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The Journey from Board Game to Play

Aaron Galligan-Stierle (left) as Wadsworth, Bailey Blaise as Yvette, and Melinda Parrett as Mrs. White in the Festival’s production of Clue.

By Liz Armstrong 

Originally a board game invented by Anthony E. Pratt, Clue has had quite the journey. As a board game it gained popularity around 1954, and in 2019 it was adapted into the play that graces the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s stage this summer. In between, it has been a film, a book, a video game, a game show, and a musical. Clue has had quite the journey, so let’s dive in and follow along: 

1944: The Board Game 

Developed during World War II by Pratt and his wife Elva as a way to wait out the air raids that were occurring in England, the couple received a patent for the game in 1947. 

1985: The Feature Film

This may be the most popular adaptation of the game. The film featured Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, and Eileen Brennan. The film actually lost money in its production, costing $15 million to make and earning $14.6 million at the box office. However, it is still considered a comedy classic, with a cult-like following spawning annual family traditions and watch parties where friends gather to cheer on their favorite character. In fact, some fans say it is the “best film of all time.” 

1985: The Book

Paramount Pictures commissioned a hardcover storybook, a kid’s collectible written by John Landis, Ann Matthews, and Jonathan Lynn. An actual novel was written by Michael McDowell as well.

1985-2009: The Video Game

In 1895, the original video game of Clue was released as a VCR mystery game. Other video game versions followed in 1992, 1998, 1999, 2008, and 2009. 

1990: The British Game Show

The board game was adapted into a game show that ran for four seasons. Two teams of celebrities would watch as guest performers related clues in character. Some of these guest performers included David McCallum, Tom Baker, and Joanna Lumley. Alongside the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden all had their versions of a television series, although the United States never did hop onboard.

1993: The World Championship Event 

Peter DePietro and Tom Chiodo promoted a Clue world championship event in New York City. This event was part competition and part performance art. Participants dressed up as Clue characters and played the game. The winner received a trip to Hollywood.

1995: The Musical 

This musical stage version opened in 1995 in Baltimore, directed by Peter DePietro. It focused on some of the relationships that “lead to the nightly murder of Mr. Boddy.” In this musical, audience members were invited to pick three cards that identified the murderer, weapon, and location, just like the board game.  

1997 and 2022: The Play Off-Broadway 

Opening at the Players Theater in 1997, the off-Broadway performance closed after 29 performances and 17 previews. It was directed once again by DePietro. This past January, Clue opened off-Broadway again at The Paper Mill Playhouse. 

2022: Clue at the Utah Shakespeare Festiva

This is director Hunter Foster’s first time at the Festival who also has a writing credit on the play. In regards to the production, Foster says that the play is “a funny, entertaining evening and a real ensemble piece with great characters and a cast that is onstage together almost the whole time.” 

The 2022 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 20 to October 8 and includes, in addition to Clue, All’s Well That Ends Well, Sweeney Todd, King Lear, The Sound of Music, Trouble in Mind, The Tempest, and Thurgood, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and Repertory Magic. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or going online to bard.org/plays.

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