Tim Rice brings back musical Chess for a Royal Albert Hall concert starring Idina Menzel.
The lyricist wrote Chess with Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson 25 years ago and it spawned a hit album, featuring Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, before it began its troubled stage history. Two of the numbers from Chess – I Know Him So Well and One Night In Bangkok – became international hits. Now Rice is producing a concert version of Chess, to run at the Royal Albert Hall on May 12 and 13.
The director Hugh Wooldridge has persuaded American lyrical baritone Josh Groban and award-winning Broadway star Idina Menzel – she was in the original London company of Wicked and is also in the movie Enchanted – to perform as the musical’s two lovers.
The show explores a romantic triangle involving two chess champions – Russian and American – plus the American’s lover, set against a backdrop of KGB intrigue.
Tim said one of the problems with the show’s earlier productions was that it was changed too much. Now, he intends to use the original album as a template for the concert in May. "Rather than set up a £20million production, we want to see how it holds up at the Albert Hall before we move ahead for an incredibly expensive production in a theatre," the Oscar-winning songwriter told me.
Any such West End show would be cast traditionally, and not on a TV talent show. "If it was cast on television it would be called I Want To Know Him So Well or One Night In Shepherds Bush," Rice joked. "I don’t think so!"
He has just finished writing nine songs, set to music by Tchaikovsky, for an epic film called The Nutcracker: The Untold Story. He joked: "Ideal, really – dead composers don’t answer back."