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Chess - Full Length Musical, Drama


Benny Andersson, Richard Nelson, Tim Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus

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Full Length Musical, Drama

9m, 2f, 1boy(s) or girl(s)

ISBN: 9780573689178

Book by Richard Nelson
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson

"One of the best rock scores ever produced. This is an angry, difficult, demanding and rewarding show." - TIME

Note on Digital Perusal: Samuel French's new digital perusal process grants easy, digital access to music perusals while protecting the intellectual property of our composers, book writers, and lyricists. Samuel French perusals are intended to be used for finding the perfect show to fit your theater, casting pool, and resources. Perusals should be used to get acquainted with the music and script. They cannot be used to hold auditions, produce the show without a license, or find sheet music for a separate performance.

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Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.


Full Length Musical


Adaptations (Literature), Period

More than 120 minutes (2 hours)

Time Period - 1980s, 1950s

Settings Of Play -

Budapest; Thailand; JFK Airport between 1956 and the 1980's.


Unit Set/Multiple Settings

Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes, Period Costumes


Mild Adult Themes


Appropriate for all audiences, Adult


High School/Secondary, College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Large Stage


Tony, From Broadway, From West End

The collaborators on Chess are giants of rock music and rock musicals, and here they have created a complex rock opera that played to full Broadway houses and standing ovations. In this musical, the ancient game becomes a metaphor for romantic rivalries, competitive gamesmanship, super-power politics, and international intrigues. The pawns in this drama form a love triangle: the loutish American chess star, the earnest Russian champion, and a Hungarian American female assistant who arrives at the international chess match in Bangkok with the American, but falls for the Russian. From Bangkok to Budapest the players, lovers, politicians, and spies manipulate and are manipulated to the pulse of a monumental rock score that includes “One Night in Bangkok” and “Heaven Help My Heart.”


"One of the best rock scores ever produced. This is an angry, difficult, demanding and rewarding show." - TIME

"Worth seeing." - New York Post

Chess premiered in London at the Prince Edward Theatre on May 14, 1986. It was produced by Three Knights, Robert Fox, The Shubert Organization and ABC Video Enterprises.



9m, 2f, 1boy(s) or girl(s)


Ensemble cast, Expandable casting, Flexible casting, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)



FLORENCE - strong belt voice (to E). Mid-thirties. Born in Hungary (so musn't look like an "All-American Girl"); has been brought up in America since 1956. She is clever, theatrical, touching, vivacious, volatile. Frederick's chess "second."
FREDDIE - Rock tenor (to C). Mid-thirties. An American chess champion. A cross between Bobby Fisher and John McEnroe. Arrogant and temperamental, but a genius; his chess playing revolutionary. We need to see his artistry along with his danger and his obsessiveness.
ANATOLY - Baritone (to G sharp). Early forties. A Russian chess champion. Unexpectedly charming. He doesn't seem a romantic hero at first, but becomes one through his personality. An intelligent, feeling, passionate man.
MOLOKOV - Bass (down to F sharp). Fifties. Not a fake, comic, stage Russian. Intellectually formidable. Seemingly a father figure to Florence. Anatoly's chess "second." An actor who sings well.
SVETLANA - strong belt voice. Late thirties. Anatoly's wife. Domestic, wholesome, homey. A dramatic contrast to Florence - not a contemporary cosmopolitan woman.
WALTER - Bass-Baritone (down to G sharp). Fifties. A marketing agent. Seemingly respectable, substantial, trustworthy. An actor who sings well.
ARBITER - rock high baritone (up to A). Thirty to early forties. International businessman. Smooth, but with a quick temper.

Rental Materials




Classic Broadway



2 Piano/Conductor Scores
30 Vocal Chorus Books

Reed I (Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet)
Reed II (Oboe, Flute, Clarinet, English Horn)
Reed III (Clarinet, Flute, Bass Clarinet)
Reed IV (Bassoon, Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone)
Trumpet I
Trumpet II
Trumpet III
Trombone I
Trombone II
Percussion (Timpani, Mallets, etc.)
Keyboard I (Piano/Synthesizer)
Keyboard II (Synthesizer)
Keyboard III (Synthesizer)
Violins (3 books)
Song Samples


Story of Chess

Where I Want to Be

How Many Women


You Want to Lose Your Only Friend

Someone Else's Story

One Night in Bangkok

Terrace Duet

Nobody's Side


Hungarian Folk Song

Heaven Help My Heart

No Contest

You and I

I Know Him So Well

Pity the Child



You and I (Reprise)

  • Chess


Other Benny Andersson titles:

Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson's plays include The Gabriel Plays (Women Of A Certain Age, What Did You Expect?, Hungry), Oblivion, Nikolai And The Others, The Apple Family Plays (That Hopey Changey Thing, Sweet And Sad, Regular Singing), Farewell To The Theatre, Conversations In Tusculum, Frank’s Home, How Shakespeare Won The West, Rodney's Wife, Franny's Way, Madame Melville, Goodnight Children Everywhere ... view full profile

Other Richard Nelson titles:

Tim Rice

Tim Rice

Tim Rice was born in 1944. He began songwriting in 1965 in which year the first song he wrote, ‘That’s My Story’ ” (tune as well as words) was recorded by a rock group called The Nightshift whose career never recovered.That same year he met fellow budding songwriter Andrew Lloyd Webber whose musical ambitions were in theatre rather than rock or pop. They teamed up and wrote four musicals together ... view full profile

Other Tim Rice titles:

Other Bjorn Ulvaeus titles:

Now Playing
Laney Clark 7/25/2017 12:35 PM
I was in this show 15 years ago and I'm fighting for a chance to direct it. The music is memorizing in this show. If done right you can capture the audience from the opening number and never lose them. We sold out every show! My only worry now is whether the renewed Broadway rumors will keep me from being able to license it for our 2018-19 season <sigh>
Jon Putzke 9/23/2014 3:14 PM
Intense "rock opera" ideal for a college or university music department. Needs strong vocalists in the ensemble as well as the leads. An unique piece of theatre.
Breanne McDonagh 4/22/2013 10:39 PM
I was first introduced to "Chess" my senior year of high school when it was announced that it would be our spring musical.  Having never heard of it before, I went online and looked up the music, and was subsequently wowed by the quality of the score.  Everything was complex and powerful and beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to read the script, expecting characters and a plot as well-developed as the music.
Unfortunately, I was extremely let down. Where "Chess" is blessed with a brilliant score and an original and interesting premise, it crashes with characters less developed than the set pieces behind them. Only three of the show’s eleven primary characters are given any sort of justification in regard to the choices they make throughout the course of the play.  (It should be noted that all three of these characters are male, with both of the show’s primary female characters reduced to little more than love interests and plot devices.) "Chess" had the potential to be great, but where the music soars, the script ultimately sinks.

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