Wicked’s Idina Menzel and Rent’s Adam Pascal join Great Performances favorite, internationally renowned vocalist Josh Groban in a spectacular London concert revival of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ 1986 cult musical Chess, premiering Wednesday, June 17 at 9 p.m. (ET) on Great Performances (check local listings). Presented by THIRTEEN in 5.1 digital surround sound on PBS HD, and featuring diamond-sharp lyrics by Tim Rice (Evita, The Lion King), the hit-filled production (“One Night in Bangkok,” “I Know Him So Well,” “The Anthem”) was recorded in performance at Royal Albert Hall.
Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.
“A fantastic night” proclaimed musiccomh.com, while thestage.co asked “Is there an original pop musical stuffed with better melodies?” neatly echoing Time’s initial 1988 assessment: “One of the best rock scores ever produced.” Adding to the excitement is the 50-piece City of London Philharmonic, led by David Firman, and the 100-voice West End Chorus.
ABBA composers Andersson and Ulvaeus created their first musical theater work more than a decade before striking pay dirt with their phenomenon, Mamma Mia. It was the inspired idea of lyricist/librettist Rice to match the pair with his cold war tale: the East/West Chess Championship and the romantic triangle that develops between the Russian and American competitors and the beautiful woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Chart topper Groban (Awake, Closer, Noel) sings the Russian player, Anatoly; Rent Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominee Pascal is the American Freddie, and Tony-winner Menzel (Wicked Witch Elphaba) is Florence, the woman between them.
Chess in Concert is a co-production of THIRTEEN, Reprise Records and Peppermint Pictures, in association with Heartaches Ltd. Directed for telecast by David Horn and produced by Austin Shaw, it was recorded at Albert Hall May 12, 2008. Hugh Wooldridge staged the concert adaptation.
Josh Groban includes among his many Great Performances appearances Josh Groban in Concert (2002), Josh Groban at the Greek (2004) and last December’s David Foster & Friends. Adam Pascal was most recently seen in the series’ My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs (2001). Chess in Concert marks Idina Menzel’s Great Performances debut.
Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS.