Murray Head Withdraws from West End CHESS; Cedric Neal Joins Cast as 'The Arbiter'

Chess is coming back to the West End for the first time since 1986, opening at the London Coliseum on Thursday 26 April 2018 (Press night on Tuesday 1 May 2018) for a strictly limited 5 week season. The show will come without one of its previously announced cast members, however. BroadwayWorld has just learned that Murray Head has withdrawn from the production. A show representative explained:

"The producers of Chess announce with great regret that Murray Head is to leave the cast due to personal reasons. Cedric Neal will replace Murray in the production. Cedric was most recently in the West End when he starred as Berry Gordy in Motown the Musical and will now return to the UK to play The Arbiter in the forthcoming production at the London Coliseum."

Chess will also star Michael Ball as Anatoly, Alexandra Burke as Svetlana, Tim Howar as Freddie, Cassidy Janson as Florence and Philip Browne as Molokov.

This is the fourth production in collaboration with English National Opera by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade, who brought Sunset Boulevard, Carousel and Sweeney Todd to the London Coliseum, the home of ENO. Michael Linnit and Michael Grade also produced 42nd Street, currently playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

The cast also includes Sabrina Aloueche, Robin Bailey, Sarah Bakker, Jeremy Batt, Kimberley Blake, Sophie Camble, Cellen Chugg Jones, Jordan Lee Davies, Jonathan David Dudley, Richard Emerson, Callum Evans, Chris Gage, Matt Harrop, Jack Horner, Stevie Hutchinson, Nicholas Lee, Sinead Long, Robbie McMillan, Jo Morris, Jennifer Robinson, Jo Servi, Alexandra Waite-Roberts, Carrie Willis, Stuart Winter, Chris Gardner, Matthew Walker and Joe Watkins.

Murray Head Withdraws from West End CHESS; Cedric Neal Joins Cast as 'The Arbiter'
Photo Credit: Frederic Aranda

CHESS was written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Evita), and the original London production starred Elaine Paige, Murray Head and Tommy Korberg. That production, which ran for three years at the Prince Edward Theatre, followed a highly successful recording featuring the same stars, and included the international hit singles I Know Him So Well and One Night In Bangkok. Other well-known songs from the score include Anthem, Someone Else's Story, Heaven Help my Heart and Pity The Child.

CHESS 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.

Featuring English National Opera's award-winning Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by John Rigby with choreography by Stephen Mear, this new West End production is directed by Laurence Connor, whose recent credits include School of Rock and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in the West End, Les Misérables on Broadway, and the international Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour. This is the fourth production in collaboration with ENO by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade.

The show's reputation has never been higher; there have been countless versions produced all over the world. The return of the sensational score to the London stage is an important and exciting musical theatre landmark.

CHESS is presented by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade in collaboration with English National Opera, by arrangement with Three Knights Limited, The Shubert Organisation Inc & Robert Fox Limited.

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