The spring theater season has officially begun, and a slew of highly anticipated musicals and plays, both brand-new and revisited, are set to bow. Broadway.com's Spring Preview series captures the stars bringing these stories center stage in the new season.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up where the of last of J.K. Rowling’s globe-conquering Harry Potter book series leaves off. It’s a highly theatrical continuation of the lives of Harry, Hermione, Ron and more. The now grown-up Hogwarts grads and their children grapple with uncomfortable truths, the difficulties between fathers and sons and the legacy of He Who Must Not Be Named. Seven of the show’s original cast members have traveled to Broadway’s Lyric Theatre with the plays (the story is told in two parts). Stars Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley sat down with Broadway.com to chat about transferring the award-winning blockbuster to New York and what it means for them to bow on the Great White Way. “You have no idea how many people think this is a musical,” cracks Dumezweni. “It is not.” Indeed.
Do you feel like this show is a gift to all of those people who mourned the end of the Harry Potter series?
Jamie Parker: I think so. My feeling is that I didn’t realize until getting to know the play that the circle is not complete. You’re left at the end of the books with them sending their kids off to school, but it does raise that question of, "What does that mean when they become parents?" They've got to deal with the next generation.
Noma Dumezweni: There’s joy that the books that you love and adore are going to come back in a different form. Then you realize how much you want them again because we do let things go. There’s a yearning, and that’s what books are great for. Jo [J.K. Rowling] wrote these amazing stories, and it’s done and sealed. Then our joy as fans and punters and storytellers is, “Oh my gosh, there’s an opportunity to hear the eighth story!”
Paul Thornley: For a lot of people, those books were the first thing they ever read. And our show was, for many people, their first-ever experience at the theater as well.
Noma: Which is brilliant.
Paul: I think we can say it’s a pretty high bar.
What moves you most about this story?
Noma: Everyone needs to connect. We’re all outsiders, and what I love about the original stories is that these three outsiders—wherever they come from, they were outsiders—and they met, and they gelled. They went on these adventures and obstacles, and they each had something to give to each other. Now, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we are these grown-ups with our own families. The cycle is never ending.
Jamie: If you take stock of what’s happened in the seven books, there’s an awful lot of damage done—an awful lot of trauma endured and the happiness in it is incredibly hard-won. That is inevitably going to have a knock-on effect. Jump to 20 years later and people have been through something like that. They’re going to have a lot to unpack.
Noma: And there’s legacy stuff.
“There’s a need to tell a story like this: to be given a myth that’s written large on this grand scale.”
Jamie: It’s generational: You’ve got the kids who went through that with these characters, and they’re now parents themselves. I personally believe there are a lot of families who have come to see this, and it causes them to take stock in the best possible way. It provokes conversations.
Paul: The three of us are all parents in real life, and a lot of it is about parenting and the mistakes you make. So, it’s a self-help show. [Laughs.] No.
Jamie: There’s a need to tell a story like this: to be given a myth that’s written large on this grand scale. It tells us who we are; it teaches us something about us, and it completes something that was left undone.
What can audiences expect as they step into the world of The Cursed Child?
Jamie: Well, just wait until you see the refurb that’s happened at the Lyric Theatre! It’s difficult to know what we can say.
Noma: We can’t say, but I do want to say it’s phenomenal.
Jamie: If Hogwarts had a theater…
Noma: And it’s not a theme park! I mean, even just saying that sounds as if it’s a theme park. It’s not because [the designers’] taste is phenomenal. We’re fangirling. You have no idea.
Jamie: You’re going to have to wait to see it, but you feel instantly at home. The show doesn’t start when the curtain goes up. It’s the experience of coming home to this place that you know and love, or coming to this place that you’ve heard about that you don’t really know. You instantly get such a strong flavor of it.
Do you think audiences need to have read the Harry Potter series to see this show?
Noma: Not at all. Half of the audience gets these little Easter eggs, but for the other half—not knowing what the story was—it’s linear, and that’s all you need to know.
Paul: My auntie Rosemary knows nothing about it. She loved it. Best thing she’s ever seen. That’s the benchmark.
Jamie was on Broadway in The History Boys, but Paul and Noma, you’re making your debuts. How does it feel?
Noma: I'm kind of in a dream state and freaking out all at the same time. It’s that thing to be careful what you wish for. [I always thought] it was going to be off-Broadway. For me, Broadway was musicals, and you’ll never ever see me in a musical. I mean, never say never, but most likely you'll never see me in a musical.
Paul: You could do the talky ones.
Jamie: Bernadette Peters won’t be in Hello, Dolly! forever. I mean, at some point, she’s going to come off.
Let’s talk about keeping the secrets of the show.
Jamie: Hundreds of millions of people have bought the play text. That’s not the show. The show is the experience of being in the theater. A lot of people have consciously decided not to read it.
Paul: That’s what I would do because no one actually wants to know spoilers. It’s so much better just to come along and experience it.
“Our joy as fans and punters and storytellers is, 'Oh my gosh, there’s an opportunity to hear the eighth story!'”
Tell me about any interactions you’ve had with your movie counterparts.
Jamie: Well, they’ve all been in, apart from Daniel [Radcliffe], who hasn’t been in, but he did send flowers and a very nice card.
Noma: Emma [Watson] was extraordinary. Emma, I fell in love with.
Paul: Yeah, and Rupert [Grint] was lovely. It’s a huge part of their lives.
Jamie: But more than that—I mean, you’ve got Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Jason Isaacs, Jim Broadbent. Just like a who’s who of British actors.
Noma: Zoe Wanamaker, Julie Walters!
Jamie: They’ve all been in. It’s glorious. It’s a hell of a thing to be a part of.
What would your real-life Hogwarts house be?
Noma: I know mine. It's great: Ravenclaw.
Jamie: Really? [Laughs.]
Which one of you is the most magical in real life?
Noma: I think each and every one of us.
Paul: I think Noma. Noma’s pretty twinkly.
Jamie: You’re practically a Patronus.
Noma: [Gasps.] That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.
Are you ready to be Broadway superstars?
Noma: What does that mean?
Well, you’re probably not going to be able to walk through Times Square without being recognized in a few months.
Paul: It’s quite difficult to walk through Times Square anyway.
Jamie: To be fair, that’s just logistical.
Noma: I’m going to enjoy the ride, whatever it is.
Photos: Caitlin McNaney | Makeup: Margina Denis | Hair: Morgan Blaul | Styling: Heather Newberger
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" begins on March 16 and opens on April 22 at the Lyric Theatre