Tim Rice has authorized the publication of the following information about the major Chess revival. "A major new production of Chess is scheduled for late 2000/early 2001, with a lengthy US tour leading to Broadway. This production will be new to North American theatregoers, consisting of the hit London production's never-recorded complete score with minor modifications and a book revised from the same version. The show is currently being worked on by original creators Benny Andersson, Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus, who plan to delete "The Merchandiser's Song" and add a new first act song for Anatoly. The revised story will be set in 1984, and compared to the show seen at the Prince Edward Theatre from 1986-88, will now focus more intently on the Russian challenger, Anatoly Sergievsky. The character of his wife, Svetlana, will be expanded and she will sing the much-acclaimed song, "Someone Else's Story"--written for the character of Florence in the Broadway version.
American audiences will hear, for the first time, songs cut before Broadway, such as "Embassy Lament," "Merano," and "Soviet Machine." "Endgame" and "U.S. vs. U.S.S.R." will have their original lyrics restored. "The Arbiter's Song," cut shortly after the Broadway opening, will also be in the new production.
The first act will take place in Moscow and Merano, Italy, the second act in Bangkok. No cast or director has been chosen. The London set's massive "vidiwalls" and huge revolving and tilting chessboard stage are gone and this new production will be done on a simpler, more intimate scale, not unlike the current hit revival of "Chicago."
This US premiere of the West End show will mark the end of the multiple versions of Chess, permanently retiring the dramatically different Richard Nelson and Richard Coe versions which played on Broadway and the American Tour. Productions with bits from London, Broadway, the American Tour, Sydney, Chicago and the British Tour have been playing in the US since 1989. The aim of the new production is to create a "definitive" version of the musical, which will then be the only version performed worldwide."
The show will have a 40-week tryout in 8 cities prior to Broadway.
On the website, I've been trying to fix some of the photos which refuse to appear, and some broken links. Please be patient. It's a big site and when you have photos of Anthem from 6 productions, titling files can get a little strange. Thanks to all who've notified me of broken links.
11 January 2000
At last! Updates! A section on the souvenirs and promotions for the Broadway production has been added as well as the lengthy Vanity Fair article about the rocky road to the Broadway opening. Both can be accessed from the Broadway page. Additionally, a song added for one preview performance and then cut ("East/West") is now included in its proper place near the end of the second act. Many thanks to Tim Rice, who unearthed the lyrics.
22 November 1999
The move across 2400 miles of the Pacific is at last completed. The unpacking isn't. So anyone awaiting tapes or the like, I still have to sort things out. The weather here is gorgeous and I see a rainbow nearly every day. "Never waste a hot afternoon" is fitting here.
The Original London Cast recording of Mamma Mia! is now available through amazon uk's site (as well as others).
The following news item appeared recently on Playbill's online site and I can confirm it is, indeed true. Rice has finished the outline, though he has not begun work on the script. His focus has been to clarify relationships and motivations of the characters. The article:
Chess to Make "Probable" Return to Broadway in 2000-01
by Christine Ehren
Fans of the cult musical Chess have reason to rejoice. Lyricist Tim Rice is working on bringing the rock opera back to Broadway for a "probable" fall-winter opening in the 2000-2001 season.
According to a production spokesperson at Rice's Heartaches company in London, Rice has completed some alterations on the piece with one of the composers, Björn Ulvaeus, and is in talks with the Shubert Organization to bring the musical back to New York. Should the Broadway production be a hit this second time around, Chess will also tour again following the New York opening.
After an original success in London, Chess, a Cold War story of love and betrayal set against a Russian versus American chess match, opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on April 28, 1988. It closed June 25 that same year after trouble between its director Trevor Nunn and lyricist Tim Rice (Aida, Evita) and critical pans. Subsequent revivals and concert versions have been done since, often changing the plotting, cutting parts off the book, rearranging and reassigning the songs. Since its first incarnation as a "concept album" in 1984, Chess has obtained cult status, rivaling perhaps only Carrie in obsessive fans.
Written by Rice and ABBA's songwriting team, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Chess includes 'One Night in Bangkok,' 'Heaven Help My Heart,' 'I Know Him So Well,' 'Pity the Child' and 'Anthem.'
Chess would mark a second ABBA project planned for Broadway's 2000-2001 season. The musical Mamma Mia!, featuring some of the Swedish group's greatest hits, may also land on the Great White Way that season.
10 September 1999
Not new on the website, but new, period, the long-awaited Tim Rice autobiography was officially launched in London on 7 September, and you can buy it right now for shipping in 48 hours. It's a superb book, full of great information about Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita. No Chess just yet, though there are references to it, that's for volume 2. But it's a delighful insight into the man, his view of his profession, his life and the way he thinks.
Follow the Internet Bookshop/WH Smith link to purchase the book, which is (for now) only available in Europe. The hardback is £15.19, the eventual paperback will be £7.19 and the audiobook (not yet completed) will be £6.12. Oddly, though the book's title is "Oh, What a Circus," the Internet Bookshop has it listed as "To Put it Mildly," but it's the right book. This is the very best way to experience the charm, wide-ranging interests, wit and intelligence of the man who wrote Chess. If everyone buys it, the publishers will want to do the next volume which should have all the Chess stuff in it, which is what we all want, right?
Just back from London for the book launch, and AFTER you buy Tim's book, start saving your money, Mamma Mia! is a smash! For those who don't know, this is a new musical with a story created around the greatest hits of ABBA.
It stars the divine Siobhan McCarthy, who created the roles of both the Mistress in Evita and Svetlana in Chess as well as going on to play Florence in London.
The musical's story is about Donna Sheridan, who runs a taverna on a tiny Greek isle and whose daughter is about to marry. Contrary to Donna's wishes (Donna's a feminist and proud single mother), her daughter Sophia plans a "white" wedding). In for the nuptuals are Donna's two best friends and members of her 70s rock group, Donna and the Dynamos. The acting, book, singing, direction, staging and set are all excellent and the show is a smash hit in London, virtually sold out until January. Click on the program's cover for a link to the show's official site, which has great photos, reviews, bios, and ticket information.
18 August 1999
The long-elusive RCA promotional item, the Chess Memo Cube, makes its appearance on the Concept Album page, and follow the "Souvenirs" link on the London page to see many of the items once available at the Prince Edward Theatre.
Thanks for your patience. Comments, criticism and raspberries always welcome.