This week brings more theatrical releases than American audiences have gotten in ages — and possibly more than they’re ready for now, as vaccine rollouts…
Harry Potter has come to Broadway.
But The Boy Who Lived is a boy no longer: He’s 37 years old and going through a magical midlife crisis in J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne’s outstanding play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which opened Sunday night.
And Broadway’s never seen anything quite like it.
This family show is more than five hours long and presented in two parts, requiring two separate tickets (and good luck getting them). Much of the story is told through Steven Hoggett’s brilliantly choreographed moves. Witches glide across the stage, clutching their robes and swishing them in rhythm. Stags are brought to life in vibrant blue flame, and people disappear into thin air. Had Harry crooned a ballad to his broomstick, “Cursed Child” would be the best musical of the season.
But there are no songs here. “Cursed Child” is very much a play, and a captivating one at that.
There’s an air of mystery around this show. Ushers hand out buttons saying, “Keep the secrets,” to departing theatergoers, who have been urged to divulge little of the plot of director John Tiffany’s slick production. So you won’t find any spoilage here — just some light fermentation.
Although Harry Potter is the name in the title, the real heroes here are his 11-year-old son, Albus (Sam Clemmett), just starting his first year at Hogwarts School, and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle). Yes, Malfoy, spawn of Draco, Harry’s platinum-blond nemesis.
But Albus — named for Hogwarts’ beloved headmaster, Dumbledore — has his own demons. He stinks at spells, lacks Dad’s charisma and can’t stomach the spotlight.
Nevertheless, he summons the gumption to go on a Potter-y adventure — and save, ruin and then finally save the day. While this is mainly a time-travel story in which Albus and Scorpius try to rewrite history, it best succeeds as a drama about a father and son trying so hard to communicate but not hearing each other.
While you’ll feel more at home if you’ve read Rowling’s books or seen the films, Potter neophytes will certainly be moved by the parent-child dynamics in this play.
That said, the clunky dialogue could have used some transfiguration, because Tennessee Williams, this isn’t — it’s barely Indiana Jones. But nobody turns to Harry Potter for Oscar Wildean wit. If you’re after escape, laughter and a good cry, “Cursed Child” delivers.
It also boasts some strong performers, many of whom made the trip from London. The play’s single biggest asset is Boyle’s geeky Scorpius, who has no volume control but a pitch-perfect knack for landing a punch line.
Jamie Parker’s Harry is a blend of the curious teen we met in 1997 and a bedraggled 9-to-5’er. Clemmett’s Albus will make you wince remembering those school days when it seemed nothing would ever get better. And then there’s the terrific Byron Jennings, who plays . . . well, I’ve promised not to spoil it.
The Lyric Theatre has undergone a stunning renovation. Original artwork, fixtures, carpeting and more are all Harry-themed now. Clearly, the Potter producers, like a renter who paints his walls chartreuse, don’t think they’re going anywhere for a long time.
And, by Dumbledore, they may well be right.
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