Tony nominee Ramin Karimloo, who was seen in the 2018 Kennedy Center staging of the Benny Andersson-Björn Ulvaeus musical Chess, will also star in the upcoming production of the musical at the Umeda Arts Theater Main Hall in Osaka, Japan (January 25–28, 2020) and at the Tokyo International Forum Hall C in Tokyo (February 1–9).
Karimloo, last on Broadway in Anastasia, will play Anatoly with Samantha Barks (Pretty Woman, Les Misérables) as Florence, Luke Walsh (Rock of Ages) as Freddie, Takanori Sato as the Arbiter, Eliana as Svetlana, and Hideya Masuhara as Molokov.
The ensemble includes Megumi Iino, Hiroaki Ito, Takashi Otsuka, Kana Okamoto, Yousuke Kawano, Naoki Shibahara, Tatsunori Senna, Kota Someya, Nanaka, Ai Ninomiya, Ami Norimatsu, Maya Harada, Kan Muto, Daisuke Moriyama, Sayaka Watabiki, and Kiyoka Wada.
Nick Winston will direct and choreograph the 2020 performances.
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.
In a statement director Winston said, “I am delighted to be returning to Japan to direct and choreograph Chess, the epic rock opera about love, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. I cannot wait for audiences to experience this new production, with an exceptional cast and orchestra delivering this iconic score. The innovative creative team and I will bring a fresh dynamic to this beloved political thriller to produce an electrifying night in the theatre.”
Karimloo added, “Chess is one of the greatest scores ever written and has some of the most iconic songs that are still relevant today. I am thrilled to be coming back to Japan in this production of Chess to play Anatoly.”
The 1984 musical features music by ABBA songwriters Andersson and Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice. The original 1986 London production of Chess ran for nearly three years in the West End. Despite a brief, two-month Broadway run in 1988, Chess has amassed a legion of fans who are drawn to its operatic rock score that features such songs as “I Know Him So Well,” “Nobody’s Side,” “Someone Else’s Story,” “Pity the Child,” and the stand-out single, “One Night in Bangkok.”