With another academic year underway and Halloween at our heels, what better time to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? In this two-part play, the Hogwarts students that we came to know so well through J.K. Rowling’s seven book series now have kids who are attending the same school of witchcraft and wizardry and having their own adventures.
Like many Potter fans, I picked up the script when it was published, hoping for a nostalgic hit of the magical world from my childhood. And like many fans, I was disappointed with what I read because it didn’t have the feel of J.K. Rowling’s writing, making it easier to start nitpicking at the plot and some character developments. I still knew I was going to see the show because I’ll see anything Harry Potter related, but I had reservations. Would John Tiffany and Jack Thorne’s script be translated to magic on the stage? Or would it feel like a commercial cash cow? Did it need to be two shows?
The most affordable way to see the show is by entering the Friday Forty on the TodayTix app. Every Friday from 12:01 a.m. until 1 p.m., you can put in an entry for the following week’s shows, and then they contact the winners between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. that same Friday. New blocks of tickets are released every few months from the box office if you want to avoid paying marked-up resale prices, but you might have to wait a few months for your date. However, another Broadway secret to getting a ticket to a nearly sold out show is cancellation lines. The show’s popularity and the day’s weather usually determine how early people start forming a line at the box office for cancellation tickets. These are tickets that are returned to the box office on the day of the show; the box office will sell these tickets to the first person in the cancellation line as the tickets are returned. Most cancellation tickets aren’t sold until minutes before the show is about to start, and frequently these are center orchestra tickets at face-value. The number of returned tickets fluctuates every day (though rainy days tend to have more), and this is not a guaranteed option. You could wait all morning and go home empty-handed.
This was the option I decided to go with to see the show this summer. I always bring something to read with me to pass the time, but I’ve also had many wonderful experiences meeting new people in theatre rush or cancellation lines because everyone already shares a common interest in the show. There is also often a sense of camaraderie in waiting so you can pop out of the line to get food or coffee or find a restroom. This summer, I got in line around 9:30 a.m. and about five minutes before the show started, I was called into the box office to get a ticket that was ten rows from the stage, directly in the center of the theatre for face-value. Still a splurge, but definitely worth it.
My reservations about seeing the show quickly vanished as I watched the magic unfold on stage. The costumes are stunning and the staging is impressive. Even the carpets around the theatre are on theme; the Lyric Theatre was specifically redone for $33 million dollars for this production, and it shows. They even have a cafe inside where drinks, sandwiches, and snacks are surprisingly available for prices that may be cheaper than what you can find around Times Square otherwise. This play is promoting a #KeepTheSecrets social media campaign that encourages people who have seen the show to not reveal the visual effects and moving moments so that everyone who comes to see the play can share the same experience, even those who have read the script. I want to respect that tradition, so I will avoid sharing details. But I will say that the acting and staging dramatically change the experience of the story from just reading the script, and the visuals are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen on stage. I found myself being more drawn into the themes of how PTSD affects parenting (because how could Harry not have PTSD) and how being raised by people of fame changes childhood more than I was when just reading the script. So if you’re coming to see the original book series or movies on stage, you might be disappointed, but if you let a new story be told in the same realm you are familiar with, you’ll get your hit of nostalgia with a great day of theatre. Does it need to be two shows to tell the story? Probably not. Does it need to be two shows to let you soak in the magic that theatre and Harry Potter can pull off in just a few hours? Probably.