This interview originally appeared in Metro Weekly on Feb 14, 2018
Raúl Esparza on bringing back “Chess” and Trump’s hostility to immigrants
Broadway star Raúl Esparza heads up an all new production of the fabled musical 'Chess' at the Kennedy Center
Raúl Esparza was in high school, on a trip to London, when he first saw Chess.
"It was the original production. I know Elaine Paige was in it and I believe
It’s no secret that the musical, which revolves around a chess competition set during the height of the Cold War, had its share of issues, particularly with a messy, troubled book (the original 1988 Broadway production closed after just 68 performances). Still, with its melodically vibrant score by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and lyrics by Tim Rice, Chess became the stuff of musical theater lore. Theater professionals have been trying to fix it ever since.
Maybe this time will be the charm, as it’s being revived for a seven-performance-only run as part of the Kennedy Center’s Broadway Center Stage. It features an entirely new book by Danny Strong (Empire, The Butler), direction from Tony Award-winner Michael Meyer (Spring Awakening), and stars Tony-winners Karen Olivo (West Side Story) and Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I), and Esparza, who, in the starring role of the American Grandmaster, inherits the evening’s showstopper “One Night in Bangkok.”
Esparza feels that performing the politically-charged musical in D.C. will resonate on a higher level.
"Given the climate of the world right now, D.C. is the epicenter of a
A child of Cuban immigrants and raised in Miami, Esparza takes a particularly bleak view of the current administration’s flagrantly hostile attitude toward immigrants. His tone increasingly agitated, he says:
I think it’s worse than loathsome. They’re missing fundamentally what the concept of America is. This is a country founded on the idea that we can become anybody we want to be, no matter where we come from, no matter what class we’re from, no matter what social station we’re from, no matter how much money we have.
Chess plays through Sunday, Feb 18 in the Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $69 to $199. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
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