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Student Blog: “Hush, Just Stop!” - Not Everything Needs to Be A Musical

A dive into the world of musical adaptation based on the recent news of The Queen's Gambit being turned into a show.

Student Blog: “Hush, Just Stop!” - Not Everything Needs to Be A Musical

Yesterday, while doom-scrolling through Twitter, I saw an article that made my thumb stop in its tracks. According to BroadwayWorld, The Queen's Gambit, the hit Netflix limited series about a talented young chess player, would be adapted into a musical. I'm sorry, what now? If you've been following my blog posts, you should know that I'm a big fan of musical theatre. My laptop even has a sticker on it that says "musical theatre trash" in a big heart! But, as I said in the title, not everything needs to be a musical.

The Queen's Gambit has been one of my favorite shows of 2021. And after watching it, I can safely say that Beth Harmon is not the type of character who would sing out her feelings. She's introverted, a young girl dealing with mental health issues in the harsh spotlight of the chess world. The show uses powerful special effects and intense close-ups to draw the audience into the world Beth is living in. The things that made this show special won't be able to translate onto the stage the way they did on the screen. Besides, don't we already have a musical about chess, appropriately titled, Chess?

Adaptation are always tricky, as you have a group of dedicated fans who will judge the new production, as well as people who will go into the show knowing nothing about what it is based on. And a few are already adaptations, like Wicked, which is basically fanfiction of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. While some musical adaptations, like Les Mis, have been insanely successful, there are many that have failed on the stage. Names like Pretty Woman, King Kong, and Freaky Friday might ring a bell as some recent productions that were not as successful as many people had hoped for.

And what do these musicals have in common? They were all adapted from hit movies, visual performances that have left lasting images in people's minds. Richard Gere slamming the jewelry box down on Julia Roberts' hand, causing her to laugh. The giant gorilla known as King Kong climbing the Empire State Building in New York City. Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis wearing expressions of shock once they realize they're in each other's bodies. These images remain in the minds of audiences, which influences how they see the adaptations. Already, the expectations are high, causing trouble for everyone involved.

It is my belief that the best form of adaptation is book to movie, as proven by Phantom of the Opera, Fun Home, Cats, and yes, Les Mis. Even the explosive Hamilton could be considered an adaptation of Ron Chernow's book, Alexander Hamilton. When adapting a book, the creative team doesn't have to worry about the images that already exist the minds of audiences. Instead, they are able to create their own world based on the books, only having to stick to the basic plot and setting of the story the musical is based on.

Ultimately, I think that producers need to take a break when it comes to adapting hit media, particularly movies and television shows, into musicals. Broadway should be more open to original work, especially from less-represented groups who have been fighting for a spot in the theatre world. There have been hundreds of artists emerging on social media and other streaming sites that deserve to have their work heard by a wider audience. The Queen's Gambit is a fantastic story, but one that would most likely fail in being translated from the screen to stage and would just be another chess musical.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Kat Mokrynski