The two-part stage play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” opens officially on Saturday at the Palace Theater in London’s West End, but previews have been running since June 7, and press reviews appeared Tuesday. Variety answers 10 questions conjured up by this latest addition to author J.K. Rowling’s highly popular, highly creative and highly lucrative wizarding world.
What did the critics think?
The reviews have almost all been as glowing as the tip of Harry’s wand. Rowling re-tweeted the best of them, such as the ones from London’s Daily Telegraph (“British theater hasn’t known anything like it for decades”) and London’s Evening Standard (“For once the so-called theatrical event of the year really is just that”).
Were there any naysayers?
While almost all leading critics in Britain lauded the show, some had quibbles. The Financial Times said the play is “long and bogged down by too much incident and too many characters,” while the Guardian spoke of a “convoluted story” that will “make much more sense to hardened Potterheads than to anyone who is not a member of the global cult.”
Although the play officially opens on Saturday, previews have already been going for seven weeks. Is that unusual?
Matt Trueman, Variety’s London theater reviewer, said: “It’s not unusual, exactly. ‘Groundhog Day’ will have done a full month, for instance. What made this particular is that they were previewing one part, having a day off, then previewing the other. Actually, each individual show will have had a fairly standard number of previews.”
One of the changes made in the preview stage was the removal of live owls from the production. This followed the escape of one of the birds during the first performance.
Will the play transfer to Broadway, and is there a New York venue already lined up?
Gordon Cox, Variety’s Broadway expert, said: “No formal Broadway plans yet, and definitely no theater, but it seems sure to make it over eventually. Producer Sonia Friedman regularly produces work on both sides of the Atlantic, as does [fellow producer] Colin Callender.”
In his roundup of critics’ reviews, Cox noted that the New York Times critic Ben Brantley’s “thumbs-up is sure to grease the wheels for an incoming Broadway transfer.”
What about a movie adaptation of the stage play?
David Heyman, the producer of the Harry Potter movie franchise, told Variety that, while he “can’t wait” to see the play, “there have been no discussions of it being a film.” Mark Hutchinson, Rowling’s publicist, added: “’Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is a stage play, with no plans for there to be a film.”
Who provides the standout performance in the play?
Some critics have singled out the performance of Anthony Boyle, who plays Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry’s old rival, Draco Malfoy. The Guardian described his characterization as “wonderfully quirky,” and The Independent wrote, “Boyle shows spectacular comic timing.” The Wall Street Journal said: “The breakout performance is Anthony Boyle’s turn as the lonely, dorkish Scorpius. Wry and skittish, Mr. Boyle is a lanky live wire of self-deprecation.”
Tickets are expensive and also sold out, so how can I see the play if I haven’t already bought them?
Every Friday at 1 p.m. London time, the theater releases 40 tickets for every performance the following week. To buy these tickets go to the play’s website at that time and click the “book tickets” button (click here). Customers are selected at random for a chance to buy the tickets. Tickets cost £40 ($53) for both parts for “some of the very best seats in the theater.” The cost of regular tickets range from £30 ($39) to £130 ($171) for both parts.
If I still can’t see the play, how can I find out about the story?
The book of the play’s script will launch on July 31, which is both Harry Potter’s and Rowling’s birthdays. This is the “Special Rehearsal Edition,” comprising the text version of the script at the time of the play’s preview performances. It will be replaced by a “Definitive Collector’s Edition” at a later date, according to Rowling’s literary agency, The Blair Partnership.
Is the book of the script likely to be a hit?
It is already. On Monday, U.S. bookseller Barnes & Noble said the playscript is the company’s most pre-ordered book since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the final installment in Rowling’s seven-volume series, in 2007, and it expects it to be its biggest-selling book of the year.
Will there be celebrities at Saturday’s Opening Gala performance?
“Invitations for the Opening Gala are for the friends and family of those who have worked on the production, as a celebration for the cast and creative teams,” a spokesperson for the production told Variety. Visit Variety.com on Saturday for photos, footage and interviews with Potter fans at the theater.