If you’re a confirmed Potterhead (as am I), you’ll find a way to see this play. If unversed, but intrigued, intrepid and/or well-heeled, do the research before you go! Despite an excess of backstory exposition the rest of us could do without, you’ll be utterly lost otherwise, taking in perhaps ¼ of what’s manifest onstage.
The good news is that this somewhat overstuffed production is, in fact, a rip-roaring good yarn that actually seems like a continuation. Beloved personalities have grown older but retain familiar characteristics. Harry acts without thinking, has trouble expressing his feelings and is riddled with guilt. Ginny is grounded, plucky, perceptive and nurturing. Ron is still mischievous and sweetly bumbling. Hermione is something of a prig.
The Company attending to Draco/Alex Price
Except for the last of these, who’s now African American – casting with which I disagree as we’ve imagined, seen, and been loyal to these people (including described appearances) since 1980 – actors all look like older versions of “themselves.”
We begin nineteen years later as 37 year-old Harry Potter (the appealing Jamie Parker) and his wife Ginny Wesley Potter (Poppy Miller – very fine) see son, Albus Severus (Sam Clemmett), off to his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Son James and daughter Lily make appearances and are then absent.) Also excitedly at the train station are Harry and Ginny’s best friends Ron Weasley (Paul Thornley – wonderful) and wife Hermione Granger Weasley (Noma Dumezweni – aptly stolid; muddy enunciation) seeing off daughter Rose (Susan Heyward).
Hermione has risen to Minister for Magic. Despite chafing against bureaucracy, Harry is now head of The Department for Magical Law Enforcement. Ron owns a joke shop and Ginny is a housewife.
Albus and his father have a volatile relationship clouded by legacy, expectations, and paternal over-protection. Because he’s Harry’s son, other kids are wary of the boy. While Rose flaunts her lineage and is snobby about those with whom she hangs out, he’s grateful for any gesture of camaraderie.
On the train, Albus meets Scorpious Malfoy (Anthony Boyle – flat out terrific), son of Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy (a perfectly cast Alex Price). Rose warns him off, but recognizing another lonely outsider, he becomes fast friends with the platinum-haired peer. We fast forward through school years.
Complex relationships, especially between parent and child and between friends are paramount to the two plays. Writing is sensitive and insightful. True to Rowling, rose-colored glasses are nowhere in sight. I find employing an actor as The Sorting Hat- which has lost its wizard shape – irritating.
Edward James Hyland, Sam Clemmett, Anthony Boyle
When wheelchair-bound Amos Diggory (an effective Edward James Hyland who also acts Dumbledore) hears that a forbidden Time Turner has been found, he turns up at the Potter’s with punk caregiver Delphi (an excellent Jessie Fisher). The old man blames Harry for his son, Cedric’s death, a belief which Harry unfortunately shares. (Arch villain Lord Voldemort killed the boy.)
Diggory demands that Potter go back in time and fix things. Aware of the dangers of adjusting history, Harry refuses. Abus overhears and… At the same time, Harry’s iconic scar starts to hurt again indicating the proximity of dark forces.
Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker, Paul Thornley
Familiar characters include, in part, Moaning Myrtle (a splendidly whiney, lithe Lauren Nicole Cipoletti) who lives in the pipes of the girls’ first floor bathroom at Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall (Geraldine Hughes – nice Scottish lilt but not very imposing), Severus Snape (Byron Jennings), Rubeus Hagrid the giant (a sympathetic Brian Abraham), and He Who Shall Not Be Named (Byran Jennings).
Director John Tiffany helms intimate emotional scenes, active peril, comic magic (love the scene in Hermione’s office!) and crowds with equal skill. Character definition is particularly astute.
Steven Hoggett (Movement Director) whose work you may recognize from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, wields capes with consistent panache and conjures frightening stormtroopers. Synchronized parenthesis are, however, always too long.
Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle – Photo by Matthew Murphy
Set Designer Christine Jones gives us imposing multiple-use arches lit by master of shadow Neil Austin, grand institutional plumbing, and an adept under-the-lake view which wants for seaweed to appear less like a tank. Rolling staircases seem simplistic in their connections. (Hogwarts’ flights look like an Escher drawing. Surely that could’ve been better simulated) and the only messenger owl we see moves so fast we can’t tell it’s an owl.
Jamie Harrison, credited with Illusions and Magic, offers a combination of cheap clown gimmicks, missed opportunities and very cool Potteresque affects. There’s no earthly reason Hogwarts freshmen couldn’t have disappeared/reappeared running onto the right train platform (this is an easy one). A completely irrelevant scene at Diggory’s nursing home creates wand-generated, cheap looking mischief. On the other hand, steam, fire-the portkey is spiffy, and transforming characters immeasurably add.
Costume Designer Katrina Lindsay seems perfectly in sync with authors’ imaginations. Her centaur, giant, and Dementors are marvelous.
Sound Design (Gareth Fry) is, alas, an issue on two fronts. First, because voices, often yelling, can barely be heard over sound effects and second because sound effects, including a corny, Enya-like passage and Esther Williams/Hollywood bubbles, seem too theme park for the quality and integrity of this effort.
Photos by Manuel Harlen
Opening: Jamie Parker and Sam Clemmett
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, & John Tiffany
A New Play by Jack Thorne
Directed by John Tiffany
214 West 43rd Street