Directed by Michael Mayer with a new book by Danny Strong Raúl Esparza as Freddie; Ramin Karimloo as Anatoly Ruthie Ann Miles as Svetlana Karen Olivo as Florence Bradley Dean as Ivan Molokov Sean Allan Krillas Walter Anderson Bryce Pinkham as the Arbiter.
Part of Broadway Center Stage In a semi-staged concert format and joined by talent direct from Broadway and here in our nation’s capital, these performances shine a spotlight on the emotional heart of three beloved stories in compelling new ways—placing the artists, their vision, and their work Center Stage!
US v USSR Before and during the song, the Narrator (Arbiter) explains that it is 1979 and the entire world is on high alert, caught in a never ending confrontation between two opposing ideologies - communism and democracy. Both nations have enough nuclear arms to annihilate the entire planet in hours. To prevent the end of civilisation they engage in a Cold War instead, where danger is perceived in every move, even in a simple game of chess.
WHERE I WANT TO BE In an office in Moscow, Molokov and Anatoly discuss the upcoming tournament. Molokov talks about Freddie’s state of mental health and how he can easily be provoked. He questions if Anatoly wishes to share the same fate as the previous Russian challenger who lost to Trumper. Anatoly says that sharing that man's fate does not frighten him, as the state cannot kill a man who is already dead.
In an office in America, Florence has been called in to meet with Walter, a CIA agent, who wants her to collaborate with him. We are told that the Russians are not happy with Freddie’s public outbursts and angry verbal attacks. It transpires that after Freddie won the last championship, the Russians actually gave some concessions in treaty negotiations with the Americans, a sign of how important they take the game of chess and how worried they are about the world perception if they do not retain their prowess in chess - almost as important to them as the arms or space race. She is told that if she does not control Freddie, she will be deported back to Hungary.
PITY THE CHILD #1 Florence returns to their apartment to find Freddie in a confused state. She is instantly aware that this means he has not been taking his pills. She tries to calm him down by talking to him about chess moves and strategies. Once he takes his tablets he is more calm and he is ready, with Florence by his side, to go to Merano for the championship.
MERANO The citizens of Marano and the Arbiter prepare to welcome the chess masters to their town. Anatoly arrives on time, but Freddie is late.
WHAT A SCENE WHAT A JOY Freddie arrives, acts charmingly and veins honour at being in Merano, but soon he starts questioning the ethics of the Russians and the whereabouts of his previous opponent.
MOLOKOV AND ANATOLY Molokov continues to dismiss Freddie as a lunatic and tries to convince Anatoly that he must use Freddie's mental collapse to crush him. Anatoly is not convinced and does not believe that Freddie is crazy. Molokov questions Anatoly's desire to win. COMMIE NEWSPAPERS As Florence and Freddie read what the papers have been saying, Florence tries to convince him that he does not always have to attack the Russians and that perhaps he should try a calmer approach. PRESS CONFERENCE Freddie begins in a veined mood of willingness to answer questions, but soon reverts to his usual persona and begins hurling abuse at the press and the Russians. Walter is furious. Anatoly and Florence have a short conversation, during which Anatoly flirts with her.
A news report is played, telling how SALT II Soviet negotiators have walked out of the negotiations, claiming an overall distrust with the process and a overt feeling they are being condescended to by the West. Walter and Molokov discuss the SALT II negotiations. Freddie’s comments have upset the delegates. Walter explains that the US would be willing to make certain that Freddie loses the championship, in return for the Soviet negotiators agreeing to return to the table. THE ARBITER The ‘Narrator’ now becomes the Arbiter. CHESS #1 The Arbiter introduces the players and announces that Anatoly has drawn the white and will make the first move. As the music begins Anatoly and Freddie make ‘inner’ comments about their lives and each other. Freddie: I don't blame my father for leaving but I still hate him for it. Anatoly: He doesn't deserve Florence, she's too good for him. Anatoly: I wish I could feel love. Freddie: I wish I could feel anything. Freddie eventually halts the game and refuses to continue until the Soviet Union plays an honest match. MODEL OF DECORUM AND TRANQUILITY (QUARTET)
Anatoly tells Molokov he wants to play the American's without the interference of the KGB and their tactics. Florence reminds Molokov about how she was taken from her home and lost her family because of his government. Anatoly apologises to her for what his country did. Molokov suggests that they should all meet and discuss their differences at the mountain inn. 1956 (BUDAPEST IS RISING) In their hotel room. Freddie is in a state, tearing up the room because he thinks it is bugged. He questions Florence's meeting with the red king, asking her if she wants to sleep with Anatoly.
NOBODY'S SIDE Florence questions her situation and her relationship with Freddie. Ronald Reagan's Bear in the Woods election commercial is screened. Walter meets with Molokov and discuss when the delegates will return to the SALT II negotiations. They won't return until Freddie has officially lost the game.
MOUNTAIN DUET Florence arrives at the mountain inn to find Anatoly on his own. Freddie eventually turns up and makes a number of demands before he will return to the game: A £million extra in the pot, TV cameras removed from the arena, the first seven rows of audience removed and a less shinny chess board. The Arbiter gives Freddie 10 hours to return to the board or the match will be forfeited. FLORENCE QUITS Florence: I can't do this anymore, it's over, it's really over.
