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Paice, Morton, Kushnier Lead Cast Of CHESS At Signature Theatre Thru 9/26

CHESS opened at the Signature Theatre on August 10 and will run through September 26. The cast is lead by Jill Paice (Curtains, The 39 Steps) as Florence Vassy, Euan Morton (Boy George in Taboo, Sondheim on Sondheim) as Anatoly Sergievsky and Jeremy Kushnier (Footloose, Rent) as Freddie Trumper. The rock musical is directed by Signature's Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. Written by Mamma Mia! composers Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson with Evita and Lion King lyricist Tim Rice, the 1984 cult musical of Cold War competition in love and chess is being given its first major Washington area production. Chess is being performed in the fabulous intimacy of the 276-seat MAX Theatre.

Eric Schaeffer stated, "We've been working for three years on producing Chess and it's thrilling that all the stars have aligned to bring this musical to Washington. With Euan, Jill, and Jeremy leading the cast, it promises to be the exciting production that we've all dreamed about!"

In the musical Chess two great chess masters-one American, one Russian-compete to be the best in the world only to find that their greatest contest is for the love of the same woman. Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, American Freddie Trumper and Russian Anatoly Sergievsky fight to take the queen in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War. Originally produced on Broadway in 1988, this Tony-nominated cult rock musical explores the classic themes of love, loss and betrayal. Chess features the hit single "One Night in Bangkok," and unforgettable songs as such "Anthem," "I Know Him So Well," "Nobody's Side," and "Pity the Child." Time Magazine called it "one of the best rock scores ever produced in the theater."

The cast also features Eleasha Gamble (Svetlana),Christopher Bloch (Molokov), Russell Sunday (Walter) and Chris Sizemore (Arbiter). The ensemble includes Jonathan Atkinson, Jamie Eacker, James Gardiner, Gregory Maheu, Katie McManus, Christopher Mueller, Bayla Whitten and Rachel Zampelli.

The new production features music direction and new orchestrations by David Holcenberg (Mamma Mia!). The creative team includes Karma Camp (choreography), Daniel Conway (sets), Chris Lee (lights), Kathleen Geldard (costumes), Matt Rowe (sound) and Aaron Fisher (projection design).

Chess is the first show of the 2010-2011 season which also includes Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play Art, Side by Side by Sondheim, and the world premieres of Ken Ludwig's A Fox on the Fairway, Joe Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead., and Joseph Thalken's musical Wheatley's Folly. Subscriptions for three or more productions are now on sale by calling Signature's Box Office at (703) 820-9771.  

Jeremy Kushnier plays the American chess master, Freddie Trumper. Born in Canada, Kushnier made his Broadway debut originating the role of Ren in Footloose. He continued on Broadway as Roger in Rent as well as in the road companies of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida (Radames) and Rent (Roger). Most recently he starred as Tommy Devito in the Toronto, Chicago, Las Vegas and touring companies of Jersey Boys. Regionally Kushnier has performed at Maine State Music Theater's Full Monty (Jerry), Prince Music Theater's Bright Lights Big City (Jamie), Kansas City Starlight's Jesus Christ Superstar (Judas), and in the original Canadian companies of The Who's Tommy and Rent. In film Kushnier has appeared inThe Adulterer and on television on "Late Night with David Letterman," "FX" and John Woo's "Once a Thief." Jeremy has two independent CDs, In Time and his self titled EP Jeremy Kushnier, which can be found online at his web site Kushnier is making his directorial debut this summer with the Rent at Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg, MB.

Kushnier performed in Signature Theatre's world premiere production of The Rhythm Club directed by Eric Schaeffer in the fall of 2000.

