June 20, 2018

Hogwarts on stage

Dateline: New York, New York –

Yep, the sleep patterns are returning. I was able to sleep in again this morning for a while which felt awfully good. I did drag myself out for a big breakfast and then sat down and wrote a new MNM column as I am woefully behind in those. (Posted separately).

The rest of the day was more or less devoted to Harry Potter. I treated myself to center orchestra tickets for the theatrical extravaganza ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ currently playing at the Lyric Theater on 43rd. It’s the same production that had been running in London and the leads are all the original London cast. As the show has a nearly six hour running time, it is in two parts which can be viewed either on subsequent evenings or on the same day with Part I as a matinee and Part II as an evening show. I opted for the latter and took a dinner break for Mexican and margaritas in between the two halves.

So how is the show? The staging is stunning. There is non-stop motion as the cast turns relatively simple props and set pieces into all of the locales with a cinematic fluidity. There is also major music underscoring and a number of ensemble dance breaks which move story, theme and mood (and likely cover for lead costume changes). The visual look is based on the designs from the film series so we recognize the characters immediately (although the cross cultural casting of Hermione as black might have confused some, I liked it). The actors have enough of the mannerisms of the original film cast to be familiar but use those as a jumping off point to explore new ground.

The play starts where the movies end, with the families gathered on platform 9 3/4 19 years later waving off James and Albus Potter and Rose Granger Weasley as they leave for Hogwarts. Albus is a bit of a misfit, unlike his parents and is sorted into Slytherin house where he becomes best mates with Scorpius Malfoy, Draco’s son. This leads into a long and complex plot involving time turners, alternate time lines, attempts to resurrect Voldemort, and flashbacks to the past. It could easily have become a six hour theme park show but J. K. Rowling and her co-creators have a lot to say about accountability, generational guilt, miscommunications between parents and children, and the necessity of loss that help the material rise way above that.

And oh, what a magical production. Dementors fly over the audience. Actors actually swim. Wands shoot jets of flame. People appear, vanish, and change into others with the flash of a cape and a lighting effect. I could figure out a lot of the stage tricks (body doubles, flying harnesses, lighting), but there are still some I am uncertain how they managed.

Harry Potter entered my life soon after the publication of the third book in about 2000. I started hearing about them from various sources and, as one of the things that I did with Steve when he was sick was to read aloud to him at night, I bought the first one for that purpose. Steve loved it as did I and I read the first three to him and then the fourth, which came out shortly before he died.

The first film was released after Steve’s death and before I met Tommy so I went to see it with a friend and, after it was over, I thought – too literal. It was such a faithful adaptation of the novel that it wasn’t cinematic enough. I thought the same about the second one. Then Christopher Columbus released directorial control to others and I thought they improved markedly. Tommy and I went to see all the rest together as they opened and they remained among his favorites. If he wasn’t feeling well, or wanted something on the TV to keep him company while he worked, out came the set of Harry Potter DVDs. We always seemed to be traveling when they were released so we saw them on the big screen in such varied places as Orlando, Chicago and Seattle.

Tommy and my first trip to New York as a couple coincided with the release of the fifth book. We had been to the theater that night and afterward, we headed off to the huge Virgin Store in Times Square (alas, no longer there) and got in line for the midnight release, buying a copy along with a lot of folk decked out in full Potter regalia. We then repaired to the hotel where I read the first few chapters to him until we fell asleep.

We had talked about making a trip to New York to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child before he became ill,so this one was for him and I hope he has a way of seeing it through my eyes.

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