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Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre The larger-than-life fantasy wizarding world of Harry Potter magically made the leap from the page and onto the stage with the eighth offering in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter canon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. With a script by Jack Thorne from an original story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne himself -- and costing $68 million to bring the play to the theatre -- the show made its west coast premiere on December 1st at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. Outside the house, a gaggle of photographers gathered near the red carpet where a "Cursed Child" backdrop awaited the arrival of the many celebrities associated with the show!

Once inside, "Potterheads" and Muggle theatergoers alike were greeted by charming ushers eager to embrace the magic of the evening by happily chatting with guests in the lobby as they passed out Potter pins to one and all. When I asked usher Eliza Mascoll about the ushers setting the stage, so to speak, for what the audience was about to see, she said that "People come to see theatre, have fun and make memories. We try to add to that experience!" And indeed, they did, though it seemed almost certain that even a staff of stone-faced contrarians couldn't have dulled the anticipatory mood in the air.

Clocking in at 5 hours, the two-part epic adventure takes place 19 years after the final book ends and tells the tale of Albus Severus Potter (Benjamin Papac), the second son of Harry (John Skelley) and Ginny (Angela Reed) Potter's three children. Albus is nervous about starting Hogwarts, standing as he does in the shadow of the most famous wizard of all time, his own father, Harry Potter.

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
Platform Nine and Three-Quarters Photo by Matthew Murphy
Pictured (L-R): Yanna McIntosh, Folami Williams, David Abeles, Natalie Adele Schroeder, William Bednar-Carter, Angela Reed, John Skelley, Benjamin Papac.

Once onboard the Hogwarts' Express, a self-conscious Albus, along with his confident cousin Rose Granger-Weasley (Folami Williams), meet the terribly awkward Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger) whose father, Draco Malfoy (Lucas Hall), is Harry's former nemesis. The three of them are alone in the train car when Rose blurts out the rumor that Scorpius is actually Voldemort's son, then she promptly leaves. But Albus stays, cementing his friendship with Scorpius for life.

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger), Rose Granger-Wesley (Folami Williams), Albus Potter (Benjamin Papac). Photo by Matthew Murphy

It turns out the two have a lot in common. Albus can't possibly live up to his famous father, while Scorpius is trying to live down his father Draco's reputation as well as the persistent rumor that he's actually Voldemort's son. They each understand that they have "father issues."

When Harry finds out that Albus is becoming friends with a Malfoy he forbids the friendship in no uncertain terms. It's quite a tense moment in the play, especially when he shouts at his son, "I need you to obey me because I'm your dad and I do know better!" That's when a parent in the audience clapped his approval into the silence and the adult audience members spontaneously laughed, then clapped in understanding. Astonishingly, the actors did not break the fourth wall during that impromptu parental bonding moment.

It's clear that Harry is struggling with his own "son issues," but his job as head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is also giving him headaches - and worse, his lightning bolt scar is hurting again, indicating that Voldemort's allies may active yet again. It seems to be no coincidence when he uncovers an illegal time-turner, especially when the ministry thought they'd been successful in destroying them all. Hermione (Yanna McIntosh), who is now the Minister of Magic, decides to keep it for the time being.

Since we've all be sworn to secrecy, I won't say more about the story, but I will say that the acting in "Cursed Child" is uniformly stellar. Special accolades must go to Benjamin Papac (Albus) and Jon Steiger (Scorpius) who command the stage for most of the five hours of the show. Yanna McIntosh (Hermione Granger-Weasley), David Abeles (Ron Weasley), Angela Reed (Ginny) and of course John Skelley as Harry Potter had a synergy that honored the decades of friendship and love that their characters share.

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
(L-R) Hermione Granger (Yanna McIntosh), Ron Weasley (David Abeles), Ginny Potter (Angela Reed), Harry Potter (John Skelley), and Draco Malfoy (Lucas Hall). Photo by Matthew Murphy

To the delight of the audience, Charles Janasz and Shannon Cochran conjured up the well-known and beloved Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall perfectly.

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
Harry Potter (John Skelley) and Dumbledore (Charles Janasz). Photo by Matthew Murphy

And it won't give anything away to add that Brittany Zeinstra was fantastic as Moaning Myrtle. Likewise, the cape-swirling, dancing ensemble cast (Movement Director Steven Hoggett) making up the students of Hogwarts (Set Designer Christine Jones) were spot-on as they made use of the revolving stage to perform a ballet of sorts when they moved the magical staircases to Imogen Heaps' musical compositions.

What would a show set in the Potterverse be without magic? Enter Jaime Harrison, master of Illusion & Magic for "Cursed Child." Together with Lighting (Neil Austin) and Sound (Gareth Fry) this trio of talent electrified the audience with mesmerizing stagecraft magic and spellbinding special effects. Though some time-tested sleight-of-hand theatre tricks played a part, Harrison says that 90% of the magic is original and it was spectacular. The emotional journey of the strained father-son relationship between Harry and Albus was thoroughly enhanced by the wizarding magic in the show.

Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
Illusions & Magic by Jamie Harrison. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD a Must-See Theatrical Event at The Curran Theatre
Harry Potter (John Skelley) and Albus Potter (Benjamin Papac). Photo by Matthew Murphy

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a thrilling, must-see theatrical masterpiece that will mesmerize, delight and enchant audiences now and throughout time. It will also touch your heart.

Now thru June 2020
Directed by John Tiffany
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
A New Play by Jack Thorne
The Curran Theatre, San Francisco

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