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Harry Potter stage story is worth the trouble

Posted December 19, 2016

Harry Potter (Jamie Parker) offers his son Albus (Sam Clemmett) the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby in "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" playing in London. (Deseret Photo)

LONDON — J.K. Rowling has made it perfectly clear in interviews and on her website that she wants no one to spill the secrets in the story of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

But that doesn't mean a visitor from the United States can't talk about how magical or well-staged or remarkable it is.

Keeping the secret doesn't keep those in the audience from gasping in wonder at the special effects or groaning involuntarily at some revelations.

In fact, it creates a pact among members in the audience that bonds strangers and Potter fans together. We all know it would be a shame to ruin it for anyone else, and it's kind of like belonging to a secret club, one with somewhat painful initiation rites tied to getting tickets.

Because the show is sold out months in advance, many fans have to rely on the Friday Forty lottery. Every Friday at 1 p.m., the theater releases 40 tickets for every performance the following week "at an amazingly low price," according to the production's website.

Those wanting Friday Forty tickets need to be there bright and early to be in line for the chance to buy a ticket, and if the little Harry at the bottom of the screen near the ticket booth runs all the way to the other side, you're out of luck.

In our case, we not only needed to win a chance to buy a seat but also needed tickets specific to the three days we would be in London. Further complicating matters, this story, which is kind of a sequel to the seven books, is told in two sequential sittings. Either you go twice in one day or two nights in a row.

If you don't win the lottery, you can hustle down to Victoria Station and to the box office at the back of the Palace Theatre the minute it opens and hope someone turned back a ticket or two. If someone did, it will be snapped up in the flash of a wand.

We were ready and when the guy at the ticket window said, "Well, we only have two available and one is behind a post," we jumped at it.

We were ecstatic.

Some fans in the line reported being on hold for hours to get their chance to buy tickets, and others said they reserved seats nearly a year in advance.

The lottery is good for outwitting scalpers, but it makes it risky as far as making solid plans to see the show. It also makes it miraculous when you get a precious seat.

Once inside the theater, the magic is stupendous. The acting is spot on. Even if you've read the script released in book form, the stage production is full of surprises.

Characters drink Polyjuice, shift shape before your eyes and disappear into armed bookcases. The humor is nonstop as well, with Ron cracking jokes and Harry and Draco having to find a way to deal with each other to save their sons.

Rowling, once again, has outdone herself (with a little help from Jack Thorne and John Tiffany). She captures the magic of the wizarding world while presenting a couple of real-life dilemmas and age-old questions about human and wizarding relationships and growth.

Cast members, including Harry, Draco, Albus, Scorpius, Hermione and Ron, are likable, fun, wry and smart. Paul Thornley is an exceptional Ron Weasley with just the right mix of sardonic humor and laid-back response, and Jamie Parker is every inch the grown-up Harry Potter, still unsure of who he is and what kind of man and father he should be.

Annabel Baldwin brings a freshness and touching demeanor to the part of Moaning Myrtle, while Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy and Sam Clemmett as Albus Potter create a warm and funny relationship, with Boyle stealing the spotlight in many instances.

The staging with suitcases, trains and Dementors is clever, and the props, costumes and set pieces are genius.

There's really nothing like this show.

It's ground-breaking and mind-blowing while staying grounded in the Harry Potter stories enough to soothe the anxious Potter fan and entertain those who are venturing into the wizarding world for the first time.

Whatever it takes to see it, it's worth it.

If you go ...

What: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," Part One and Part Two

Where: Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave., London, England

When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., two shows on the same day or shows on two successive nights

How much: 15-99.50 pounds (between $25-$120)

Web: HarryPotterThePlay.com

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 40 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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