attempted Reconciliation." Omission of "Chess." Many songs lengthened considerably from past versions, including West End's "The Soviet Machine" and "The Deal," as well as "One Night in Bangkok" (sung by both Freddie and Anatoly), placed near the top of the show and reprised briefly as an Act 2 finale after "Heaven Help My Heart." "Anthem" and "Someone Else's Story" (sung by Svetlana with new lyrics) placed in Act 2. Reintroduction of West End's "Embassy Lament" and inclusion of Broadway's "Terrace Duet," "No Contest," and "Let's Work Together." Original album's "The American and Florence" renamed "Argument" (not related in any way to the song "Argument" from the original album).||None||Only major version to include "Cocktail Chorus," "Tournament Song," and "Attempted Reconciliation." Florence's nationality is changed from Hungarian to Czech, which changes the year that the Soviets overran her country from 1956 to 1968, leading to an alteration in the lyrics of the song "1956 – Budapest is Rising." Omission of Viigand. Molokov's first name is Ivan.|
- Harold C. Schonberg (1998-05-08). "Does Anyone Make a Bad Move In 'Chess'?". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-27. "Bernie Jacobs, the grand Rhadamanthus of the Shubert Organization, one of the presenters of the musical, says that Bobby originally was the model for the American player but that in the course of events his image got a little diluted."
- Ray Keene. "Keene on Chess: Viktor Korchnoi". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Unknown parameter
- "BBC - Radio 2 - Elaine Paige".
- CHESS seeks to shed its checkered past, Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 24 April 1988
- How to spend £4 million in one night, Tim Rice, The Sunday Times, 11 May 1986
- "Bright Lights Dark Shadows: The Real Story of ABBA," Carl Magnus Palm, p. 471
- William Hartston (with Tim Rice), Chess The Making of The Musical, Pavillion Books, 1986
- "Chess". Samuel French. 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- "Albemarle - Awards". Albemarle-london.com. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- "Previous Winners: Olivier Winners 1986". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- "Auditions for CHESS at Queen City Theatre Company". North Carolina Theatre Conference. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
- The full story is in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 2001 edition.
- "CHESS The Musical Collection - London, Broadway, In Concert, Pa (download torrent) - TPB". Thepiratebay.se. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Gans, Andrew."Heaven Help Her Heart: Julia Murney Heads Cast of All-Star Chess Concert Sept. 22" playbill.com, September 22, 2003
- Gans, Andrew."One Night in Hollywood: Chess Benefit Presented Sept. 17" playbill.com, September 17, 2007
- Royal Albert Hall — Chess in Concert from the Chess in Concert official website. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
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- "2010-2011 Season".
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- Chess in Concert 2012
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- Michelle Pountney (13 August 2012). "Players back in the game". Herald Sun. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Erin James (30 July 2012). "Chess rehearsals begin, Melbourne". Aussie Theatre. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Tim Carney August 24, 2012
- AussieTheatre.com.au. "Chess Rooked!". Aussietheatre.com.au. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
- Erin James (18 August 2012). "Chess opens in Melbourne". Aussie Theatre. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- "2012 Green Room Awards Recipients". Australian Stage Online. 6 May 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- "2012 Green Room Awards Nominations". Stage Whispers. 18 February 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- "2013 Helpmann Award Nominations". Stage Whispers. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- "2013 Helpmann Award Winners". Stage Whispers. 29 July 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
- "The “definitive” version of CHESS to premiere at London’s Union Theatre | icethesite - Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus news site". icethesite. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Nichols, David C. (2013-05-17). "Review: 'Chess' revival takes an inventive spin at East West Players". latimes.com. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Chess at the Internet Broadway Database
- icethesite — Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus news site, including West End and Broadway reviews of Chess
- Plot summary & casting breakdown
- Chess the Musical 2010
- Chess musical