At its best, Broadway has always been a magical place. But the extraordinary "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" that opened Sunday night at the Lyric Theatre takes that concept to a brilliant new level.
The play, written by John Tiffany (who also directs) and Jack Thorne based on J.K. Rowling's original story, is a five-plus-hour, two-part continuation of Rowling's beloved saga that since 1997 has chronicled the life of a young wizard and his struggle against the forces of darkness.
Breaking box-office records from the moment it started previews at the meticulously restored Lyric (an entire review could be written on the wallpaper), "Cursed Child" takes off where Rowling's seventh book left us — on the platform at Kings Cross station where an adult Harry (Jamie Parker) and his wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), are sending son Albus (Sam Clemmett) off to his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
On the train Albus, insecure about having to deal with his father's legacy, meets Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle), son of Harry's old rival Draco (Alex Price). Their unlikely — and deep — friendship drives the action, along with the coming-of-age struggles between fathers and sons.
Despite ongoing pleas for discretion (by now everyone's surely read about the #KeepTheSecrets buttons) devoted Potter fans know precisely where this is going. Still, even if you've not read a single book, it's the getting there that creates the wonder of it all.
The stagecraft on display is unlike anything I've seen, with magical moments taking your breath away at every turn. Brooms and suitcases and people fly about with abandon on Christine Jones' inventive set, fire flashes across the stage, a lake materializes, then a forest. Time travels and everything is a blur. Oh, please, could we have instant replay?
As for the cast, it's perfection, down to every member of the huge ensemble. The show really belongs to the impeccable performances of Clemmett's Albus and Boyle's Scorpius. Parker gives a fine portrayal of the tortured Harry, Noma Dumezweni makes a wonderful Hermione Granger (now the Minister of Magic and married to Ron Weasley, an understated and funny Paul Thornley).
In interviews, Rowling has emphasized that this is a play rather than a musical, but I'd argue there. With a beautiful score by Imogen Heap and spectacular movement by Steven Hoggett, the production somehow has the feel of a musical, lacking only the actual singing. Perhaps Broadway's first hybrid? In any case, it's not to be missed.