After the thrills of J.K. Rowling’s seven spellbinding books - not forgetting the eight blockbusting movies from Warner Bros. - expectation for Harry Potter’s first theatrical outing was high and the pressure was on!
The show’s official opening isn’t even until July 30th, but fans from all corners of the globe descended in hordes upon London’s Palace Theatre last night. With robes and wands at the ready, they were clamoring to see Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. And, like the boy wizard himself, the play has exceeded all expectations and is already well on its way to becoming an outright theatrical triumph!
Indeed, after its two-and-a-half-hour run time, it received a standing ovation, and has devotees already yearning to see the second installment, which is due on Thursday next week. Katie Bitter, who had come all the way from Washington DC, happily said to the BBC:
"I was a little worried it wouldn't meet my high expectations but tonight was absolutely amazing. It didn't feel like a preview at all."
Written by Jack Thorne — alongside good old J.K. — and directed by John Tiffany, The Cursed Child is set 19 years after the Deathly Hallows epilogue, with an overworked Harry (Jamie Parker) finding an artifact from his past as his son Albus (Sam Clemmett) struggles with the weight of the Potter family legacy.
Little else is known about the plot, since the cast and crew have been incredibly secretive. J.K. Rowling even appealed to theatergoers to stay silent on Youtube, and last night’s lucky audience even received badges reminding them to keep the details to themselves.
However, that didn’t stop some viewers from hinting at big revelations within the play, or the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger, or their excitable praise from pouring out!
Speaking to Time Magazine, Rosa Hadjiska said:
“Sirius’ death, Dumbledore’s death … nothing compares to tonight...We expected laughter, we expected tears, we did not expect the shivers that came.”
Last night was essentially an extended dress rehearsal to iron out any technical issues — the only glitch being a somewhat rebellious owl — but that didn’t stop several news sites from sharing in the fervent enthusiasm (even though they traditionally wait until after the official opening night!). Among many others, Hannah Furness from The Telegraph disclosed that:
“Any fears that the world of Hogwarts on stage would struggle to compete with the multi-million dollar special effects of film were quickly kicked into touch ... the audience came wanting magic and they got in spades. But for all the laughs and tricks, this story also promises to be a thriller. Has Rowling done it again? The audience was in no doubt.”
This is really heartening to hear for Harry Potter fans. Many had worried that the magical saga would not retain its high quality, or translate well onstage. In fact, from Furness’s review, the spells and effects are executed excellently, and the settings of Kings Cross, The Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts are “very atmospheric.”
It’s also very nice to hear praise for Olivier winning actress Noma Dumezweni, who succeeds Emma Watson and plays an older Hermione Granger — since her casting drew criticism from a very vocal minority which disliked the change of her race.
J.K. Rowling has been very defensive of Noma since the announcement, hitting back at detractors on Twitter. She was recently interviewed with her fellow Cursed Child organizers Tiffany and Thorne by The Observer, and they yet again dismissed the “bunch of racists.”
Personally, I’m still thrilled that we’re getting even more Harry Potter goodness nearly ten years after the last book, and five years since the final movie in the series! But if, like me, you’re tempted to get in on the action and book tickets for the show, you might be waiting awhile!
Sadly, it’s sold out until next May!
However, you can still satisfy that Harry Potter craving! The play’s script is set for release in book form on July 31st, a day after the show’s opening. Heck, it’s already topping bestseller lists!
Plus, we still have this little beauty to look forward to later this year:
As J.K. said herself: "Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home," and with so much magic to look forward to throughout 2016, she’s certainly right!
We can’t wait to be caught up in Potter fever once again!