Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, the next Hamilton? (script review)

Typically readers of plays are drama students, theatre professionals, and other artistic nerds like myself.  J.K. Rowling and friends have clearly shattered that barrier last weekend with publication of the rehearsal script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two.

Click to buy on Amazon

Click to buy on Amazon for $17.99

Booksellers are reporting that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two is the most pre-ordered book of the year and it became Amazon.com’s best-selling book of 2016 in a matter of hours.

Book publisher Scholastic has ordered an initial printing of 4.5 million copies, and it has already become the best-selling modern script (although that Shakespeare fellow has a pretty good head start for any all-time records).

If you would prefer to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two on stage, good luck.  The production at London’s Palace Theatre on the West End is sold out through next May and the next block of tickets through December 2017 is expected to vanish shortly after release on August 4th (although see the ticketing note at the end of this article).

This, despite the fact that the two plays (typically viewed in the afternoon and evening of the same day) have a combined running time of five hours and fifteen minutes.

Curious to read my review of the production?  Unfortunately, when I suggested my willingness to travel to London and review Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two at DC Theatre Scene’s expense, my editor laughed so hysterically I suspected she had been afflicted by a magical curse.

Noma Dumezweni (Hermione), Jamie Parker (Harry) and Paul Thornley (Ron) in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Photo: Manuel Harlan/PA, The Guardian)

Noma Dumezweni (Hermione), Jamie Parker (Harry) and Paul Thornley (Ron) in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Photo: Manuel Harlan/PA, The Guardian)

I read the script in less than 24 hours (although it’s best to try savoring the experience and imagining the staging while reading).  It is a ripping good read for any Harry Potter fan, which I expect will be true of 99% of the readers.  That prior knowledge of the seven prior books and/or eight prior movies is recommended to appreciate a story which is both new and yet highly referential to the Harry Potter canon.

The story is set a generation after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Harry Potter is married to the former Ginny Weasley and is a middle-aged father of three.  His middle child Albus Severus Potter has a difficult relationship with his famous father and isn’t very happy at Hogwarts (where his best and perhaps only friend is Scorpius Malfoy, Draco’s son).

Jamie Parker (left) as Harry, with Sam Clemmett as his son, Albus. (Photo:: Manuel Harlan/PA. Source: The Guardian)

Jamie Parker (left) as Harry, with Sam Clemmett as his son, Albus in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. (Photo:: Manuel Harlan/PA. Source: The Guardian)

Without spoiling the story, one of the main plots involves a decision by Albus to use a Time-Turner to fix a wrong from many years ago (and rebel against his father).  This device allows the story to revisit stories and beloved characters from past Harry Potter novels.  Meanwhile, Harry is being haunted by bad dreams and his famous scar is aching again (cue the ominous music).

The story is credited to three writers, but the name in LARGE PRINT on the book’s cover is J.K. Rowling.  The story’s themes of themes of good versus evil, the challenges of adolescence, and the importance of friendship will feel comforting to fans of the novels, as will the appearance of many favorite characters.

Jack Thorne’s script is highly readable for a play.  The story moves quickly from scene to scene with just the occasional helpful stage direction.  The characters do engage in a fair amount of expository recap through dialogue, mandated by an increasingly complicated story that may challenge younger readers.  Overall, though, reading the script is good fun and a strongly satisfying experience.

Yet reading the script also stirs a degree of intense longing to see the story as staged.  It is clear from the stage directions that the production features an abundance of truly magical stagecraft.  No matter how strong a reader’s imagination, the notion of seeing moving staircases, wands shooting green lights, and levitating creatures on stage is utterly enticing.

Most reviews of the theatrical production are highly favorable, with some reviews almost rapturous.  According to The Guardian the production is a “thrilling theatrical spectacle” that is staged with “dazzling assurance.”  The Independent characterizes it as “a theatre production of immense wonder” that is “truly magical.”  According to The New York Times the production has  “a kind of magic that is purely theatrical yet somehow channels the addictive narrative grip of Ms. Rowling’s prose.” To read a roundup of reviews excerpted by The Guardian, click here.

Producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender are already holding conversations and planning talks in New York this fall to bring Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two to Broadway.  [Oh, to be a producer for a guaranteed multi-year hit does not require expensive star actors.]  If so, expect it to rival and perhaps surpass Hamilton as the toughest ticket in town.  Think of all the young children who will beg parents to take them to see a production that The Guardian says “will raise the benchmark for family entertainment for years to come.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two, by Jack Thorne, based upon an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne.  Reviewed by Steven McKnight.

London production’s running time:

  • Part One: 2 hours 40 minutes (with one 20 minute interval)
  • Part Two: 2 hours 35 minutes (with one 20 minute interval)

Reading time:  Surprisingly short for a 308 page script of a four act play.
List price of book is $29.99, but it’s not hard to find hard copies being sold for $17.99 with even lower prices for electronic versions.

Ticketing note:  Travelling to London anytime soon?  Your best chance to see the production in the next year involves the “Friday Forty” lottery.  Every Friday at 1:00 PM London time 40 good seats are offered for sale for each performance in the coming week for 40 British pounds (20 pounds per each consecutive part) through the play’s website.  Harry Potter Tickets

Steven McKnight About Steven McKnight

Steven McKnight is a recovering lawyer who now works in a lobbying firm and enjoys the drama of political theatre on both sides of the aisle. He admires authors, actors, athletes, teachers, and chefs, and has dabbled in all of those roles with mixed (and occasionally hilarious) results.



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