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Arts & Entertainment

'The Cursed Child' captures the magic of Harry Potter on stage

The Palace Theatre in London's West End is hosting
The Palace Theatre in London's West End is hosting "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," the first stage production based on a J.K. Rowling story.
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Earlier this week, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling released a video, ever so politely asking theater-goers to keep a lid on what they see in the stage production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

Tuesday night in London, the wizarding world returned with the first preview performance of part one of the two-part play. Part two will have its first preview Thursday night.

Rowling's story was adapted for the stage by playwright Jack Thorne and veteran director of West End theater, John Tiffany. But bringing wizarding duels and potion making to the stage is a difficult task. The first preview wasn’t without a few hiccups — at one point, a real owl escaped its handler and flew into the audience.

Lizo Mzimba is an arts correspondent for the BBC and he was at the preview last night. He spoke with The Frame's Oscar Garza this morning about the much-anticipated debut.

Interview Highlights:

How intense is the Potter-mania for this production?

It's pretty intense. I think this is probably the most popular theater production in London West End history. It's pretty much sold out until March of next year, but people are excited about it even if they're not going to see it for another year or so.

How are tickets being sold? It's a two-part play and you were at part one last night. Does everyone go on consecutive nights? 

During this preview period, it's slightly different. We saw part one last night and we'll see part two on Thursday. When it gets going properly, people will be able to see them on consecutive nights, or sometimes weekends with a matinee in the afternoon and then an evening performance, because there are five hours of play to fit in so they've got to shuffle it around to get it right somehow. 

How many people does the theater hold?

It's about 1,500 people inside the theater and, of course, so many more wanting to get tickets. This was a preview like no other. It was packed with people. There were gasps, there were cheers, there were tears and a standing ovation at the very end. I say the very end but, of course, it's only halfway through because there's part two to come as well. I talked to one of the producers afterward and I got the sense from them that it might be a work in progress, but, considering the reaction of the audience last night, they've pretty much got it 90 percent there, with just a little bit of tweaking to get it exactly where they want it to be. 

I'm curious about the price to see this play. What are tickets going for?

Well, I paid $65 sixty-five for my ticket last night. But people are paying five, ten, twenty times that much if they're trying to get it through secondary ticketing outlets. The theater and J.K. Rowling's people have been very clear that they don't want people to do that, so they're trying to crack down on people paying huge amounts for tickets and trying to make sure that everybody basically pays the same — the cover price of the ticket itself. 

You mentioned J.K. Rowling. This is a new story that she wrote, not an adaptation of one of her old books. But I'm curious about the crediting. She wrote the story, but is the play itself written by Jack Thorne?

Yes, she came up with some ideas, he came up with some ideas, and John Tiffany, the director, came up with some ideas and they let them all stew together. Then, Jack Thorne went away and actually wrote the script himself, because, as J.K. Rowling said, she is not a theater playwright. She's good with ideas and that kind of thing, but for this she wanted to collaborate with someone else and let somebody with a real track record in theater actually write that script. 

You mentioned the director John Tiffany, who has quite a challenge given that the movies have the incredible, lush atmosphere of this wizarding world. What is his background?

He's a very successful London theater director. He's done award-winning shows and worked with some of the biggest names. He's also worked alongside producers like Sonia Friedman, who's worked in TV and in theater and done some huge things. What their challenge here was actually to replicate what happens in people's minds when they read the books, and what they see on the cinema screen when they see the films. It's a new story, but, of course, people expect to see magic on stage. I don't want to give away very much about the plot at this point, but there's lots of illusions happening on stage and magic happening in front of your eyes. I was pretty close to the front — about eight rows back — and some of it was absolutely seamless. It was like seeing a Las Vegas show. You're thinking, How do these people do those effects like that? It really does capture, literally, the magic of Harry Potter on stage in a way that's convincing to all ages.

They're making a big effort to get the audience to keep the story secret.

Hah, they are!

But the play will be published on July 31, at which point anyone who buys the play will know the plot. Have the producers made special requests to the press to not give too much away?

Well, last night was slightly strange. It wasn't an official press event, but lots of us went along because there's such a huge amount of interest. It won't open until the end of July, but they have asked the press and everyone to not give away too much and to allow audiences to really enjoy the surprises and secrets for themselves when they see it on stage.

And this show is headed for Broadway, correct?

There is no official announcement beyond what's happening here in London, but I think you can be 99.9 percent certain that at some point it will play on Broadway.

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