Wicked’s current Elphaba Kerry Ellis (pictured) will join original Elphaba Idina Menzel and American chart-topping singer Josh Groban to star in Chess at the Royal Albert Hall. Also newly confirmed for the 21st-anniversary concert production, which takes place on 12 and 13 May 2008, is Broadway star Adam Pascal. Further casting is still to be announced.

Groban and Menzel play love interests The Russian and Florence, while Pascal plays Frederick Trumper and Ellis is Svetlana. Menzel won last year’s Whatsonstage.com Best Actress in a Musical Award for the green-skinned Elphaba in Wicked; her successor Ellis has been nominated for Best Takeover in this year’s Awards for the same role. Playing love rivals in Chess, Ellis and Menzel will perform the duet “I Know Him So Well”, made famous by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson from the 1984 concept album, released ahead of the musical’s 1986 premiere at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre.

Chess has a book and lyrics by Tim Rice with music by Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Two players in a World Chess Championship are involved in a romantic triangle with the woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Although the protagonists were not intended to represent any specific individuals, the characters' personalities are loosely based on those of real-life chess players Victor Korchnoi and Bobby Fischer.

Adam Pascal made his name in the original New York production of Rent, in which he created the role of Roger. He later reprised the same role in the film version of the musical. His other Broadway credits include creating the role of Radames in another Tim Rice musical, Aida, which featured music by Elton John, and the Emcee in Cabaret. Like Josh Groban, Pascal has previously appeared in a US concert version of Chess.

Tim Rice has just finished writing nine songs, set to music by Tchaikovsky, for an epic film called The Nutcracker: The Untold Story, due for release this year starring Nathan Lane. His other stage musicals include his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Evita.

Presented by Heartaches Ltd in association with JGPC and The Night of 1000 Voices, the Chess concert will be modelled on the original 1984 concept album, rather than another stage production. Rice will introduce each performance. The concert will be adapted and directed by Hugh Wooldridge, and choreographed by Kevan Allen and Andrew Wright, with the 50-piece City of London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Firman and a 100-strong West End Chorus choir.

- by Tom Atkins & Terri Paddock