Euan Morton plays the Russian chess master, Anatoly Sergievsky. A native of Scotland, Morton is currently performing in the new Broadway show at Roundabout's Studio 54, Sondheim on Sondheim. He received an Olivier Award nomination for originating the role of Boy George in the musical Taboo and moved to New York in 2003 to reprise the role on Broadway, earning Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Award nominations, as well as the Theatre World Award (for Outstanding Broadway Debut). He earned a 2006 Obie Award for his appearance in Measure For Pleasure at the Public Theatre. Other stage appearances include title roles in: Tony Kushner's adaptation of Brundibár at the New Victory Theatre and Berkeley Rep; The Who's Tommy at the Bay Street Theatre; and Caligula for the inaugural season of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (2004 NYMF Award for Outstanding Individual Performance). Morton also appeared in the Broadway revival of Cyrano De Bergerac. Off-Broadway, Morton performed opposite Alfred Molina in Howard Katz at the Roundabout Theatre and in the 2009 American premiere of Leaves of Glass. Regionally he starred in Moisés Kaufman's production of Into the Woods at the Kansas City Rep. On film, Morton can be seen in the documentary Showbusiness: The Road to Broadway which follows the history of a Broadway season and is now available on DVD.

Morton can be heard on various cast recordings and has released his debut solo CD, NewClear. He has appeared in concert in New York City at the Oak Room at the Algonquin, Town Hall, the Metropolitan Room, the Zipper, Joe's Pub and Birdland, as well as at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and many other venues all over the country.

Morton performed in Signature's popular cabaret series in the summer and fall of 2009.

Jill Paice is Freddie Trumper's second, Florence Vassy, the woman that both Freddie and Anatoly Sergievsky love. On Broadway Paice has starred in The 39 Steps (Annabella et al), Curtains (Niki Harris), The Woman in White (Laura Fairlie), and A Little Night Music (Anne, Roundabout Gala with Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson). In London's West End she originated the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind as well as Laurie Fairlie in The Woman in White and Night of 1000 Voices at Royal Albert Hall. Other credits include Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Betty Haynes, Fox Theatre Detroit), Curtains (Niki Harris, Ahmanson Theater), Mamma Mia! in Las Vegas (Sophie), the national tour of Les Misèrables, The Gig (Lucy, York Theater), Weird Romance (Delphi/Susan, York Theater) and Gypsy (Great Lakes Theater Festival). Paice's television credits include Beautiful Life and The Wonderful Maladys. Paice has performed in the original cast recordings of Curtains, The Woman in White, The Gig, and Andrew Lloyd Webber on Broadway. She is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College.

Paice performed the role of the mother Elizabeth in Ace at Signature Theatre directed by Eric Schaeffer in the fall of 2008.

Eric Schaeffer (Director) is the artistic director/co-founder of Signature Theatre, recipient of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award and home to the American Musical Voices Project, the largest musical theatre commissioning program in the country. Schaeffer has just directed the Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet and has also directed Putting It Together and Glory Days on Broadway. On London's West End he directed The Witches of Eastwick. Schaeffer has directed over 40 productions for Signature including the world premieres of The Hollow, First You Dream, Saving Aimee, and Nevermore; the American premieres of The Fix and The Witches of Eastwick, as well as Les Misérables, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, among others. Known for his direction of the works of Stephen Sondheim, he has staged nine of the composer's musicals at Signature Theatre and was artistic director for the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebration where he directed Sunday in the Park with George and Passion. Regionally, he has directed at the Mark Taper Forum, the Goodman Theatre, Ford's Theatre, and Arena Stage. His awards include six Helen Hayes Awards for Direction. Next season at Signature, in addition at Chess, Schaeffer will direct Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard and the world premiere of Joseph Thalken's Wheatley's Folly.

Recipient of the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award®, Signature Theatre is a non-profit professional theater company dedicated to producing contemporary musicals and plays, reinventing classic musicals, and developing new work. Under the leadership of co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and Managing Director Maggie Boland, Signature has presented 26 world premiere productions and is renowned for combining Broadway-quality productions with intimate playing spaces. In addition to the finest talent from the DC metropolitan area and New York, Signature has been a home to such theater luminaries as John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cameron Mackintosh, Terrence McNally, and the company's signature composer, Stephen Sondheim. Since its founding in 1989, Signature has been nominated for 276 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the professional theater and has been honored with 70 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009, and Outstanding Play in 1999.

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Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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