Sunday, September 29, 2019

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Broadway)

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Now in his late 30’s, Harry Potter (James Snyder) juggles being a father and working for the Ministry of Magic. Hermione Granger (Jenny Jules) is the Minister of Magic and is married to Ron Weasley (Matt Mueller), having a son together as well as a daughter named Rose (Nadia Brown). Albus Severus Potter (Nicholas Podany) is the middle child and hardest to deal with among the three. Things get even more complicated when the Sorting Hat places him in Slytherin instead of Gyffindor. Raising eyebrows with the house classification and forever living under the shadow of his famous dad, he finds friendship in Scorpius Malfoy (Bubba Weiler), the geeky son of Draco (Jonno Roberts), who is an outcast himself and persistently hounded by rumors that he is the Dark Lord’s own spawn. As the duo navigate through potions, spells, and Hogwarts cliques, they soon court danger to prove that they can be great wizards, and perhaps change the wizarding world in the process.

You know you are old when Harry Potter comes out of retirement and crosses over to the stage as a dad. Of three! This is one of the things that makes Harry Potter and the Cursed Child work like magic. Aside from taking advantage of an entire generation’s nostalgia, it also presents a storyline that allows its characters to grow up with its fanbase. This is common formula in film and television as of late but theater does not often get to see something similar, even more so for a such a crossover material.

The storyline involves time travel as a plot device which leads to many characters both alive and dead, adored and reviled, to return and present a lot of what-if scenarios. This also gives way to many interactions you never imagined would be possible when you were engrossed in the novels. No spoilers here, though. Just make sure that you skip the cast part of the souvenir program if you want to be genuinely surprised by the characters appearing in the play.

The set design and special effects take a lot of inspiration from Wicked as far as onstage implementation is concerned. Harry Potter has invested a lot on a known universe mostly in films, so it’s exciting to see how they can bring the magic to the stage. They do, and they take advantage of the aspects unique to the medium to give you an extraordinary experience. Trap doors, moving sets, revolving stages, smoke, lighting, invisible harnesses. These are all maximized to transport you back to that magical world we all grew to love.

Even the transitions involve waving capes while moving sets around. It is a simple gesture but helps a lot in lending an air of consistency with the wizarding theme. The play clocks in at 5 hours and 10 minutes including two 20-minute intermissions. Divided into two parts, there are days when you can see Part 1 in the afternoon and Part 2 at night, while there are schedules where the two parts are split between two consecutive evenings. It’s one long coherent plot more or less resembling the pace of the books.

The first half of Part 1 establishes the continuity between the events of Deathly Hallows and the present, where the protagonists are now in their late 30’s and battling one of life’s toughest challenges: Parenthood. The second half of Part 1 and the first half of Part 2 are what-if scenarios brought about by the time-turner as a plot device. The second half of Part 2 concludes the events and reveals the real villain of the story. Yes, there is one big twist to watch out for, which at first seems far-fetched but jives well with the central parenthood theme.

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