This rock opera, with lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Richard Nelson, and music by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, was first produced as a concept album. Now, after a number of unsatisfactory theatrical variations, Rice has wisely named the concert version as the official one. Like the game of chess, the show is abstract, and the concert version matches that, putting the focus on the characters, their emotional conflicts and the virtuosity of the performers. The action is set at the international chess championship matches. Act 1 pits Soviet champ Anatoly (Peter Welkin) against the willful, petulant, show-boating American, Frederick (Blake McIver Ewing). Anatoly wins but immediately defects to England, setting the stage for the dynamic Act 2. Defector Anatoly is pitted against a high-powered Soviet player (Christopher Zenner). Soviet official Molokov (Gregory North) is hell-bent on making sure the disloyal Anatoly loses and will do anything to make realize that outcome, including psychological warfare, blackmail and ruthless meddling with the personal lives of Anatoly, his estranged wife (Emily Dykes) and his Hungarian girlfriend, Florence (Nicci Claspell). Director Robert Marra provides a crisply elegant production, musical director/conductor Greg Haake impeccably renders the challenging score, and the performers are terrific, including Gil Darnell, Rich Brunner and the excellent chorus. Met Theatre, 1089 Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through August 29. (323) 960-7735. Produced by The Musical Theatre of Los Angeles.
Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: July 23. Continues through Aug. 29, 2010