Harry Potter Hits the Stage

Harry-Potter-and-the-Cursed-Child-poster-461923After months of hoopla, a few days ago we got the first new peep from Harry Potter since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. The fact that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play not a book doesn’t seem to have dampened either interest or enthusiasm. From Deadline Hollywood:

The play, produced by [Colin] Callender and Sonia Friedman, and written by Jack Thorne from an original story by Thorne, Rowling and director [John] Tiffany, spares no expense in bringing the wizardry of Harry Potter’s world to the London stage. In fact, the stagecraft employed is as breathtaking as it is beautifully simple, with an emphasis on techniques that go back centuries, aligned cleverly and seamlessly with established Potter lore. Christine Jones’s set effortlessly transforms into trains, castles and forests, as Imogen Heap’s score whisks us into a magical world living and breathing on the borders of our own. And Steven Hoggett’s movement direction eases transitions with magical interludes that capture the imagination. Detailing this show’s many varied delights specifically would do them a disservice.

As with the main Harry Potter book series, though, the emphasis is on character. The tagline reads, “The eighth story, nineteen years later,” which is only half right. While the play opens with the adult Harry Potter (Jamie Parker) seeing off his second son Albus (Sam Clemmett) on his journey to Hogwarts — a scene that closed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 19 years after the events of the series — the action moves at a clip through Albus’s first three school years. He’s sorted into Slytherin, to his dismay; befriends Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius, to their fathers’ dismay; and is roundly mocked for being a flickering shadow of The Boy Who Lived. By his fourth year, during which much of Cursed Child is set, Albus is a frustrated teenager determined to prove his doubters wrong, though still unable to relate to his famous father.

Those of us who can’t easily get to London to view the play will have to content ourselves with the book. From The New York Times:

J. K. Rowling’s magical seven-volume Harry Potter series is the ultimate bildungsroman, tracing that young wizard’s coming of age, as he not only battles evil but also struggles to come to terms with the responsibilities, losses and burdens of adulthood. In the course of those books, we see a plucky schoolboy, torn by adolescent doubts and confusions, grow into an epic hero, kin to King Arthur, Luke Skywalker and Spider-Man.

Now, in a play set 19 years later, we get to see how this legendary hero has settled into middle age as a civil servant in London, working at the Ministry of Magic. More important, we get to see Harry as a father — and his teenage son Albus’s efforts to cope with the suffocating expectations that come with having a famous father. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is about the journey Albus takes while growing up, and the roles he and his best friend, Scorpius (Draco Malfoy’s son), play when dark forces, perhaps in league with Voldemort, once again threaten the fate of the planet.

And while The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t like all aspects of the new story, they think highly of Rowling for even making the attempt:

J.K. Rowling should be applauded for pushing the boundaries of form. The easiest thing for her to do would have been to just write a new book — or even skip the new book and got right to the movie. Doing a play is a daring creative choice, especially for a multi-billion franchise like Harry Potter. (Imagine if Star Wars: The Force Awakens had started as a play.) This story would definitely be more fun to see performed on stage. Rowling also deserves credit for giving the characters over to someone else to write. The story doesn’t always read like she wrote it, and that gives it an appealing freshness.

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