Great Performances: Chess in Concert

Wed, 06/17/2009 - 8:00pm
Pictured: Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, and Adam Pascal
Credit: Tristram Kenton
Wicked’s Idina Menzel and Rent's Adam Pascal join Great Performances favorite Josh Groban in a spectacular London concert revival of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ 1986 cult musical Chess. 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 on May 12, 2008 at Royal Albert Hall. Great Performances: Chess in Concert airs Wednesday, June 17 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT21.1/cable 1011).

“A fantastic night” proclaimed, while 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 among the Russian and American competitors and the beautiful woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Chart-topper Groban (Awake, Closer, Noël) sings the Russian player, Anatoly; Rent Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominee Pascal is the American, Freddie; and Tony Award-winner Menzel (Wicked) is Florence, the woman between them.