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‘Harry Potter’ fans appreciate the wizarding world’s foray onto the stage with ‘Cursed Child’

Literary and Broadway experts say the play could introduce the theater scene to a new audience.

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" plays an open run at the Lyric Theatre. Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson

Harry Potter fans have already flocked to bookshelves, movie theaters and even theme parks to experience his adventures, and they’re eager to follow him and his friends to the Great White Way. Even though New York Potter fans have already digested “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” since the script of the stage play was released nearly two years ago, they are hyped to finally see the story the way it was meant to without traveling across the pond. The play premiered at the West End’s Palace Theatre in London in the summer of 2016.

The $68.5 million two-part production at the Lyric Theatre has showings sold out until the end of the year and an even longer waitlist.

Jon Rosenthal, 38, of the Bronx who runs the nearly 3,400-member New York “Harry Potter” meetup group, said the book’s mixed reviews and the numerous Hogwarts spinoff materials in other mediums hasn’t created a fatigue among fans.

“ ‘Harry Potter’ fans want more variety into the wizarding world,” he said.

Literary and Broadway experts say the wizard’s popularity on stage is not surprising, but it could lead to a greater appreciation of the theater scene from new audiences.

“It’s an interesting genre that we don’t do too much outside of school,” Gwen Glazer, a librarian New York Public Library said of stage plays.

Rosenthal said fans have been yearning for further adventures of Harry, Hermione and Ron ever since “The Deathly Hallows” came out in 2007. Having a story where the characters are grown adults resonated more with older fans who were first introduced to the stories as teenagers.

“We have a lot of members who are already reading it to their kids. They come with them dressed up as [wizards],” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal admitted that he wasn’t too fond of the stage play when he first read it due to some moments that, on paper, felt cheesy or out of character. When he saw a preview performance at the Lyric Theatre, which had a $33 million construction overhaul to create the Potteresque sets and décor, Rosenthal said he changed his mind.

“I saw first hand what talented actors can do with material. There was material that I read that I went, wow this is horrible. But when I saw it, there is gravitas,” he said.

Matthew Wexler, the editor of The Broadway Blog, noted that the show has been a major hit in London since its debut and the word of mouth about the differences between the stage play book and actual production traveled quickly among both theater and “Potter” fan circles.

“If you look at a show like ‘Wicked’ — that got mixed reviews when it first opened and now it’s going on 15 years,” he said. “You’re talking about stories that are part of our lexicon that still draws people.

Glazer said the stage play’s initial lukewarm response led to a stronger interested in both the “Potter” franchise and the production in general. “Potter” fans have already been passionate about every aspect to the universe and every form of engagement draws new fans in, she said.

“It’s a great debate,” she said.

The librarian, who has not seen the show in person, added the New York production will have a broad reach in New York because of its diverse audience. Critics and fans have praised the production’s inclusivity among its cast including black actress Noma Dumezweni’s turn as Hermione.

“It is exciting that there are women of color in the play and that is a good way to get people in who have had different life experience,” she said.

Glazer said the play has the potential to do to theater what the original “Harry Potter” books did for literature, when it comes to young audiences.

Wexler agreed that there is potential to expand the theater scene’s popularity linking it to the surge seen in other productions.

“After ‘Hamilton’ we saw more people buy the Hamilton biography,” he said. “It’s great that the art doesn’t live in silos of just one medium.”

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