CHESS UK Tour to open in Newcastle (Updated)

CHESS UK Tour directed by Craig Revel Horwood kicks off in Newcastle prior to a major national tour. Tickets on sale from 9PM on Saturday 6 February. More details as they emerge.

From the Theatre Royal’s website:

"The legendary West End and Broadway musical CHESS is coming to Newcastle. Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood directs an amazing cast in an extraordinary new staging of the classic musical which will premiere here at the Theatre Royal before embarking upon a major, national tour. 

Written by Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and featuring one of the greatest musical theatre scores of all time including ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK, PITY THE CHILD, ANTHEM, YOU AND I and, of course, I KNOW HIM SO WELL which became a best selling single for Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson.

Public booking opens Saturday 6 February 2010. Become a Friend of the Theatre Royal and book from Tuesday 2 February!

Make your move now and book for the musical sensation that is CHESS. Call the Box Office on 08448 11 21 21, Group Sales on 08448 11 21 22."


  • WooHoo! For once I won’t have to travel!!!

  • Fantastic news and all the sweeter for being totally unexpected….

    Very interested to see where else the tour heads to, but very tempted to head up to Newcastle for a ‘proper champion’ weekend, lol !


  • Brill ! any ideas where else it will be at ?

  • Hey, interesting. Is it an ‘official’ tour and do you have any insights as to what ‘version’ we’re talking about? Sorry for the the inverted commas!!! Mx

  • According to his website CRH directed and choreographed a production of Chess in Denmark (doesn’t give a date). I’m not a great fan of musical theatre (Chess and Kristina aside of course, they’re in a class of their own) and also not a great fan of CRH but I did see his revival of Sunset Boulevard last year, which he directed at a small-ish independent theatre near to me (The Watermill at Newbury, UK). It was a scaled-back, intimate production with a small orchestra that really concentrated on the music and lyrics rather than overblown sets and costumes and it worked brilliantly. I was there the night Andrew Lloyd Webber saw it for the first time and he said he preferred it to the original West End production (this new production did then transfer to one of the small West End theatres for a couple of months). So a scaled-back, intimate production of Chess would be really interesting to see.

  • Interesting!

    Will self-styled "Mr nasty" Craig Revel Horwood be an asset to east-west relations? Time will tell.

  • Am really pleased this is touring. Have never seen Chess…so can now see it at long last!! Yesss!!

  • CRH’s production of Chess in Denmark in 91/92 was a sell out and ended up with the first complete recording of the score.
    It was based on the London porduction but also added Someone Else’s Story after The Deal in Act 2.
    By all accounts it was a pretty lavish production for such a short run at the 3 venues wiht massive orchestra, supporting cast etc… Not that disimilar to the Royal Albert Hall version to be honest.

    It will be interesting to see whether some of the edits and changes made to the 2 UK tours from 90/91 and 96 are included, RAH minor lyrical changes and Swedish production (new songs and getting rid off Walter character who I never thought added anything to the show).

  • Does anyone know who is in the cast yet?

  • CHESS first played at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal in April 1991, for 16 performances, directed and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast, and with Rebecca Storm as ‘Florence’, i remember it being a fantastic production, and very ‘true’ to the original CHESS score. Newcastle’s Theatre Royal is also a fantastic venue with marvelous acoustics! CHESS back home in the good ol’ North-East, God i’ll be there every night!! Hope Bjorn, Benny and Tim come to see it and i’ll buy them a bottle of ‘newky brown’!

  • this is THE best news of 2010 so far.

  • Does anybody know if there are any further cities/venues confirmed after Newcastle? Thanking you in advance!

  • I saw Rigoletto at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Its a highly prestigious venue on what is regarded as one of the most attractive streets in Europe.

    Sounds like a good place to start.

  • Nick, was this Danish version the one that resulted in a CD recording? I don’t have it but believe some regard it as the best version of Chess – a bit ‘darker’ than the RAH version for example?

  • I, for one, hope the production is based on the Tim Rice revised Royal Albert Hall version and that the production is treated with respect and not done ‘on the cheap’.
    It certainly deserves a good designer and a superb cast! And I do hope they don’t reduce the orchestra size too drastically – after all the music is phenomenal!
    I am a massive fan of Chess and a badly produced/directed production will only harm it. (Broadway, anyone?)
    That said I am still very excited and really hope it is a full national tour that tours Wales, Scotland and England!

  • If anyone’s going to the Newcastle show we could all maybe meet for a drink first?

  • Yes the Danish production was the one recorded on CD (actually recorded before the rpoduction was staged).

