The final volume of J.K. Rowling’s seven-book saga of young wizard Harry Potter ends with an intriguing epilogue. Jumping ahead 19 years, Harry and his wife, Ginny, are sending their son Albus to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry alongside Rose Granger-Weasley, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley’s daughter. That brief peek into the life of the adult Harry and his pals inspired an entirely new adventure that unfolds on stage in the acclaimed play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, now open at Broadway’s gorgeously renovated Lyric Theatre.
This two-part theatrical event — written by Jack Thorne from an original story by Rowling, John Tiffany, and Thorne — stars Jamie Parker as Harry, Noma Dumezweni as Hermione, and Paul Thornley as Ron, reprising performances that won raves in the London run two years ago. Chatting with Broadway Direct about their joyful journey, the actors are everything a Potter fan could wish for and more: Parker exudes a Harry-like earnestness and sincerity; Dumezweni is warm and wise; Thornley embodies Ron’s laid-back charm and cheeky humor. On and off stage, they form the heart of a very special show, a gift none of them takes for granted.
“The appreciation we feel from the audience is a beautiful thing,” Dumezweni says of the cheers and applause that greet the Potters and Weasleys as the show begins. “At the first preview, as Paul and I were walking off stage from our first entrance, he whispered, ‘I bloody love Broadway!’”
“We get all the love,” a smiling Thornley agrees, savoring his long-awaited Broadway debut alongside fellow first-timers Dumezweni and four other members of the original London cast. (Parker appeared on Broadway in 2006 in the Tony Award–winning drama The History Boys.) “And to do [the play] in this beautiful new theatre? It’s amazing.”
For audiences, the experience of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begins as they take their seats in what now resembles a classic opera house, thanks to a sumptuous redesign overseen by Christine Jones, the show’s Tony Award–winning set designer, and Brett J. Banakis. The theatre feels both intimate and large enough in scale to accommodate this exciting new chapter in the “Potterverse” — one that J.K. Rowling herself urged critics not to spoil by revealing any of the story’s twists and turns. At the end of Part One, audience members receive a button reminding them to #KeepTheSecrets.
What isn’t a secret is the play’s magical ability to enthrall theatergoers who have never read the books, as well as those who know every detail. “It’s about family,” says Parker, referring to both the multigenerational nature of Cursed Child and the audience it attracts. Fans and newbies alike “identify with the struggles Harry has [as a parent] given the traumas he lived through as a child and adolescent. Those were his formative experiences, so what kind of adult have they formed?”
Harry’s legacy as the slayer of evil Lord Voldemort weighs heavily on him and on his middle child, Albus Severus, named after two renowned headmasters of Hogwarts. “We pick things up 19 years later, and Harry stills feel responsible for making the world a better place,” Parker explains. The fact that his son’s only friend is Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry’s old nemesis Draco, adds to the tension.
Before taking on their roles, the three stars weren’t experts on all things Potter, but they quickly embraced their characters’ quirks and enduring friendship. Laughingly referring to Hermione as “the brightest witch of her age,” Dumezweni says, “She’s just good people, firm and strong. In most situations, her energy is, ‘Come on, you can do better,’ and yet she’s still vulnerable in certain places. She has grown up into a really fantastic woman.”
And the adult Ron … is still Ron. “Thank God!” Dumezweni exclaims. Says Thornley, “One of the great things about this experience for me is that people have such a love for Ron Weasley. I think of him as someone who wears the same pair of shoes he’s worn for 20 years, who’s still a bit slapdash. The thing I like about him is that he brings a lightness into the room. He’s a good leveler for Harry and Hermione.”
On a personal level, the actors have cherished the opportunity to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with their own young children. Parker read the books aloud to prepare his seven-year-old son for seeing the show. Dumezweni and Thornley fondly recall watching their delighted daughters rush down the aisle on opening night in London. “My kids never cared about anything I did before this job,” Thornley quips.
As they settle in for an extended run on Broadway, the stars look forward to introducing the thrill of theatergoing to two generations: millennials who grew up devouring each new Harry Potter book, and 21st century tweens and teens discovering the characters for the first time. Noting that 60 percent of London ticket buyers had never seen live theater before Cursed Child, Dumezweni says, “Because of these books, there’s an enormous audience who wants to know this [new] story, which comes in the form of theater. That’s really special.”
Audiences of all ages should get ready to be amazed, amused, and moved by a play that manages to be both enchanting and down-to-earth. “J.K. Rowling channeled an extraordinary world that gives comfort and succor to anyone who feels like an outsider,” says Dumezweni, “and Jack Thorne understands that world down to his marrow. The play has so much heart.” Echoes Thornley, “The overriding emotion that bubbles to the surface is love — just a huge amount of love.”