Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ on Broadway

It‘s almost Tony Awards Time, which is a Broadway nerd’s Superbowl. And through the luck of the great wizard Dumbledore, I got last minute tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is nominated for a solid 10 Tony Awards.

It’s hard to get into the nuts and bolts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child without spoilers. #KeepTheSecrets. But I feel I can safely say with no sense of irony that Cursed Child was the most technically immersive show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. I’ve seen an abundance of fringe theatre, Off-Broadway, and Broadway shows. But never something like this. 

For a Broadway show, you expect something worth your $150. (Or your $800 for Hamilton.) Many of the fans who read Cursed Child when the script was released might be surprised to hear that the story and dialogue translates spectacularly well to stage. Reading the words on the page, Cursed Child can feel like tumblr fan fiction. I might have actually read this fan fiction back in the early 2000s. But on stage, in person, when your favorite characters are alive in front of you, it feels less like predictable fan service and more like a surprise visit from old friends.

In some cases, I feel bad for the stage actors who have to step into the shoes of some of the most famous movie actors in the world. Who could ever recreate the magic that is Michael Gambon, Dame Maggie Smith, or Alan Rickman (R.I.P.)? At least the kid characters have grown up and there’s no template for them. There’s a 19-page epilogue about Ginny, Hermoine, Harry, and Ron. But there’s no definitive markings of their adult lives. So the actors portraying them get to imagine the characters as they chose.

Noma Dumezweni deserves every award put in her path for her regal turn as Hermoine. Paul Thornley as Ron embodies the comic relief we expect from him. And Poppy Miller as Ginny reminds us why Weasley women are the greatest mothers in both the Muggle and Wizarding world. Jamie Parker as Harry does a particularly great job at conveying how Harry has handled his lifetime of trauma, while still managing to maintain the Wizarding idea that therapists aren’t a thing. Can I please get a play where Harry finally sorts through his abusive childhood? I kid, I kid.

There are moments of reconciliation between characters, moments of acknowledgement, of joy, of understanding, and, of course, of love. The script is loaded with plot holeand sentimentality, but this is Harry Potter after all. And being Harry Potter, the theme of love ever abounds. But this story is about more than just platonic love, or familial love from those who have passed. This time, Harry Potter takes a turn into present paternal love and how hard it can be to work in a relationship that evolves in front of you. Not the one you see in the Mirror of Erised.

Back to plot holes: they’re there and we’re going to accept. Why are some of the most emotional scenes in Part Two even there? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really make sense. Even while I was crying my eyes out, through crocodile tears I kept thinking “wait, but why?” There are a few of those bits, meant to toe everything up nearly in a bow. But instead other questions are left hanging in the air.

My biggest plot problem is the Slytherin problem. For as long as she’s been writing this world, JK Rowling has never reconciled how to write for Slytherins. She developed Draco Malfoy and Slytherin House as a foil for Harry, an in-house representation of good versus evil. But once the books were published (and once the fans took HP from bookpage to webpage), fans developed their own distinct and honorable set of values for Slytherin House. There’s nothing wrong with ambition, drive, and resourcefulness. Pretty sure that’s the ingredients for Bear Grylls and his TV show. Also, Slytherins get Lin Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, and Ariana Grande. But I digress.

The Slytherin leads of this show have more in common with Hufflepuffs — and Gryffindor — than Slytherins. And they never quite learn to love and embrace their Slytherin sides. Which for me, as a self-identifying Slytherin, is sad. There are seven books dedicated to bad-mouthing the Slytherin House. Our legacy in the HP universe is the Dark Lord and House traitors. And the one time we get Slytherin leads, they act more like Hufflepuffs with Daddy Issues. (Nothing against Hufflepuffs, but you guys got your movies and even a play!)

Slytherins aside, the show is truly magical. It deserves every technical award it’s nominated for. And Noma Dumezweni deserves recognition as a fabulous Hermoine. If you’re not familiar with Harry Potter, the show does a good job of entering you into the world. If you’re an avid fan like myself, it’s sheer magical perfection. Enter the Friday-Forty Lottery or just pay full-price. Or just wait a few years because this show will be running for at least the next decade.

Pro-tip- Get there an hour early. The entire theatre has been renovated to look like the Hogwarts Express. Carpet, wallpaper, and all. Make sure to visit the gift shop as well, and get your house gear. Then prepare your tissues for the ride of a lifetime.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently playing on Broadway at the Lyric Theatre.