PITY THE CHILD #2 Freddie decides to forfeit the game to Anatoly, as he does not trust that it will be a fair game. He does not trust the Russian, in fact he does not trust anyone, not even himself. He has been a chess champion since he was 11 years old. The game has taken its toll on him and he announces his retirement from the chess world. Anatoly tells Florence about his life and his love for chess. One thing leads to another and they spend the night together. HEAVEN HELP MY HEART Florence reflects on her feelings for Anatoly. He echoes her thoughts on the last line of the song. Maybe it's best to love a stranger..... On the steps of the British Embassy, Anatoly announces that he is defecting to the United Kingdom. The press question him, but he has nothing more to say. Molokov is furious about the defection and tells Walter that the SALT II treaty is dead, that he will return home a failure and that the world is now a much more dangerous place. ANTHEM Anatoly reflects his homeland
ACT 2 Four years later 1983 Part of Ronald Reagan's evil empire speech is played
STORY OF CHESS The Arbiter and the chorus sing The Story of Chess. Walter and Molokov meet in Bangkok airport. They discuss Able Archer 83 a series of NATO war exercises, which the Russian generals believe are not exercises and instead a cover for an actual invasion on Russia. Molokov tells Walter the Russians are preparing for full fledge nuclear war. ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK Freddie has come to Bangkok as a reporter and is scheduled to interview Anatoly for Global Television the following night.
Anatoly and Florence discuss Freddie and the upcoming interview.
Molokov talks with Svetlana. Telling her to convince Anatoly to return to Russia. If she does not do this, her children will be locked in an orphanage and she will die alone in a Gulag in the coldest corner of Siberia. SOMEONE ELSE'S STORY Svetlana reflects on her relationship with her husband.
SOVIET MACHINE Walter and Molokov meet and discuss why the Russian military are mobilising across eastern Europe. Molokov reminds him that the Russians are preparing for an invasion. When Water asks what he needs to do to convince the Soviets that the US are not planning an invasion, he is told that some assistance with assuring that Anatoly is defeated in the match would go a long way to convincing the generals to life their fingers of the nuclear button.
Walter meets with Freddie and presents him with a video, which he thinks he will find interesting. Florence and Anatoly meet Freddie at the TV studio for the interview. They exchange pleasantries and Freddie claims to be sorry for how he treated Florence.
THE INTERVIEW But once the interview begins, Freddie is once again on the attack and asks Anatoly a number of provocative questions. He then announces that they have his wife on the video and a pleading Svetlana is seen asking Anatoly to come home. As Anatoly leaves the set, Freddie tells Florence that he did this so she could see the truth, how Anatoly is a cheater and a liar, someone who left his wife and his entire family. How can she be with someone like that.
YOU AND I Anatoly tries to comfort Florence and remind her that the KGB are using psychological warfare to get him to lose the match and Freddie is attacking him to get to Florence. They must not let themselves be played in this way.
Molokov and Walter meet again. Molokov informs him that if he can convince Florence to get Anatoly to lose the match and return to Russia, then he will arrange for her father to be released from prison.
THE DEAL (NO DEAL) Svetlana tries to convince Anatoly that he should return to her and his family. Walter tells Florence that her father is alive and what she must do to get him released and if she doesn't, the KGB will kill Svetlana and Florence's father. Svetlana continues to try and convince Anatoly to return to her. When she tells him that she will be killed if he doesn't return, he tries to brush it off as them just playing games. Walter speaks to Freddie and tries to convince him that if he can get Anatoly to return to Russia, then Florence can be his again. Freddie tries, but Anatoly is not interested in any deal. Freddie then finds Florence and tries to convince her that they can still be a team. She is not interested.
PITY THE CHILD #3 Freddie is listening to a recording about a piece of Hindu scripture, as he begins to reflect on his own life.
Anatoly and Florence discuss what has happened. They know it is all mind games, but how can they fight it, what do they really want, and what is the right thing to do? Anatoly leaves to prepare for the match.
I KNOW HIM SO WELL Florence and Svetlana reflect on their love for Anatoly.
Freddie goes to see Anatoly. He explains that he wants to help him, by giving him some guidance on how to win the game. He tells him that winning is everything and that he should forget about everything else. The number one rule for a chess player is play to win, do that and you can never lose, even if you do. ENDGAME As the final match gets underway, Walter and Molokov discuss if Anatoly will throw the match. Molokov explains how the Russians are on high alert to retaliate, when the Able Archer exercises occur. Walter tries to convince him that there will be no attacks on Russian soil, but all seems to rest on Anatoly losing the game. Anatoly wins the game and Walter desperately tries to get the American's to call off the Able Archer exercises. The Arbiter/Narrator tells us the exercises were not called off and on 12 November 1983 Russian generals were waiting for an explosion on soviet soil, with their fingers on the nuclear button. When the leaders realised they had come so close to Armageddon, they realised that perhaps they should simply talk to each other and so nuclear disarmament discussions began. Molokov tells Anatoly, that while he has won the game, others must lose. Svetlana is in great danger, but if he were to return home as a chess champion who was spying on the west, all would be forgiven.
YOU AND I (Reprise) Anatoly tells Florence that he has to return to the Soviet Union, he has to protect Svetlana and his children. Walter talks with Florence and offers her two visas for her return to the United States. The second one is for her father. Anatoly made a single demand before returning to Russia - the release of her father.
Her father appears and tells her that he has been told it was because of a chess game that he has been released.
STORY OF CHESS REPRISE (Reprise) The arbiter sings...
Each game of chess means there's one less Variation left to be played Each day got through means one or two Less mistakes remain to be made.
Florence: Karen Olivo Freddie: Raúl Esparza Anatoly: Ramin Karimloo Svetlana: Ruthie Ann Miles Molokov: Bradley Dean Walter: Sean Allan Krill The Arbiter: Bryce Pinkham