Ready your knights and Cold War history books, because Chess may be headed back to Broadway. Lyricist Tim Rice spoke about a possible main stem return for the 1986 musical in a recent episode of his podcast, Get Onto My Cloud, saying "the team is in place."
"All in all, despite enumerable mishandlings, Chess has more than held its own on the stages of the world. And we plan to come back to Broadway one day fairly soon. A team in in place." Rice goes on to say that the success of Netflix's The Queen's Gambit makes him eager to bring Chess to the screen as well. No further details were provided.
Featuring a score by Rice and ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Chess centers on a Cold War-era chess tournament between an American and a Soviet Russian, and a love triangle involving them both.
The work began as a successful 1984 concept album starring Murray Head, Tommy Körberg, Elaine Paige, Dennis Quilley, Björn Skifs, and Barbara Dickson. The musical made its stage debut in London's West End in 1986, with Paige, Körberg, and Head reprising their performances from the album. The production faced many challenges, including its original director, Michael Bennett, dropping out due to health reasons. Following mixed reviews, a heavily revised version of the musical opened on Broadway in 1988, where it closed after just 68 performances.
Though Chess has not yet been a great commercial success on the stage, it has become a cult favorite to many theatre fans. In the years since its Broadway premiere, the work has had multiple tours, a 2003 one-night-only Broadway concert, and, most notably, a two-night concert production at London's Royal Albert Hall starring Adam Pascal, Idina Menzel, and Josh Groban. The latter concert was released as an album and broadcast on PBS.
More recently, Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center staged a 2018 production with a new book by Danny Strong, helmed by Michael Mayer and starring Raúl Esparza, Ramin Karimloo, Karen Olivo, Ruthie Ann Miles, Bradley Dean, and Bryce Pinkham. Though originally announced as a pre-Broadway engagement, a New York transfer has not yet materialized.
Listen to the full episode here.