RICE’S ‘CHESS’ STRATEGY by Michael Riedel, New York Post
Josh Groban will play a Russian grandmaster in the rock opera "Chess." January 25, 2008 — BOBBY Fischer may have left the match, but the show he inspired plays on. "Chess" – the rock opera by Tim Rice and ABBA that remains a cult favorite despite flopping on Broadway in 1988 – will be performed in concert in May at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The cast includes Josh Groban, as a Russian grandmaster, and "Wicked" star Idina Menzel as his lover. Backing them up will be a full orchestra and a 100-person choir.
"It’s just an excuse, really, for me to have the show done by the best possible people, the way I want it performed," says Rice, who’s putting up the entire $250,000 production cost himself. (His monthly royalty check from "The Lion King" should cover that.)
"I’m not doing it to make money," he says, "just to satisfy myself and to remind people how good the show is." If all goes well, he’d like to bring the concert to Carnegie Hall later this year, and he hopes it might lead to a West End or Broadway revival.
"Chess" has a tortured history. Rice based it on the so-called "Match of the Century" in Reykjavik in 1972 between the volatile Fischer and the gentlemanly Boris Spassky. "Both sides were using it to score political points," says Rice. "It was the Cold War being fought in a cold place – Iceland. What is interesting is that, from the American point of view, their player, Fischer, was the bad guy and Spassky, the Russian, was the nice guy."
Rice teamed up with the ABBA boys – Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson – to produce a "Chess" concept album, which contained the hit single "One Night in Bangkok."