Chess is the brainchild of ABBA stars Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, telling the story of two Grandmasters battling it out during the Cold War.
It has thrilled audiences since its 1986 West End premiere, with an iconic score featuring songs like “Nobody’s Side,” “Someone Else’s Story,” and “One Night In Bangkok.” Now, the story of Chess is returning to Australian stages, with special concert events being staged in both Melbourne and Perth in 2021.
Director Tyran Parke is thrilled to finally be staging this passion project. No stranger to the world of music theatre, Tyran most recently directed the acclaimed production of Barnum starring Todd McKenney and Rachael Beck. Previous play direction credits includes Thom Pain, The Laramie Project, Great Expectations, and Proof; and musicals such as Follies, Ordinary Days (Green Room Award – Best Director) Big Fish (Broadway World and Glugg nominations), and Falsettos (Green Room Nomination). As a performer, he has tackled roles such as George in Sunday In The Park With George, Jonathon in Tick Tick Boom, Rolf in The Sound of Music, Kodaly in She Loves Me, and Frank in Mack and Mabel. He is on the advisory committee for New Musicals Australia in Sydney and Homegrown in Melbourne, and is the current Head of Music Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Because it’s time. Producer, Adrian Storey and I have plotted this for years and I’m so thrilled it’s finally occurring. We all know the show has had a (forgive me) “checkered” history but the reason it has endured is the music! It’s still one of the best scores out of the period where music theatre was starting to capture popular music and connect it to story. It’s open hearted and passionate and this production will put the music downstage centre and infuse it with a contemporary edge. It’s a soundtrack that has accompanied my life and I can’t wait to celebrate it with the most remarkable and unexpected list of performers.
And why now?
The piece is about public ‘personalities’ being used for political gain…Hello 2020! But more than the social resonances, I think people will want to feel secure in the theatre and connect to something assured and familiar. This music lingers in our hearts and has done for decades. Venturing back into the beautiful Regent Theatre will be an emotionally charged event as we reconnect with each other and this this old friend of a musical.
What is your favourite song from the show?
Argh…it’s impossible to say! Of course, everyone knows, ‘I Know Him So Well’ but other hits were ‘Nobody’s Side’, ‘One Night in Bangkok’, ‘Pity the Child’, ‘Anthem’…and of course there was a song added for the Broadway production, ‘Someone Else’s Story’ which knocks you sideways every time you hear it. When you match Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame with the lyrics of master songwriter, Time Rice (Evita, The Lion King, Jesus Christ Superstar…), well, every song is a gift!
Chess has been delighting theatre lovers for 34 years – how are you going to keep the show fresh in 2020?
Of course, part of the job is to uncover what the piece says to a world three decades after it was first written. Inherent in that is in a sad acknowledgement that the world is getting more separate. The play is political, and world politics have gotten nastier, but my job is to find the human story. By teaming with a female writer/performer and re-imagining the role of the Arbiter, we are exploring notions of what the consequences are when people play games with other people’s emotions.
What’s your favourite chess piece and why?
The Queen! In the prologue to the show, you learn about the origins of CHESS and the fact that there was once a queen with two sons who fought to the death for a Hindu Throne. She was so devastated and refused to speak to the surviving son and so he fashioned her a board to best represent the details of the fight. And so, they suggest, we have Chess. Anyone with that backstory would be a good inclusion at any dinner party!
StoreyBoard Entertainment presents CHESS THE MUSICAL
Music by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson and Lyrics & Book by Tim Rice
For tickets and more info visit www.chessmusical.info