I know that I am not alone in saying that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Long gone are the days when I was in grade school, and I diligently worked away at reading The Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets while everyone else read Captain Underpants (a series I still mean to get to eventually). It seems almost everyone has a stake in the Harry Potter franchise for different reasons. That being said, my review has three perspectives: that of a Harry Potter fan, that of a literary critic, and that of a theatre professional.
The being a Harry Potter fan was what kept me from reading this play as soon as it came out. I find once you close a door on a series it’s hard to reopen. And it is even harder for me if you do it in a different format from the original. We went from a series of novels focused on a core group of characters to a play focused on some of their children. In all honesty, it read to me like fanfiction and after my slight disappointment of Deathly Hallows (and in between the wait for each new Harry Potter book until the release of Deathly Hallows) I have read A LOT of fanfiction.
We have the two school rivals children become the best of friends because of their inability to connect with people due to the expectations set upon them. Basically, Harry and Draco if their parents were loving…and not dead. The characterization was cute, the glimpses of the original Gold Trio all grown up were great, and the story seems fitting. But I personally didn’t want a next generation story. My favorite parts were when we saw Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Draco all grown up, making their way through the loss of their children. I want to know how they got to where they are. It leaves me wanting because I am so attached to the original 7 books, I cannot completely care about these new characters. But I can appreciate it as being part of the canon.
The story itself is solid, but only because its a play and can get away with a lot of things. If this were written as a novel I would have note after note on plot holes, questions, and confusions that popped up along the way. This biggest being…Voldemort had a kid?! I want THAT story. It sort of grates against the image of Voldemort I got from the original series. But looking at the story as it is without trying to connect it to the rest of the universe, it is exciting. I gained nothing from it that I haven’t gotten from another play; I don’t learn anything. It is another story focusing on two young boys who go on an adventure against their better judgment and parent’s wishes. Nothing new, but the writers can get away with it because 1) it is a play and this type of drama plays out well on stage, and 2) it’s Rowling. And it’s a gripping story if not an extremely original one.
The last angle I looked at this play was that of a theatre professional. I have been doing theatre for years and have done everything from act on stage, to playwrighting, to designing, to following actors on stage with a giant follow spot. I have read hundreds of plays and even if I didn’t know how huge of a success this is on Broadway and have personally witnessed the lines outside the doors on 43rd, I could still safely say this; its a theatrical hit and a cash cow. It’s a show that relies heavily on spectacle, and this play dishes it out in spades. Harry Potter is synonymous with magic so you have to bring that element to the stage. Time hopping, train jumping, maze running, flying; these make for amazing visuals if they can be pulled off. Pair that with a decent plot and an already established fan base, you have a hit. And because this was a story written for the stage, it doesn’t feel forced like King Kong or SpiderMan.
I haven’t given this play a higher rating because of my personal reservations of being a Harry Potter fan and a literary snob, but boy the play is good. I have no doubt if I were actually able to acquire tickets to see the play I would give the production itself a higher score. It’s a continuation that I didn’t ask for, though I am sure others did. Theatre was a smart format to do it in because it divorces the story from the books and movies (which is why I think people are kinder to it than they are to the Fantastic Beasts films). I enjoyed it. And it goes by quick enough to read it again.
Overall rating: 3 out of 5.