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Harry Potter and the Broadway Baby

Let me start by saying writing a non-spoliery anything about this show is damned challenging, not the least of which is because once you’ve seen even a little bit of it all you want to do is shout from the rooftops about how enjoyable the entire experience is! Also this is NOT a review, real critics will be doing that in short order after the show completes its 5 weeks of previews. What I did want to share is some of my impressions of the long awaited show on Broadway.

Actually, let me really start by saying how this entire weekend would not have been possible had my beautiful wife not graciously accepted the early Saturday morning wake-up call from her husband, stuck at work, frantically begging her to “Get down to the Lyric Theatre as fast as you can! They’re giving away tickets for the premiere for only $40!!” So Sorting hats off to my favorite Hufflepuff!

Now, back to the impressions.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child marks the grand reopening of the Lyric Theatre after undergoing extensive renovations following the closing of Cirque du Sole’s Paramour last year. And what a difference a year makes. Gone are the bright 1920s art deco marble decor for a more somber palette of deep reds and browns, warmed by the orange glow of dozens of lights hung from the beaks of phoenixes. The floors, walls and even the ceilings are adorned with iconography, murals, monograms and images from the Potterverse, although owled-eyed witches and wizards will notice straight away that it’s NOT the designs from the popular movie franchise (someone told me that WB didn’t give them license to use them, although I don’t know the truth of that). The former main entrance of the theatre has been relocated from 42nd Street (and its accompanying pedestrian traffic) to the relatively quieter 43rd street and the tunnel transformed in to a series of shops where you can get all manner of wonderful wizarding wares to whet your appetite. The main auditorium itself has undergone a drastic redesign which, in addition to mimicking the play’s original West End home at the Palace has also removed 400 or so seats for a more intimate audience experience. And I dare say that the entire thing works spectacularly.

Can I also say that in 30 years of seeing shows on Broadway I don’t ever remember seeing so many audience members in variations of cosplay either. And I don’t think that’s going to end anytime soon, yesterday I saw a group coming out of the Times Square Walgreens on 42nd in full Hogwarts colors. Coincidence? I think not!

Most of the audience members arrived very early to take in the new theatre and take in the energy of the theatrical experience we were about to share. In a bit of a departure from theatre etiquette they allowed us to take as many photos and videos as we wanted from inside as long as it wasn’t during the actual performance. And judging from what I’ve already seen online, I wasn’t the only one who took advantage of that.

After a brief speech from the director, John Tiffany, thanking everyone for coming, highlighting the show’s journey to New York and the 18 Broadway debuts in the cast Friday night, the lights went down and the magic began. And magical it was. When I read the book last year I remember wondering just how they were going to pull off the magical effects and grandeur that an audience expects, after two decades of hit films and our own imaginations, on a stage. I can say that they pull it off well, using a combination of wire work, lighting and pyro effects, misdirection and even old school slight of hand. And sorting hats off to an exceptional time travel effect that doesn’t get old even with repeated uses and drew a collective gasp from the audience the first time it was revealed. In addition, for a production that isn’t a musical, the music (and sound effects) compliment the show wonderfully, drawing you into the adventure. It wasn’t long before I was able to tune out my “actor brain” and just enjoy the ride. And the best part of the first night was audience’s joy at seeing “to be continued” at the end of Act Two and knowing that we were all coming back to do it again.

The second night, as the audience reentered the theatre, it was like reuniting with old friends and family discussing the night before and the anticipation of Part Two, stoked by the [spoiler] image waiting for us as we returned to our seats. I don’t think anyone I spoke to those two nights left unsatisfied as the majority of the cast came outside to greet, take pictures, and give autographs to the half-block long line of fans waiting for them after a triple curtain call standing ovation.

So what’s your take on Cursed Child finally making it’s Broadway debut? Have you seen the show already in NYC or the West End? Are you eagerly awaiting your upcoming show day? Or are you just reading blog this to kill time until Pretty Woman: The Musical opens later this year on Broadway? Let us know in the comments below and remember to do your best to stay clear of spoilers. #KeepTheSecrets #geekliferules #mygeeklifeviews #theatreislife #cursedchildnyc #hpplaynyc #harrypotter #harrypotterandthecursedchild #broadwaybaby #lyrictheatre

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