East West Players (EWP), the nation’s largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work and the longest-running professional theatre of color in the country, concludes its 47th Anniversary Season, themed Spirited Away, with the musical CHESS, book by Richard Nelson, lyrics by Sir Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Aida), and composed by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (ABBA, Mamma Mia!). CHESS will be directed by Tim Dang, musical direction by Marc Macalintal, and choreographed by Marc Oka.
The leading roles of the multicultural ensemble cast include Joan Almedilla as Florence (Miss Saigon and Les Miserables - Broadway), Elijah Rock as Anatoly (Ragtime, Smokey Joe’s Cafe), Victor E. Chan as Freddy (The Who’s Tommy, The Rocky Horror Show), Carey Rebecca Brown as Svetlana (Ragtime - Broadway Revival, Candide – New York City Opera), Ray A. Rochelle as Molokov (Evita, Miss Saigon), and Michael Alexander Henry as Walter de Courcey (The Lion King - Broadway). The rest of the ensemble are Cesar Cipriano (The King & I, Miss Saigon – National Tours), Stephanie Mieko Cohen (Les Miserables – Broadway), Jasmine Ejan (Peter Pan – National Tour), Shay Louise (Miss Saigon), D.T. Matias (A Chorus Line – International Tour), Domonique Paton (Hairspray – National Tour), Alex Sanchez (Hairspray), Armando Yearwood, Jr. (West Side Story – International Tour, In the Heights – National Tour).
“CHESS is a musical with international themes of breaking down barriers between nations, and having a multicultural ensemble enhances its message for the 21st Century,” says Tim Dang, EWP Producing Artistic Director. “In addition, EWP is also showing how multicultural casting breaks down other barriers in light of recent casting controversies across the nation. It enriches our theatre going experience, reflects the community in which we live, and offers opportunities to talented artists of color who might not have access to these roles elsewhere. CHESS is usually performed as a concert focusing on its music and is rarely done as a full theatrical production.
EWP dares to tackle this large scale musical much like it tackled Sweeney Todd in its 1994 and 2006 productions: with creativity and ingenuity in its story-telling, our audience is not likely to have seen a version of CHESS like this previously and may never see anything like this in the near future.”
From the lyricist of Jesus Christ Superstar and the composers of Mamma Mia!, CHESS the musical involves a romantic triangle between two top chess players - an American and a Russian - and a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. All of this takes place within the context of the Cold War, as both countries vie for international chess victories for propaganda purposes. CHESS may be best known for its 1980s pop-rock soundtrack that Time Magazine called “one of the best rock scores ever produced,” featuring hits as “One Night in Bangkok,” “I Know Him So Well,” “Anthem” and more. CHESS is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.
The multicultural nature of the production also extends to the design/technical team and musician ensemble.
The design team includes set and projections by Adam Flemming, costumes by Anthony Tran, lighting by Dan Weingarten and props by Ken Takemoto. The stage manager is Ondina V. Dominguez and assistant stage manager is VIVIS.
The musicians will include Marc Macalintal (conductor/ keyboards), Jenny Chaney (keyboards), Stuart Espinoza (drums), Khris Kempis (bass), Vincent Reyes (guitar), and Austin Yancey (woodwinds).
Generous support for this production is provided by the S. Mark Taper Foundation Endowment for East West Players. Additional support is provided by the California Community Foundation, Shubert Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
All performances will be staged at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Previews are Thursday May 9-Saturday May 11 at 8pm and Sunday May 12 at 2pm. All preview seats are $26. Opening Night for CHESS THE MUSICAL is Wednesday, May 15th at 8pm and includes a 7pm pre-performance cocktail reception, and a post-show reception with the cast and creative team (call theater for ticket price and availability). A special “Pay-What-You-Can” Performance is on Thursday, May 16th. Southern California Edison Community Night is Wednesday, May 22nd at 8pm. Regular performances run Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets may be purchased online at www.eastwestplayers.org or by calling 213.625.7000. Regular tickets range from $51-$56. Student and Senior discounts available. CHESS closes on June 9th. Dates, prices and details are subject to change.