    I agree that the 91/92 production was great – using the west end sets and costumes. Unfortunately the 96 tour didn’t have the same impact – great performances from the cast, but besides the hydrolic stage and the ivory chess pieces all the sets and costumes were new becuase they had been loaned out to amateur companies around the company. Some of the stage settings looked a bit cheap (wooden chairs and tables instead of the orginal chrome and black leather ones.

    I think Rebecca Storm (whilst probably not a house hold name)did have some pulling power for audiences and was outstanding in the role and the show was billed as "Chess – starring RB". She probably was a big influence on the show managing to tour for 18 months. If I remember rightly the show closed really ebcause of a lack of theatres with the audience or stage capacity needed to comfortably stage the show.

    All I can say is that I’m happy that Bill Kenwright didn’t get his hands on the show for the tour as his touring musicals are not known for their grandure and Chess is definately one of those shows that needs and deserves this.

    All in all i would think that a tour announced with over 6 months lead up to opening will giev venues plenty of time to rpomote it. Indicators this week suggest that theatres nationally have had their best year for patrons, despite an economic recession with musicals being the biggest draws. Hopefully it will play to a wider range of venues, possibly places it didn’t visit before even staying for 1 week engagements enabling the tour to revisit theatres a year or so later if a sell out for venues.

    Whilst of course Mamma Mia is a totoally differnt kettle of fish to chess I’m sure the popularity of it and media coverage of Chess through the Hyde Park concert and RAH CD and DVD, not to mention the ever poularity of ABBA and exhibition now in London can only help boost sales of tickets.

    Now if we can only get Polygram to re-master and reissue the original album (with video and remixes which exist) ready for the tour….. Well they did issue it prior to the 96 tour after gaining international rights from RCA.

  • From today’s Stage:
    Exclusive: Craig Revel Horwood to direct new touring production of Chess
    Published Wednesday 3 February 2010 at 14:45 by Alistair Smith
    Chess, the musical by Tim Rice and former ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, is to be revived for a new touring production directed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood.

    The Cold War era show, which premiered in the West End in 1986 and ran for nearly three years, features lyrics by Rice with music by Ulvaeus and Andersson.
    The new staging will employ actor-musicians, in the style of Revel Horwood?s previous productions at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. It will open at the Newcastle Theatre Royal on August 27 and then tour regional venues through Christmas and into the new year, ahead of a possible West End transfer.
    Producer Michael Harrison said the revival would use an update of the musical which was Rice?s ?definitive version? and the tour would have a ?completely new look? to the original staging.
    He told The Stage: ?The production will incorporate actor-musicians into the show but, unlike any other actor-musician show, there will be a company of 25 on stage.
    ?It will be the first new production since the West End. There was a big tour of that show after the West End run and another revival in 1996 – again it was a tour of the original. This is going to be a new interpretation.?
    Tony Award winner Sarah Travis is lined up as musical supervisor on the project, which has a budget in excess of £500,000. Casting has yet to be announced.
    According to Harrison, Rice had been reluctant to revisit the musical but had been ?fascinated? by Revel Horwood?s idea to use actor-musicians, having been impressed by the director?s previous projects. It will be the first major touring musical upon which Harrison has been the sole producer. His previous credits include a co-production of The Witches of Eastwick, starring Marti Pellow.
    A concert version of Chess was performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008.

  • It sounds very interesting ,
    Basically Chess in concert re visualised and choreographed for the stage,
    I think the company of musitions /actors backing up the orchestra will help to bridge the gap between the classical sections and the pop sections.
    And I think we can assume the lead stars wont be playing instruments when singing the Anthem for example.

  • Thanks Mark for the details from The Stage, it all sounds very exciting and I think we can expect a production unlike anything we’ve seen (or imagined) before.

    As I said in a previous post CRH’s production of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (actually it was Summer 2008) worked really well with actor/musicians on stage and gave a very intimate feel, despite the epic nature of the show. If the previous format is replicated exactly (albeit with 25 performers as opposed to around 15) there won’t be a dedicated orchestra sitting in the pit, instead ALL of the music will be played on stage by the actors – and that will include some of the leads. We probably shouldn’t expect many (if any) star names.

    It’s perhaps difficult to describe if you haven’t seen anything like it before. The Watermill Theatre in Newbury uses this format for many of their shows (both musicals and ‘plays with music’) and the several productions that I’ve seen have all been fantastic. I suspect some people might feel disappointed that some of the ‘grandeur’ and ‘expanse’ of the previous productions might be lost but, believe me, none of the fundamental strength of the work will be lost – and the immediacy of the performances will more than make up for the loss of, say, a revolving stage (as much as I loved the expansive feeling that created in the West End) or massive 50′ backdrops. I would just say to keep a very open mind.

