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FUSE Productions Brings Cold War-Era Rock Musical 'Chess' to Schwab Auditorium

on September 13, 2018 8:13 AM

Local fans of the pop super-group ABBA have reason to celebrate in mid-September. The 1984 musical “Chess,” with lyrics by Tim Rice and a score composed by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, will run for one weekend only in Schwab Auditorium on the Penn State campus.

The kickoff musical in FUSE Productions’ 2018-19 Mainstage Season, “Chess” stars Natalie Weiss, Matthew Hydzik and Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton, a trio of New York-based actor/singers with Broadway and regional credits and Penn State musical theater pedigrees.

The musical will be performed evenings, Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $28 for adults, $33 for premium seating and $15 for students, and can be purchased at The production is recommended for ages 12 and older.


An allegory for Cold War tensions, the show tells the story of two chess grandmasters, one American and one Russian, who fight over a woman who manages one of them.

“It’s the complications of the show that move me the most,” said FUSE artistic director Richard Biever in a press release. “The political and emotional layers. There’s a love triangle, but it’s international. There’s a Soviet defector — all of the political games of the Cold War are played on top of the chess match.”

As with many of FUSE’s productions, Biever said he hopes this one will spark discussion. “Collusion between Americans and Russians is mentioned at one point in the lyrics,” he said, “and we now seem to be in the midst of a similar xenophobic ‘red scare.’”

“Chess” is a sung-through rock musical that was first released as a concept album in 1984. A single from the record, “One Night in Bangkok,” became a No. 3 hit in the U.S. The show began a three-year run in London’s West End in 1986, followed by a revised Broadway version that closed after only two months in 1988.

Revived and revised many times since then, “Chess” is enjoying a recent renaissance, with three different major revivals playing in Sweden, London and New York. FUSE will present the “original” U.K. version of the show.

“The score is phenomenal,” Biever said. “It’s got an amazing variety of music.” In addition to a 16-piece orchestra and off-stage choir, the production will feature a 20-member cast. “This will be like our June production of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in that the singing is primary.”

In addition to the three leads, the principals include FUSE regulars Chris Hirsh, Wil Hutton, John Nichici and Nicole Johndrow Wilson. The show is directed by Biever with music direction by Alex Shields, choreography by Connor Weigand, stage management by Ronda Craig, costumes by Julie Snyder, lighting by Tyler Sperrazza and sound by Michael Blake.

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