A Queen’s Gambit Musical Is One Way to Revive Chess Onstage, Without Reviving Chess

Each musical of chess. Means there’s one less. Variation left to be produced. Photo: Phil Bray/Netflix/Phil Bray/Netflix

In a remarkable effort to pretend that there isn’t already a famous stage musical about chess, producers have just announced plans for a new stage musical based on the plot of The Queen’s Gambit. Level Forward, a production company that has invested in the likes of Slave Play, Oklahoma!, and What the Constitution Means to Me, has announced that it has acquired the stage rights to Walter Tevis’s novel The Queen’s Gambit, which was also the basis for Netflix’s immensely popular miniseries by Scott Frank, starring Anya Taylor-Joy. The story follows Beth Harmon, an orphan who becomes a chess prodigy and reckons with addiction on her way to global success. It’s a solid enough basis for a musical — imagine the possibilities of an uppers-and-alcohol-fueled dream ballet — but it mostly just really leaves us longing for a revival of the chess musical that already exists, Chess. If you’re not familiar with the history of the mega-musical Tim Rice wrote with ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, please do check it out. The plot, which has been constantly retooled, is a wild globe-trotting Cold War fantasia. It was never that successful on stage, but oh my God, the songs slap. Wait, actually, could they just plug the songs from Chess into The Queen’s Gambit? They would still make just as much sense.

The Queen’s Gambit Stage Musical Is in Development