By: Isa Goldberg
May 4, 2016: After a wham bam success on London’s West End, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, has finally arrived on Broadway. And the ticket prices are part of the spectacle. They’re not cheap. Still, translated into human values, this Potter is a deal.
Written by Jack Thorne, and based on the story as he developed it, with J. K. Rowling, and John Tiffany, the production takes over the entire Lyric Theatre. It’s an installation really. And it’s here to stay, as evidenced by the branded signage all over the interior and exterior of the renovated theater.
As directed by John Tiffany, the British director whose staging of The Glass Menagerie, on Broadway, mined the poetry of Tennessee Williams’ classic work, this production fulfills the richness of Rowling’s story telling.
Morphing realism, with fantasy, and magic is an art at which Tiffany is masterful. Only the essential elements of theater craft – neither pyrotechnics, nor spectacle – reign here. In this production we’re captured by the innocence of child’s play. It’s more like watching kids act out magic in their bedrooms, than a series of staid magic tricks.
From this perspective, we see an older Harry looking at himself, and his son Albus, in his dreams; portraits that talk; actors who project themselves through walls; characters who disappear into bookshelves; and suitcases that function as gravestones. All of this requiring nothing more than the richness of theatrical imagination and childlike inspiration…or so it would appear.
Movement director, Steven Hoggett, who also designed the movement for The Glass Menagerie, brings his wizardry to the choreography of The Cursed Child. The swirl of those Hogwarts’ capes has never felt so dramatic, nor the entrances and entrances from dream sequences so mystical, nor the parents searching for their children with flashlights so well-orchestrated, as they are here. And that doesn’t even include the fabulously cinematographic opening to Part II, with men in black, strutting their stuff with enormous virility.
More than the convincing work of theater artists, Cursed Child, calls on the humanity of its characters. To that end, it’s wonderfully well cast, with several of the actors making their Broadway debut.
In the central role, Albus Potter, Harry’s Hogwarts-age son, Sam Clemmett is darling. And as his father, Jamie Parker resembles Robin Williams. He has that affable every guy affect, while still revealing the character’s serious side.
What is most interesting about the acting style is its truthfulness and immediacy, as reenactment. Rarely do the actors exude the emotions of the moment, however, they recreate those feelings in an expressive, albeit objective way.
While realistic, the acting focuses on the essence of character, rather than its personal or idiosyncratic aspects. Indeed, in this story, about filial relationships, friendship, and loyalty, the characters, Albus, and Harry, are representative of generic boyhood, and fatherhood.
There is unity to the acting style, with Noma Dumezweni as Hermione, the minister of magic, who is devoted, hard-working, and clever. Anthony Boyle, as Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’ best friend, is a jewel of a boy, and Jessie Fisher as Delphi Diggory, the child of Voldemort, hails from a long, and drawn out history of evil.
That the children in this story appear mature beyond their years is very much to the point. As Harry puts it, at the moment of seemingly irrevocable crisis, “It’s up to our sons now. They’re the only ones who can save us.”
Through the telling of this tale, we’re reminded of the courageous High School students, in Parkland, Florida, and all over the United States who stand up for a safer world, without weapons of violence. Ours is a youth crusade, much as Harry and Albus have set in motion.
Go see it. Even if you haven’t read the novels, the play is highly enjoyable.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Parts One and Two *****
213 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036
Part One – 2hrs 40mins (including 1 intermission), Part Two – 2hrs 35mins (including 1 intermission)
Photography: Matthew Murphy & Manuel Harlan