The version of Chess now known (as a stage show) originated in London, premiering at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1986. Before that, an album version of the musical had been released in 1984, spawning a hit song for star Murray Head ("One Night in Bangkok"). The story was complex, concerning U.S./Soviet/Hungarian relations and played out on a backdrop of a chess championship. The music was equally complicated, and far more intriguing than one might expect from a score written by members of a pop group ABBA and usual Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborator (and famed lyricist) Tim Rice. While "One Night in Bangkok" gained the most fame, the stronger songs "I Know Him So Well, "Someone Else's Story," "Heaven Help My Heart" and particularly "Anthem" have some glorious moments. Chess traveled across the ocean in 1988 (with an altered ending), where it was not nearly as well-received as it was in London. It closed after 68 performances, despite strong offerings by Judy Kuhn, Philip Casnoff and David Carroll. The original Broadway cast recording is very well-done, and the real fault of Chess as a recorded work is that the story sometimes becomes blurred and is not always easy to follow.
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AllMusic Review by Sarah Erlewine