Broadway May Be the Next Move for ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

The Netflix Inc. miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” became one of the streaming favorites of the past year, with viewers responding enthusiastically to its story of a female chess champion making her way in a male-dominated field.

The show, which attracted an audience of 62 million households in the first 28 days after its October 2020 release, also sparked a new interest in the game and a boom in the sale of chess sets.

Now, comes the next move: a “Queen’s Gambit” musical that could eventually land on Broadway.

Level Forward, an entertainment company that has produced films and Broadway shows, said Monday that it had acquired the stage rights to Walter Tevis’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” the 1983 novel upon which the Netflix show was based. Adrienne Becker, chief executive officer of the company, said a Broadway-targeted musical was in the works, though she couldn’t say when it would be completed or who would create it.

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Nevertheless, Ms. Becker said the reaction to the Netflix series shows the potential for the story to be theatricalized. “There’s something special speaking to people across genders, across age,” she said.

Ms. Becker and Susan Schulman, the literary agent who represents the family trust of the late Mr. Tevis, declined to provide any financial details of the theatrical rights agreement. Ms. Schulman said she felt there was potential for “Queen’s Gambit,” with its story of fictional chess great Beth Harmon told across a span of several years, that could go beyond the Netflix series and extend to the stage.

“A good story is a good story,” she said.

If it makes it way to Broadway in the next few years, “The Queen’s Gambit” musical will be something of an exception to how Broadway works in terms of timing.

Most shows connected to films, for example, don’t emerge until at least a decade or even a generation after the movie was released. Such was the case with a number of cinematic-based musicals, including “Beetlejuice,” “Tootsie” and “Pretty Woman,” that opened in recent years. The idea, according to theater professionals, is that a Broadway show’s marketing can tap into a film’s classic status and appeal.

While the “Queen’s Gambit” musical would be derived directly from the novel, it is clearly aiming to play off the popularity of the streaming series. The challenge, say Broadway veterans, is that the series may not prove to have had the same lasting impact by the time the theatrical adaptation opens.

And yet, a “Queen’s Gambit” musical could signal a change to Broadway’s approach, said Joe Christopher, a vice president with RWS Entertainment Group, a New York-based company that specializes in theater and live events.

Broadway has been put on hold for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.



Photo:

Nancy Kaszerman/Zuma Press

“The industry is obviously looking to strike while the iron is hot,” he said.

The “Queen’s Gambit” announcement comes at a time when Broadway has been put on hold for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, though producers are beginning to look at the coming fall and winter as a reopening period. During the shutdown, many in the industry have continued developing shows with the idea that Broadway will inevitably return to its booming ways.

If anything, Mike Rafael, a veteran theater sales and ticketing consultant who is developing three new shows at once, said the break from the daily rigors has afforded some people in the industry a chance to explore ideas with a clearer head.

“Instead of going from production to production, people can take the time” to create projects, he said.

Write to Charles Passy at cpassy@wsj.com

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Source: WSJ – US News

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