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Michael Ball, Alexandra Burke and Cassidy Janson to star in Chess at the London Coliseum

Michael Ball

Casting news

THE first West End production of Chess since 1986 is to star Michael Ball, Alexandra Burke, Murray Head, Tim Howar and Cassidy Janson.

This epic musical love story will play at the London Coliseum for a strictly limited five week season – from May 1 (previews from April 26) to June 2, 2018.

Michael Ball will perform the role of Anatoly. For 30 years Ball has been starring in musical theatre productions in the West End and on Broadway winning critical acclaim and awards for his stage work and recording career. He is a double Olivier Award winner, multi-platinum recording artist and radio and TV presenter.

Ball made his West End debut as Marius in the original London cast of Les Misérables and went on to star in The Phantom of the Opera (West End), Aspects of Love (West End/Broadway), Stephen Sondheim’s Passion (West End) and as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (West End). In 2005, he returned to Broadway as Count Fosco in The Woman in White, which transferred from London’s West End and, in the same year, made his New York City Opera debut as Reginald Bunthorne in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience.

In 2007, he made his debut with English National Opera as Haj/The Poet in Kismet. In 2008, he made box office history with his Olivier Award-winning performance as Edna Turnblad in the smash hit musical Hairspray which he then took on tour across the UK. In 2013, he won his second Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his critically acclaimed lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. And in 2015, he starred as Mack Sennett in Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre which subsequently went on to tour the UK.

In 2016, Ball teamed up with Alfie Boe for a series of highly successful concert tours in the UK and Australia, two TV specials and two albums, the combined sales of which are now in excess of one million copies.

Alexandra Burke

Alexandra Burke will play Svetlana. Burke rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor in 2008, and currently stands as one of the most successful winners of the show selling well over four million records in the UK alone, among them the winner’s single Hallelujah, which became the current European record holder for single sales over a period of 24 hours, selling 105,000 in one day. The song also became the top-selling single of 2008 within the UK and became the UK’s Christmas number one. By January 2009, the single had sold over 1 million copies across the UK, a first for a British female soloist. Other successes followed.

In 2014, Burke made her West End debut playing the lead role of Rachel Marron in the much acclaimed musical, The Bodyguard. A UK tour followed. In August 2016, she starred as Deloris Van Cartier in the musical Sister Act, a new production directed by Craig Revel Horwood which toured the UK. In September 2017, she joined the cast of Strictly Come Dancing, reaching the final and subsequently performing in the 4-week Strictly Come Dancing UK arena tour.

This year, Burke signed a new album deal with Universal/Decca and the album entitled The Truth Is is due for release in March with a headline tour in September.

English actor and recording artist Murray Head, who will perform the role of The Arbiter, is most recognised for his international hits Superstar (from Jesus Christ Superstar) and One Night in Bangkok from Chess. He performed the role of world chess champion Frederick “Freddie” Trumper in the original London West End stage production of Chess that premiered on May 14, 1986. The show ran in London until April 8, 1989. He has also performed in Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair in the West End.

Singer Tim Howar, who will play Freddie, is best known as the lead vocalist with Mike + the Mechanics. He made his West End debut as the male lead in Peggy Sue Got Married and went on to appear in West End productions of Rent and Rock of Ages. In his native Canada, he starred in Broadway productions of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Miss Saigon, Tommy, The House of Martin Guerre and Les Misérables.

Cassidy Janson

Cassidy Janson will play Florence. Her most recent project was the LEADING LADIES trio along with Amber Riley and Beverley Knight. Her theatre credits include the title role in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Ruth in Dessa Rose (Trafalgar Studios), Tick Tick Boom (Menier Chocolate Factory), Blood Wedding (Courtyard Theatre), Rooms: A Rock Romance (Finborough Theatre), Maggie in Lend Me a Tenor (Gielgud Theatre), Company (Southwark Playhouse) and Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q (Wyndhams Theatre). She was also a member of the original London cast of Wicked and played standby Elphaba.

Chess, which was written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice, tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends. Two of the world’s greatest chess masters, one American, one Russian, are in danger of becoming the pawns of their governments as their battle for the world title gets under way.

Simultaneously their lives are thrown into further confusion by a Hungarian refugee, a remarkable woman who becomes the centre of their emotional triangle. This mirrors the heightened passions of the political struggles that threaten to destroy lives and loves.

Read more about Chess.