    I would imagine this production will be much more ‘portable’ than before so it’s likely to be booked into some of the smaller regional venues that were simply not able to take the bigger production previously. ‘Sunset’ transferred to the West End for a couple of months but not into one of the usual big musical theatres, but the Comedy Theatre just off Leicester Square which normally stages plays (around 700 seats as opposed to 1500+ at the Prince Edward, for example).

    I can’t wait!

  • If it’s anything as stunning as Revel-Horwood’s version of Sunset Boulevard (my fave musical), then I am very excited!!! I’ve been saying for ages a stripped back version would do the piece the world of good. Having seen the RAH concert, it was great at the time, but watching it back there is so much padding and pruning needed. It desperately needs to be reigned in by B,B and TR are a bit too precious about it I suspect.

  • From a video clip I saw of The Watermill Theatre in Newbury the, Theatre Royal is much bigger, so I would expect the demands of the musical score will require that not all the music could be played by actor musicians.

  • I respect your opinion Jason – but the writers "too precious" to reign it in? CHESS has been fiddled about with so SO much (most of which spoiled the original concept), and the "padding" between the big numbers is what makes it so extremely clever – there is not a single wasted note . . .

    I love my Christmas Lunch with all conceivable trimmings – and wouldn’t want to be presented with just the turkey!

  • Yes Andrew I see your point, and yes of course it has been presented in many different versions, but musically I think this could be the boldest version yet.

    The show is great, one of my favourites, but it does drag – the RAH show highlighted that. All the choirs, merchandisers, KGB cronies, ballet dancing chess pieces do NOTHING to advance the story or help us understand or care for the characters any more. That is why Chess is never truly pulled off well, in my opinion – because you get to the end not really knowing Florence, Anatoly or Svetlana – they are all underwritten and 2 dimensional.

  • got it front row 1st Sept !!

  • Some extracts from an interview with Michael Harrison, the producer of the new production of ‘Chess’, which gives some further insight into what we can expect:

    "I said it would be great to do something with him [Craig Revel Horwood]. Everything he did at the Watermill [in Newbury] was done in the actor-musician style. It was always done with 12 people.

    ?I had spoken to Tim Rice about looking at Chess again. He said he didn?t want to look at Chess again if he was ?just going to look at Chess again? and do a standard production.

    ?He said it needed reinventing, a new twist. I thought Craig?s the man, and the two things came together.

    ?I said to Craig to think about the shows he does with 12 people, all playing the instruments, all playing the characters. What would happen if those 12 people suddenly became 25 to 30 people on stage, where you had the sound of a 25-piece orchestra coming from the company?

    ?Tim got very excited about that. He said this is the way I want to do this and have a go at re-looking at the whole thing.

    ?So he called Benny and Bjorn. They have had so much success with Mamma Mia!, but I don?t think they ever thought there would be a major production in the UK of Chess so soon after the gala concert they did at the Royal Albert Hall.

    ?I saw that and it was fab and it really got me excited about the whole thing again.

    ?Benny and Bjorn just went for it, they were so enthusiastic, Tim?s got right behind it, Sarah Travis, who won the Tony for orchestrating Sweeney Todd, is going to do the musical arrangements. It feels very exciting.

    ?Tim has looked at the book and reworked it to be the version that he wants to be done.

    ?There have always been comments that the score is fantastic but the book has never worked. This version is going to the version that Tim himself wants to be done and Craig has directed a production of it before ? a very successful production in Denmark, which real musical fans regard as one of the greatest recordings there has been of the show.

    ?It is a great score. They all have to be spot-on singers. It doesn?t matter who you have got in it, it just needs to be fabulous. On the night they need to be able to deliver and sing those songs. This isn?t a cut-down version, it?s a brand new interpretation.?

    Rehearsals start July 19.

  • very glad to have booked tickets for what appears to be a new game of chess with anew playing variation. i think the actor musician will work well and add an additional intamacy with the score, exciting visual element. am glad a bigger cast has been announced to pull of the high demands of a fantasic score with a wide vocal range.

    cheers, martin

  • Whatever it takes….can we just get it to the US


    Now date for November (1 week only!) at Southampton Mayflower Theatre.

  • CHESS is playing at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 22nd to 27th November… Tickets are on sale now!!!!!

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