Is the Broadway version of J.K. Rowling’s latest evolution of the Harry Potter franchise worth hopping a broom to see? Judging from all the swooning reviews the muggles are tripping over themselves to write following the weekend premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the stage may turn out to be an even better home for Hogwarts than the screen ever was.
The play had its splashy opening Sunday night at the Lyric Theatre in New York, where SYFY WIRE caught up with Rowling herself — as well as the production’s creative team — to talk about the challenges of making magic happen without a CGI safety net, as well as what an integral part of the play’s success the Lyric has become.
And a success it indeed appears to be. After a preview run at London’s West End dating back to 2016, the Broadway-adapted version of Cursed Child finally hit New York on April 22, and critics of both film and stage already are getting hyperbolic.
Here are some of the highlights:
“Playwright Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and his indispensable movement collaborator Steven Hoggett achieve the near impossible,” gushed The Hollywood Reporter: “They mount a persuasive case that this story we all know from novels and/or movies only now has found its nonpareil medium."
Variety sounded butterbeer-drunk in its effusion, too: Tiffany “and his wizard designers have answered the big question: What can the theater do for the story of Harry Potter that the books and movie treatments haven’t done? … For a show that isn’t a musical, the production pulses with action thanks to movement designer Steven Hoggett’s inspired work.”
Entertainment Weekly kept the momentum going, describing the sprawling, two-part play as a “theme-park whirligig that dizzyingly checks all the boxes you’d expect to see of a show that bears the famous Potter name… parsed as a production, it’s a technical achievement that redefines the possibilities of theatre. “
Cursed Child isn’t even a musical, but that hasn’t stopped Broadway watchers from hopping on board the hype train to Diagon Alley. “What is a complete revelation, and was by no means assured, is the sheer scope and integrity of the accomplished storytelling the authors and entire creative team bring,” Broadway News observed.
A central theme running through all the reviews is the New York version’s theater-centric upgrade over the London original. The Lyric gets as much praise for its adaptive role in bringing Rowling’s magic to life as any of the actors or creatives involved in making it all happen.
“[W]itnessing elevated stagecraft applied to a time-traveling fantasy story of this nature conjures a sense of wonder and excitement that evokes vintage Saturday-matinee serials,” THR wrote. “… The reconfigured house feels both grander and cozier, with custom-monogrammed Hogwarts carpeting, phoenix sconces and dragon light fixtures.”
“In a word, the theater has brought its own brand of wizardry to the material,” Variety added. “Visually and aurally, the show presents a panorama of dazzling effects that draw audible gasps from the audience.”
Set nearly two decades after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Cursed Child follows Harry's son, Albus Severus Potter, through a five-hour, two-installment stage journey that marks the most expensive Broadway treatment a non-musical has ever received. Rowling told SYFY WIRE that the theater is where this story always was meant to be told, and that renovating the Lyric was a daunting — but ultimately worthwhile — commitment to bringing her material to life.
"It's a theatrical experience,” she said. “To be honest, I think it would be quite a lazy thing to do to put it on screen.”
Tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway have been hot, and it would take something truly magical to change that anytime soon. With a new batch just getting set to go on sale, check out the official ticket info page to score yours.