Trevor Nunn new Chess stager; say angina cued Bennett exit. By Jack Pitman


Michael Bennett has pulled out as stager of the musical Chess, due to its West End preem in May, replaced by Trevor Nunn.

Robert Fox, co-producing with the Schubert Organization, said Bennett gave up the assignment because of angina, a heart condition. He described as “complete nonsence” reports of a conflict with the director-choreographer over the production’s star, Elaine Paige.

The report suggested Bennett preferred an American name instead of the British performer. Bennett reportedly also was impatient with the progress of the book for the show, based on a record album song cycle.

Nunn, joint artistic director (with Terry Hands) of the Royal Shakespeare Co., and whose credits in commercial legit include Starlight Express and the London and Broadway editions of Cats, got the Chess assignment as the result of weekend huddles here between Fox, Shubert Organization prexy Bernard B. Jacobs, and the show’s lyricist, Tim Rice. Schubert is in for 50% of the venture.

No doubt a factor in Nunn’s favor was his relationship with the New York management, which sponsored the Broadway run of The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby that Nunn staged for the RSC, and also will present a recast U.S. tour of the show starting in June. Nunn also directed Cats, which is a hugely profitable production for the Schubert Organization in the U.S.

Chess is reputedly capitalized at £4,000,000 sterling, which at current exchange values comes to about $5,600,000 and easily qualifies as the costliest London tuner yet.

The show, in which an international chess match serves as a metaphor for superpower conflict, has music by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus of the since-disbanded Swedish pop group ABBA. It’s slated to begin rehearsals February 3rd for a May 14th preem at the Prince Edward Theater.

Chess is the second project in two years to be dropped by Bennett, director-choreographer of A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls. Last season he shelved Scandal, a musical on which he had worked for several years and put through four separate workshops. Transcribed for ABBA World

Variety (New York) · Wednesday, 29 January 1986 (Page 85)

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