Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is theatrical spectacle on a grand scale. It just opened at the dramatically-changed CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto after it conquered the rest of the theatrical world. It has been playing in London since the summer of 2016, on Broadway since March 2018, in Melbourne since January 2019, in San Francisco since October 2019, in Hamburg, Germany since February 2020 and is scheduled to open in Japan as well.
In those venues it is played in two parts so you need two nights to see the entire play. For the Toronto production, Harry Potter has been shortened to three and a half hours and is played in one sitting.
What do you get or what is the fuss all about?
You do get a mythical story involving J.K. Rowling’s characters. Most of them have appeared in Rowling’s seven novels that have sold some 600 million copies in 80 languages. You may conclude that there is a dedicated fan base for Rowling’s fiction.
That tells you very little to make you and millions of others to rush to the theatre. Let’s start with a few catchwords. Theatrical magic, relentless entertainment, unbelievable production values, simple magic, complex magic, continuous magic, wonderful story, thrilling stage effects, extraordinary effects, conjury, augury, transformation, time travel. and, yes, superb acting by a large cast. That’s a start.
The Harry Potter empire is the creation of J.K. Rowling but she seems to have played a relatively minor role in the first staging of her work. She is credited with providing the original story along with John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. The latter wrote the play based on the story for which he is one of the three originators. Tiffany directs the production.
The programme has a SPOILER ALERT and advises us not to read the character list until after we have seen the play. I will mention the names of a few of the characters involved if only to tip my hat to their acting without any hints about the plot. We do have Harry Potter (Trevor White), Albus Potter (Luke Kimball), Scorpius Malfoy (Thomas Mitchell Barnet), Hermione Granger (Sarah Afful), Delphi Diggory (Sarah Farb), Draco Malfoy (Brad Hodder), Ron Weasley (Gregory Prest) Ginny Weasley (Trish Lindstrom), Professor McGonagall (Fiona Reid), Amos Diggory (Steven Sutcliffe), Voldemort (Shawn Wright).
A few words about the plot may be allowed without disclosing any untoward information that may spoil your fun. In addition to all the spectacular activity mentioned in the catchwords, there are some intriguing facets in the play. The vagaries of a father-son relationship, the breakdown and restoration of friendship, the search for historic justice and a few other relationships are there to consider.
The programme provides a handy glossary of terms thar are “Good to Know.” A muggle is a person without magical powers who is ignorant of the world of wizards and witches and consequently, I suppose, of the the world of Harry Potter. Therefore, there may be Harry Potter aficionados who can glean plot clues from the names alone but as a muggle I can’t tell how. I confess my ignorance and plead mea culpa, mea culpa.
The magical world of the production is revealed as soon as the performance begins. There is a crowd on the stage and with the twirls of black capes faces change. We see suitcases which become train cars and the world of magical transformations is launched. We are caught by surprise and react with oohs and aahs for a good three hours.
The plot unfolds and people disappear through holes in the wall. There is rich movement of scenery on a revolving stage. This is a magical show so there is much use of flame-spitting wands. Don’t get near those bookshelves. And wait until you see what will float above you and across the audience. Not to mention the pulsating scenery.
The large creative team deserves unstinting praise for extraordinary accomplishments and fertile imaginations. There is a long list of them and I will mention a few. Director John Tiffany, Set Designer Christine Jones, Costume Designer Katrina Lindsay and Lighting Designer Neil Austin. Illusion and Magic are provided by Jamie Harrison. No spectacle like Harry Potter can do without music and sound and that is the bailiwick of Composer and Arranger Imogen Heap, and Sound Designer Gareth Fry. There is judicious and masterful use of videos and Designers Finn Ross and Ash J. Woodward get the standing ovation for that.
I have not mentioned many or praised everyone sufficiently. What do you expect from a muggle? But I bow to their achievement and express my appreciation the way I along with everyone in the theatre did at the end of the performance: with a standing ovation.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne continues at The CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. Toronto, Ontario. www.mirvish.com