Strategy, Love & Politics: UCI Drama Presents a Concert Staging of CHESS


IRVINE, Calif. (October 16, 2017) – UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts Department of Drama opens its 2017 – 18 season with a concert staging of the musical Chess, a complex exploration of strategy and love set at the intersection of US – Russia political relations. With music by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice, Chess premiered in 1986 telling the story of a match between an American Grandmaster (loosely based on the life of Bobby Fischer) and his Soviet rival, and was generally seen as a metaphor for the Cold War politics of the day. This is the first show in a season themed “The Business of Politics/The Politics of Business,” which takes a look at the shady underbelly of capitalism.

UCI Drama’s production is directed by Professor Robin Buck and musically directed by Drama Chair Daniel Gary Busby, who have adapted the narrative to reflect our current political climate. “While the threat during the cold war was physical, a threat of bombs, we now are faced with the invasiveness of a foreign power in our election process,” said Buck. While references to communism and the Soviet Union have been altered, the cult of personality embodied by American Grandmaster “Freddy Trumper” is in full effect, as he revels in his pop-idol status and remains focused on financial gain. His Russian counterpart, meanwhile, navigates what it means to remain loyal to his homeland while exploring opportunities outside its borders, asking himself how far he is willing to go to achieve greatness in the game, and at what personal price?

There have been many versions of Chess since its concept album was first released over thirty years ago, and while some have been fully staged, the concert format has always proven more successful. “The minimalist staging of this show seems to better capture its intimacy; there is always the feeling of characters in an intensely private moment together, while at the same time the whole world is watching,” said Buck. “The concert staging is not a compromise, but actually the best theatrical format in which to realize this piece.” From the rollicking “One Night in Bangkok” to the soaring “Anthem,” backed by a 25-piece professional orchestra, the score is always driving this tale that is ultimately about love: of people, of money, of country, of the game.

Performances and Ticket Information
Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, CA 92612
Evenings: November 11, 16, 17, 18 @ 8 p.m.
Matinees: November 12, 18 @ 2 p.m.
General Admission $25 / Seniors & Groups 10+ $21 / UCI Students & Children under 17 $12. Box Office (949) 824-2787 or

The UCI Drama production team will host a post-performance TalkBack on November 12 after the 2 p.m. matinee with the creative team and cast.