How Seeing “Cursed Child” on Broadway Rekindled My Love for “Potter”
It’s been almost two years since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premiered at the Palace Theatre in London, and now the show has made its way across the pond to the Lyric Theatre in New York City. We got the opportunity to watch the show over the weekend and went in with high expectations given the play’s record-breaking nine Laurence Olivier awards. If this review was an OWL grade, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would receive an O for “Outstanding.” In the spirit of #KeepTheSecrets, this review is spoiler free.
Walking into the Lyric Theatre was like stepping into a liminal space, some magical place that exists hidden in the middle of Muggle New York City. Every enchanting detail brought you deeper into the magical world: the wallpaper, light fixtures, carpet, usher uniforms, and so much more. Having a space so thoroughly dedicated to the spirit of the show brought the magic to life long before it even started.
I could write novels on every creative design aspect of this show – the costumes, the set, the music, the illusions – but the magic that ties everything together is Neil Austin’s lighting design. In every transition, the light transports the audience through time and space without a hitch. The lighting adds layer upon layer of depth and richness to the mood of each scene from the warmth of King’s Cross at the play’s opening to the darkest and most frightening moments of Part Two. Although I went into the show having read the script beforehand, my jaw hit the floor at least a dozen times thanks to the show’s superb magic and illusions. The lighting and magic work together seamlessly, creating stunning visual surprises that up the ante for theatrical productions across the world.
While the technical aspects of the show immerse the audience in the wizarding world, the characters are its true heart. Jamie Parker (Harry), Paul Thornley (Ron), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione), and Alex Price (Draco) bring the golden trio and our favorite Malfoy to life with exceptional skill, blending the quirks and traits we’ve seen in previous adaptations with the changes that come alongside an additional two decades of life. Dumezweni’s Hermione is powerful, graceful, and brimming with confidence. Thornley is a lovable, greatly matured Ron with impeccable comedic delivery. Price’s compelling portrayal of Draco shows us an aspect of his personality we never got to explore in the books and brought me, a former Malfoy-hater, to a place of deep sympathy for the character. Parker brings adult Harry to life in a truly moving performance, showing us how difficult it is to be the Boy Who Lived as an adult with children.
Poppy Miller (Ginny) gave my favorite performance of the ensemble. Her incredible strength and finesse as an actress brought the Ginny I read on the pages of the novels to life before my eyes. It’s easy to see the fiery, red-haired young woman who sent her enemies sprinting away with Bat-Bogey Hexes in Miller’s Ginny.
Sam Clemmett (Albus Severus) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius) had the Herculean task of bringing to life characters who live in the shadows of their fathers, characters we only got a glimpse of in both the books and the films. I believe you need to see these characters in action onstage to truly understand how delightful they are. Clemmett and Boyle are the centers of the show; they carry the weight of the play’s action with skill, and their stupendous performances remind the audience how it felt to be growing up.
After the Cursed Child script was initially released, a number of Potter fans were very disappointed in what they read. Citing canonical conflicts and outlandish plot points, they judged the script before they ever saw it produced onstage. As JKR said, this is a story about feeling. Getting caught up in the details misses its point entirely.
I urge everyone to reserve judgment until they have seen it, which I understand can be difficult for those who will not have the opportunity to do so anytime soon. I sincerely hope the show will be available for everyone to view at some point in the near future because Cursed Child is a truly magnificent experience.