Marti Pellow (pictured), David Bedella and Clarke Peters are the latest additions to the all-star cast of the 21st-anniversary concert production of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall on 12 and 13 May 2008.

They join the previously announced principals (See News, 6 Feb 2008): Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Kerry Ellis, this year’s Whatsonstage.com Award winner for Best Takeover for her role as Elphaba in Wicked, which she’s now taking to Broadway.

Pellow, the former Wet Wet Wet lead singer, made his West End debut in Chicago. Bedella won a Best Actor in a Musical Olivier for Jerry Springer – The Opera, which he recently performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall. And Peters was last seen in the West End in Trevor Nunn’s version of Porgy and Bess. Also now confirmed for the company are: Leila Benn Harris (The Phantom of the Opera), Aoife Mulholland (The Sound of Music) and Tiffany Graves and Debbie Kurup (who’ve both played Velma Kelly in Chicago).

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.

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 is 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.


In other musical casting news, Sally Ann Triplett (Anything Goes, Chicago, Acorn Antiques, Oliver!) has joined the cast of the UK premiere of Make Me a Song, the Off-Broadway revue of the work of Tony Award-winning American composer-lyricist William Finn, which runs from 6 March to 6 April 2008 (previews from 3 March) at the New Players Theatre. Also in the company, as previously reported (See News, 5 Feb 2008), are: Frances Ruffelle, Ian ‘H’ Watkins, Louise Dearman, Gareth Snook and Simon Thomas.

Finn won a 1992 Tony Award for his musical Falsettos, which also had a brief early run at the West End’s Albery Theatre. His other musicals include A New Brain, Elegies and, most recently, two-time Tony Award winner The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which just finished its three-year Broadway run last month. Make Me a Song features numbers from those shows as well as Romance in Hard Times and the yet-to-be-produced The Royal Family.

Conceived by Rob Ruggiero, Make Me a Song is directed in London by Andrew McBean and designed by Ben M Rogers with musical direction by Matt Brind. It’s presented by Junkyard Dog Productions, Demos Bizar Entertainment and Surefire Theatrical in association with Larry Hirshhorn, Remmel T Dickinson, Jayson Raitt and Mariano Tolentino Jr.

- by Terri Paddock