Everything is ABBA! Of course, Mamma Mia--the hit London stage show which consists of a bunch of that supergroup's hits woven together by a mindless storyline--is set to open on Broadway at the Winter Garden next season. But, before that happens, fans will be able to get a fix of the music they love by journeying to Nyack, New York in August for what's shaping up to be a must-see, must-hear concert version of Chess, the magnificent rock opera with music by ABBA's Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice.
As of this writing, Robert Evan (Jekyll & Hyde) is set to star in the concert as Anatoly the Russian, according to producer/musical director Neil Berg. Though Berg acknowledges that casting could change between now and August, his plan is that Brian d'Arcy James and Danny Zolli will repeat the roles of Freddie (the American) and the Arbiter, which they played in a previous, spectacularly well received Chess concert in New York City in 1998.
"That was a benefit we did for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at the John Houseman Theater," says Berg. "We're basically trying to recreate it." To that end, he's hoping that Alice Ripley's schedule will allow her to again play the role of Florence, the woman who finds herself caught between the American and the Russian in a post-Cold War conflict set against a world championship chess match. "None of the other cast members are confirmed yet," says Berg. "I don't think we'll be able to get Michael Cerveris back as the narrator, but I promise you it's gonna be somebody great."
According to Berg, "The concert is meant to celebrate the music of Chess. People have tried for so long to make the story work on stage, but what we've decided to do is pare it down and just perform one of the best contemporary pop/rock theater scores there is. We'll have a seven or eight-piece band and a full vocal ensemble, like last time. This is the perfect show to do in concert. The score needs to be heard!"
Chess will be presented for three performances only--August 10, 11, and 12--at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack. Tickets go on sale beginning May 7, and reservations may be made by phoning 845-358-6333. Berg is also involved in a Broadway songbook series at the Nyack Seaport Center for Cultural events, continuing with a Lerner and Loewe program on May 10. For more information on this and the Chess concert, check out the website at www.neilberg.cjb.net.