REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Is Unlike Anything You've Seen on Broadway Before
Harry Potter defeated Voldemort, and now he's conquered his next big challenge — Broadway — in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter defeated Voldemort, and now he’s conquered his next big challenge: Broadway.
The title character at the center of J.K. Rowling’s series of beloved novels (and subsequent films) has made his way to the Great White Way in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — an enchanting and cinematic two-part play that runs over five hours. It’s now open at the newly renovated Lyric Theatre.
Potter’s brought along with him a slew of familiar faces — including BFFs Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, wife Ginny Weasley, and former foe Draco Malfoy — as well as some surprise characters. The eighth tale picks up 19 years after the events of Deathly Hallows with a middle-aged Harry sending his youngest son Albus off to Hogwarts (the play’s first scene is nearly word-for-word from the final novel’s epilogue).
Potterheads, as they’ve been come to be called, are familiar with the story. Written by Jack Thorne, with Rowling and director John Tiffany’s conceptual assistance, the manuscript was published in July 2016 and became the fastest-selling book since the last Harry Potter title.
Although some critics wrote Cursed Child off as just fan fiction (the New York Times‘ Michiko Kakutani said “the script is missing the fully imagined, immersive amplitude of Ms. Rowling’s novels”), the play feels very different when seen on stage.
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Much of that is thanks to Tiffany’s brilliant, creative direction and the beautiful work from set designer Christine Jones and lighting designer Neil Austin. Together, they infuse the story with a mix of inventive and exciting stage magic that makes Cursed Child a must-see for Muggles everywhere.
Words can’t truly describe what Tiffany and his team of creatives have done here. Characters magically appear and disappear in front of your very eyes. Others shoot fire and spells from their wands. Paintings come to life. Dementors hover in the air. There’s flying. And swimming. In one of the most outstanding sequences, there’s a transformation that will have theatergoers wondering “How’d they do that?” for days to come.
It’s unlike anything seen on Broadway before.
Leading Cursed Child are members of the original London cast, who premiered the play to great acclaim in 2016.
As Harry, Jamie Parker (The History Boys) has the perfect blend of blind courage readers have come to expect from Harry and the vulnerability brought on from a childhood of growing up in isolation under the stairs. The boy who lived is now a Ministry of Magic employee and father of three. Parker shows that transition hasn’t been without its stumbles. He owns Potter’s pain, especially when it comes to the many ways in which our hero has failed as a parent.
That disappointment is most present in the relationship between Potter and Albus. The boy — one of the many new characters introduced in the play — is played convincingly by Sam Clemmett, who manages to keep his stubborn teen sympathetic and likable throughout even when he rages against his father.
Clemmett spends much of his stage time with Anthony Boyle, the play’s major breakout. Boyle plays Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco who befriends Albus and accompanies him on a journey to right the wrongs of the past. First mentioned in Rowling’s Deathly Hallows‘ epilogue for his curt nod, Boyle takes that quick footnote and turns Scorpius into a fleshed out, complex character with a polarizing personality and quirky mannerisms.
Of course, this being Harry Potter, Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron (Paul Thornley) get their time in the spotlight, too. When they’re paired with Potter, it feels like old times. Thornley has Ron’s humor down pat. Dumezweni maintains Hermione’s gumption and adds a level of insecurity to her character over always being smarter than everyone else.
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Tickets won’t be easy to get. And with regular-priced seats running upwards of $199 per seat per play, they won’t be cheap either (For every performance, 300 tickets priced at $40 or less per part are available — with 150 of those priced at $20 per part, but those will go quickly). It’s a tall order and a big time commitment, as both parts are intended to be seen in order on the same day (matinee and evening) or on two consecutive nights.
Still, Cursed Child is worth seeing even if you’ve never read a single line of Harry Potter or seen any of the movies. The show is filled with triumphant theatrics and adventurous action. It’s suspenseful and exciting in ways that plays rarely are. Plus it’s still got the heart, humanity and warmth of a Rowling novel.
The play will run on Broadway for decades to come. It’s not a production likely to tour, so a trip to the Big Apple is necessary. Like seeing the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, this should be a visit tourists everywhere should take.
This kind of magic, after all, can’t be missed.