Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.. What to say? What to say? Is it fair to say it was one of the greatest (maybe the greatest), thing I have seen or done in the last few years? Maybe.. To be honest, I went in with pretty low expectations. While I purposely avoided reading the screenplay, those that did were not all too impressed by it. More importantly though, I have learned to lower the bar with Potter in general. Both the original eight movies, and the newer Fantastic Beasts story are alright, but for me were always a bit of a letdown. I enjoyed watching them and was in line at midnight like everyone else, but they never quite captured the magic of Harry Potter in a way that came close to the complete suspension of reality that J.K. Rowling’s books had. This show did.
The plays themselves were outstanding (it is two full shows that can be watched in one day), the acting was amazing, the stage design and special effects were absolutely surreal, the story line was completely engaging, and in general, all the boxes that separate a great show from a good one were ticked. This is me basically saying that your cousin who never read the Harry Potter books (why oh why :((((? ) could walk into the Palace Theater in London, and be blown away.
All that is well and good, but I didn’t refresh the ticketing website for months in order to just see a great show. No, this show was the number one item on my London bucket list because of what Harry Potter represents to me, and what this production had the potential to create. As many others did, I first discovered the boy who lived when I was eight years old, and was lucky to be able to grow up alongside him. While I read plenty, these books were unquestionably the refuge I kept going back to. When the real world felt unfair, when I thought I would never be very good at anything, when I didn’t understand how to interact with people, when things were bad in general, I escaped into Harry’s world. This world made sense for little Kyle, good and evil were distinct and obvious. Even when things seemed bad, the heroes figured out a way to keep the darkness at bay. Plus, as most people probably know at this point, Rowling’s world building is as good as it gets. The attention to detail and consistency across all seven books is hard to fathom at times. It creates a setting so intensely vivid that one can escape completely into the pages for hours on end. So, it isn’t shocking that the prospect of a Harry Potter tale on stage has enticed me and everyone else on the one-year long ticket waiting list. I essentially had low expectations, but a high potential bar.
To my pleasant surprise, the show captured the Potter magic in a way I thought would never happen again after finishing book seven. It managed to stand up as a new story (that of one of Harry’s children and his friends), but a new story that delved into the ramifications of the old story and paid constant homage to the originals. While other stories (the new Star Wars), can slightly lose themselves trying to placate their original fan base, The Cursed Child does so in a beautiful, unforced, and poignant way. More importantly, the story was completely believable. The ramifications and implications of being born Harry’s children, of unavoidable deaths that occurred in the books, are all are explored at length, and they feel genuine. The character’s personalities still shine brightly into their adult-selves, and the humor and warmth comes through even in the darkest parts of the show, just like the books. The two shows run over five hours (with dinner in between), and after the initial wow factor of seeing unexplainable magic happening on stage wears off, we were completely engrossed for the duration. Through the final act, it was pretty clear that much of the theater was in tears. All in all, I am still processing how fantastic this production was.
At this point of any review I would normally be pushing anyone who got this far to go see the show as soon as possible. In this case I realize that is a rather cruel thing to do. The Palace Theater will never hold a fraction of the Potter fans in the world, London is far from most people, and the insane ticket prices will be a barrier for many, even if they weren’t sold out. So I guess I would just say that if you are a HP fan and ever get the chance to see the show, do everything in your power to make that happen. You won’t be disappointed. It will hit you in all sorts of ways, and let you lose yourself in the wizard world all over again.