Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Likewise, if Bay Area audiences leave their skepticism at the door of the Curran, they will enter a world where books talk, scattered papers neaten themselves, humans change their form, and death eaters fly menacingly above them. For in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which just opened, myriad forms of theatrical magic are on display in the service of a story that reminds us of the value of friendship, the powerful pull of parental love, and the need for constant vigilance in a world where pure evil sadly still stalks the earth.
For Harry Potter fans who just can't get enough of the exploits of the boy wizardor for anyone who enjoys theatrical spectacleHarry Potter and the Cursed Child is not to be missed. In two parts over the course of nearly six hours, author J.K. Rowling and her collaborators (writer Jack Thorne and writer-director John Tiffany) will propel you through time to meet Harry Potter as a middle-aged man, sending his son Albus Severus Potter off to Hogwarts, where he meetsand befriendsScorpius Malfoy, the son of one of his father's major nemeses, the villainous Draco Malfoy. This doesn't please papa Potter, but he and the rest of the magical world (at least those who haven't embraced the dark arts) will have to put old grievances aside, for he-who-must-not-be-named (but whose name is now pronounced with a silent "t") may not have been utterly destroyed, as the book series would have us believe.
This seems an appropriate time to address a question I've already been asked several times in the 12 hours or so since I stepped back into the Muggle world outside the Curran: would someone with little to no familiarity with the Harry Potter books (or movies) enjoy (or be able to follow) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? My answer is a qualified "yes." The staging is magnificent, thrilling, and literally gasp-inducing. The story is universal, the characters compelling and relatable (even if you can't, as they can, summon a patronus), but if, after 20 years of Harry Potter as a dominant force in modern culture you haven't already dipped your toe in the wizarding world, then it's probably not for you. I suppose it could be argued that this would be a way for a noob to introduce themselves to the HP universe, but I'd be forced to remind whoever put forth that argument that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is chock-a-block with spoilers that would ruin the drama of the book series.
But for those who revel in the adventures of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an absolute must-see. Over the course of the two parts you will be treated to effects that had the audience roaring andif at all like memarveling at how the creative and technical team were able to make them seem like real magic. Characters fly, but you never see a cable. Brooms rise, and you have no idea just how. Flames shoot from wands from one side of the stage to the other with laser precision, yet the wands seem too thin to contain a fuel tank and igniter. (Some effects are easier to figure out, but why spoil the fun? Just pretend it's magic.)
As thrilling as the special effects are, though, they are not the sole draw. The cast is wonderfulas engaging, passionate, funny and courageous as the characters they play. John Skelley brings the same humble hesitancy to his role of father as the father did to the boy wizard upon whose shoulders rested the fate of the wizarding world. David Abeles gives us a marvelously wry adult Ron Weasely, and Benjamin Papac plays Harry's son Albus as a somewhat angsty teenbut one who knows what he wants and isn't going to let anyone or anything stop him. But it's Jon Steiger as Scorpius Malfoy who demands (and deserves) our attention. Potter fans know his father as a cruel, conniving teen bully, but Scorpius is hesitant and geeky, yet far more wise and good-hearted than Draco could ever hope to be.
For the foreseeable future (I've heard rumors the show will run at the Curran for at least two years, though tickets are currently on sale through June 20, and through July 12 beginning on Friday, December 6), there will be two distinct worlds living side by side in San Francisco: the tourist-packed Union Square, and, just up Geary Street, the magical, transformative world of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child plays in an open-ended run at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary Street, San Francisco CA. Buyers can choose to see both parts in a single day (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) or on consecutive nights (Part One on Thursdays, Part Two on Fridays). Tickets range from $59-$199 per part (more for premium seating) and can be purchased by visiting HarryPotterOnStage.com.