Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ at the Lyric Theatre

Amazing bursts of magic that dazzle in the darkness, distinctive characterizations of a host of eccentric, endearing, and evil personalities by an enthralling cast, a complex and compelling tale of spellbinding supernatural phenomena that teaches momentous life lessons for Wizards and “Muggles” alike, and a fully immersive design that transforms the theater and transports the audience into the wondrous world of J.K. Rowling’s beloved children’s stories – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has it all! Following a spectacular award-winning world premiere in London, the new play by Jack Thorne, based on an original new story by Rowling, Thorne, and Director John Tiffany, makes its blockbuster Broadway debut at the Lyric Theatre after a $33-million themed revamping of the house and a record-breaking $68-million price tag for the production – a two-part five-and-a-half-hour epic that’s well worth every penny spent on it and every second spent at it.

Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, and Sam Clemmett. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, and Sam Clemmett. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Eighth in the Harry Potter series and the first to be presented on stage, the imaginative sequel follows the lives of the well-known figures from Rowling’s preceding novels and film adaptations nineteen years hence, as the 37-year-old Harry, now married to Ginny and the father of three children, sends his teenage son Albus off to study at his old alma mater. The reluctant Albus is joined by his cousin Rose, the daughter of Hermione Granger (Head of the Ministry of Magic, for which Harry also works) and Ron Weasley (Ginny’s brother), all of whom have remained the best of friends since their own school days at Hogwarts. En route aboard the Hogwarts Express, Albus befriends the adorably awkward Scorpius (son of Harry’s long-time adversary Draco Malfoy), both of whom have rocky relationships with their legendary fathers and trouble fitting in at school. Their growing bond leads to a thrilling time-traveling journey, filled with twists and turns, mystery and illusion, didactic messages and moral principles, as the boys attempt to right a wrong from the past (a past that still haunts Harry), battle the forces of darkness, decipher the meaning of the secret prophecy, and come to terms with their paternal legacy.

In order to maintain all of the surprises and unexpected plot points that unfold, audience members are advised not to read the program’s full list of characters, and, upon exiting the theater, viewers (and reviewers) are handed buttons that urge everyone to #KeeptheSecrets. So as not to spoil anyone’s firsthand experience, suffice it to say that there are appearances by a readily-recognizable roster of favorites from earlier episodes in the saga (uncanny in their resemblance to the ones in the movies, in costumes by Katrina Lindsay and hair, wigs, and make-up by Carole Hancock) and an inventive set (by Christine Jones) that cleverly recreates the familiar locales in the ongoing narrative (along with hidden designs of fantastic faces and monograms to be found in the refurbished theater’s wallpaper and carpeting, and an imposing installation on the building’s exterior). In addition, there is an ingenious use of suitcases and capes (movement by Steven Hoggett); dark and evocative lighting (by Neil Austin), enveloping sound (by Gareth Fry), and eerie music (music and arrangements by Imogen Heap; music supervision and arrangements by Martin Lowe) that create a mood of mystery; and astonishing entrances, exits, and transformations of the figures, and mind-boggling illusions on both the stage and throughout the house that will leave you asking “How’d they do that?” (illusions and magic by Jamie Harrison) – all to the delight of devoted ‘Potterheads’ (who are at an advantage with their extensive knowledge) and newbies who are not as well versed in the subject (but are aided by a synopsis of the seven past installments and a glossary of terms and names included in the program).

Sam Clemmett, Brian Abraham, and Anthony Boyle. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Sam Clemmett, Brian Abraham, and Anthony Boyle. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The seven lead characters are portrayed by a stellar team of actors from the original London production. Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger, Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley, Poppy Miller as Ginny Potter, and Alex Price as Draco Malfoy deliver spot-on adult versions of the developing personality types and traits that were already discernible in the younger incarnations of their roles in the books and films, and Sam Clemmett as Albus Potter and Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy bring all the teenage angst and adolescent uncertainty required for their second-generation protagonists. Thornley and Boyle also provide outstanding comic relief with their amusingly geeky characterizations and expressive voices, as does Lauren Nicole Cipoletti, in her hilarious scene as Moaning Myrtle. Other standouts in the supporting cast are Brian Abraham and David St. Louis, and the terrific Jessie Fisher, who skillfully capture the essence of their characters and help to set the otherworldly tone.

Under Tiffany’s masterful direction, the depth and richness of the characters’ emotions and psychology are never lost amidst the captivating spectacle. There is a fine balance between surreal fantasy and universal feelings, with the important themes of love, family, friendship, and support underlying all of the story’s dramatic action and staggering illusion. With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child you will not only relish the unsurpassed production values, you will also take away from this truly superlative work a valuable moralizing lesson that is not just limited to the illustrious students of Hogwarts.

Running Time: Part One approximately two hours and 40 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission; Part Two approximately two hours and 35 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays at the Lyric Theatre – 214 West 43rd Street, NYC. For tickets, purchase them online.

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