Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy-minded role-playing game, has surged in popularity in recent years. But could it also be the basis for a hit Broadway show?
Players turned to the game, which is owned by the toy-making giant Hasbro
in growing numbers during the pandemic, with sales jumping by 33% in 2020, according to one report. Dungeons & Dragons — or D&D, as fans refer to it — also figured into the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.” There’s even a D&D movie starring Chris Pine in the works.
Now, a D&D musical, “Here There Be Dragons — A New Musical Quest,” is set to premiere off-Broadway in June at the Players Theatre in New York City. And, yes, the team behind it is already talking about a Broadway run in the future.
Chase O’Neill, who wrote the book lyrics for the musical, said he didn’t have to look far for inspiration: The 28-year-old New York-based playwright has been playing D&D since he was in college.
O’Neill said the show “brings the (game’s) fantasy to life,” but that it’s also about the D&D community itself. “The musical is more about the players who play it,” he said.
The show isn’t being licensed through Hasbro, according to O’Neill. Officials with the toy company didn’t immediately respond for comment about the production.
As with many off-Broadway shows, “Here There Be Dragons,” which O’Neill said is being produced on a budget of $250,000, could indeed see a life well after its initial run. O’Neill thinks the musical could prove popular with college theater groups, but he also is keeping Broadway in mind.
Theater professionals say it’s a bit early to determine the show’s chances for success. Ayanna Prescod, who hosts the podcast “What’s Up Broadway?,” said the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons will provide the musical with an initial audience. But ultimately, the show must stand on its own.
“If it’s a bad show then the enthusiasm dies down,” she said.
In any case, Victoria Cairl, a veteran theater-marketing executive, said there’s a natural connection between the theater world and the Dungeons & Dragons community (and the broader gaming community).
“It’s all about role-playing,” said Cairl.
There’s also some precedent for a successful game-themed show. “Clue: The Musical,” based on the game of the same name, had a short run off-Broadway in 1997, but went on to find life in productions at community theaters and elsewhere. In fact, the show was the most-performed at high schools during the 2019-’20 year, beating out such classics as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Romeo and Juliet.”