Middle-aged Harry Potter is married, with three kids, a three-piece suit and a disagreeable desk job. That works, and there’s so much more, in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
The humongous world of the world’s most popular wizard translates very nicely, often thrillingly, from page to stage in the record-breaking, award-winning show, which opened Sunday at the Curran in San Francisco.
Clever, touching, filled with sentiment, razzle-dazzle, and most important, flesh-and-blood versions of J.K. Rowling’s characters millions know and love (or are obsessed by), the five-hour extravaganza, which premiered to raves in London in 2016 and on Broadway in 2018, is likely to delight both fans and open-minded newcomers as it continues its run here through July.
Told in two separate shows — yes, twice the price and perhaps a touch too long — the new saga follows the exploits of still-conflicted Harry (John Skelley) and his coterie: in-charge Hermione Granger (Yanna McIntosh, who’s African-American and that’s great) and funny Ron Weasley (David Abeles) and their offspring, who have their own wizarding, and growing up, woes to contend with.
Billed as the eighth entry in the Harry Potter series, Jack Thorne’s play, from a story by Rowling and John Tiffany (who also directs), focuses on the friendship between Harry’s teen son Albus (Benjamin Papac) and Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger), son of Harry’s former foe Draco (Lucas Hall).
Sorted into Hogwarts’ Slytherin house (especially traumatic for Albus, given his father’s association with Gryffindor), the kids feel like misfits, misunderstood by their dads. The adults have their own parenting issues.
Those conflicts lead the boys on a string of time-turning, mind-bending, life-threatening adventures in the fight against the dark side where, once again, they contact the creatures, teachers, cohorts, mentors and enemies that filled Rowling’s first seven volumes. On opening night, the audience whooped and hollered when the familiar characters made dramatic entrances.
The state-of-the-art stagecraft, way more exciting than computer tricks in movies, is equally stunning. Characters’ morph and migrate, cast spells with fire-wielding wands, or take under-water swims to strange places. Evil adversaries are equally ingeniously imagined.
On the other hand, much of the action transpires on simple moving staircases on which the main characters perch or move about, providing a lovely showcase (even a metaphor for their relationships), while the ensemble, strutting or swirling in capes to foreboding music by Imogen Heap, offers an enthralling counterpoint.
With an excellent creative and production team (lighting by Neil Austin and illusions by Jamie Harrison are especially notable) as large as the impeccable cast, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” wonderfully balances flashy effects and authentic characterizations. It’s geeky enough to satisfy most diehard fans of the books, and universal enough to please more casual theatergoers — even those who need to read the program’s four-page “Wizarding World” synopsis and glossary of important terms.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Where: Curran, 445 Geary St., S.F.
When: 2 p.m. (Part One) and 7:30 p.m. (Part Two) Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (Part One), 7:30 p.m. Fridays (Part Two), 2 p.m. (Part One) and 7:30 p.m. (Part Two) Saturdays; 1 p.m. (Part One) and 6:30 p.m. (Part Two) Sundays; through July 12
Tickets: $50 to $199; limited $20 tickets by lottery on Fridays