Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sparks fan frenzy

Books | Bookstores plan midnight release parties tonight for the published script
by Molly Hulsey
Posted 7/30/16, 11:24 am

As children begrudgingly prepare for the upcoming school year, they are not alone: Albus Severus Potter, son of J.K. Rowling’s wizard prodigy, Harry Potter, is also starting his first year of studies in the long-awaited two-part play and script, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The stage drama premieres Saturday in London, followed by a midnight release of the published script at bookstores.

Set 19 years after Harry’s adventures at the spell-casting school Hogwarts, Cursed Child hurtles audience members and readers through the difficulties of beginning new things and also revisiting the old.

“Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted,” noted the script’s description. “As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”

The five-hour play—to be viewed in one day at matinee and evening performances or over two nights—bears a hefty legacy of its own. So far, despite fears that the production might be just a “cash cow,” Rowling’s newest brainchild seems anything but cursed. Critics already laud the play as “a theater production of immense wonder” and “the theatrical event of the year.” Seats are sold-out until December 2017, with 250,000 more tickets available Aug. 4. Social media buzzes with requests for previewers to #KeepTheSecrets of the plot to themselves.

Bookstores across the nation expect to draw broomstick wielding, cape-swathed fans at midnight release parties. The script has climbed to the top of Barnes & Noble’s preorder charts.

“We are anticipating it to be the biggest book of the year,” Kiri Levenguth, the community relation manager at Barnes and Noble’s in Charleston, S.C., told me. Like others in the chain, the store will host an 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. countdown party leading to the book release, complete with storytelling, trivia, “cauldron brews,” and face paint.

The play, written by playwright Jack Thorne and developed by Rowling, debuts several months before the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an upcoming film based on another Rowling work. Rowling doesn’t plan to turn Cursed Child into a film, but the play and movie have prompted both longtime fans and new audience members to buy into the Potter paraphernalia market.

Christian craftsman Mason Russell began marketing handcarved, Hogwarts-inspired wands through his online Etsy page Ollivander Apprentice in the summer of 2015, but shut down the business the next spring. Due to the resurgence of Potter mania, however, Russell has considered reopening shop. He says he hopes “unique handmade relics” like his wands might attract the theater-going community.

The London production is directed by Tony-award winning John Tiffany and features a 42-person cast and crew starring Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley as adult characters Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

Molly Hulsey

Molly is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD intern.

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