After a long spell—pun intended—it is once again witching and wizarding season on Broadway as a reimagined production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes flight at the Lyric Theatre November 12. Originally offered to audiences in two separate performances, the play—written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story by Thorne, director John Tiffany, and Potter creator J.K. Rowling—has been concentrated into a single show. And for three of the show’s young stars, going back into rehearsals after the prolonged shutdown will be like “going back to school to play with all of our friends” and “learning a new curriculum.”
Those are the observations of, respectively, Nadia Brown, who made her Broadway debut as Rose Granger-Weasley—daughter of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, Harry’s besties in the original book and film series—in the show’s Year Two company in 2019, and Brady Dalton Richards, who will make his own Broadway bow as Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy and best friend to Albus Potter, Harry’s son. James Romney, who appeared in the original company, will play Albus in the reimagined production, which is a continuation of Rowling’s series. It begins 19 years after Harry and his buddies leave the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as they see their own children off to school.
Tech rehearsals had just been completed for the show’s third-year company when the coronavirus outbreak shuttered theatres in March 2020. “It was the last time we saw so many of our friends,” says Richards, who had just moved to New York two months earlier to begin working on the show. “We’d been on stage for hours and hours, building these relationships.”
Adds Romney, who also arrived in New York after being cast in the show: “The strangest thing about the shutdown was that we had no idea how long it would last. At first, we thought we’d probably have two weeks and then this will blow over.” When that turned out not to be the case, company members found ways to stay in touch— including arranging silent disco parties. “It’s a euphoric thing, where we all wear headphones and we’re all outside, dancing. We did one on the Fourth of July, in Jersey,” where Brown resides. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to allow relationships to blossom and bloom.”
Returning to the rehearsal room in October will be “pure joy,” Brown anticipates. Like her castmates, she has been a Harry Potter fan since childhood: “I won a scooter for finishing [Harry Potter and the] Goblet of Fire in a month when I was 8 years old.” Richards’s mother fashioned his bedroom after a Hogwarts dorm, and Romney “went to all of the book releases and movie premieres. My mom made me Harry Potter costumes, and I reread all the books. I like to listen to them now on audiobook.”
Richards quips, “James is our scholar, our resident historian.” As such, Romney can assure fans that the new script “will be telling the same story” that Cursed Child always has, “but just making it fit into one show, so that you can see it all in one sitting.” Richards notes, “It’s faster-paced; in two parts, it already felt like it went a mile a minute, but this will be even more high-octane, with all of the character relationships still filled in and all the same magic.”
The actors appreciate the role that Cursed Child’s spectacular effects have played in its appeal. “I’ve been with this show for coming up on four years, and the magic does not get old,” Romney marvels. “It is incredible to get to witness backstage, and to get to do on stage. In the movies it was all CGI, and I think this is even more impactful, because you see it happening live, right in front of your eyes.” Brown adds, “And the show is jam-packed with it, from start to finish, which is unlike any other Broadway show right now.”
Richards muses, “Every single person I’ve spoken to who’s seen the show, they’re all like, ‘How did you do that?’” Brown points out, “We never tell them. It’s just magic—we’re certified magicians.”
For Romney, the story itself is just as affecting in bringing beloved characters to the stage at a different point in their lives. “Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Draco are all grown-up now, and this is about their children, and about what it’s like for them to be parents.” When Richards first auditioned, he says, “I hadn’t read the play yet, and I made all these assumptions about Draco’s son, that he would be this brooding, dark son of an evil man. And then getting to know him and how he affects the people in his world, you see that kindness reigns, as it does with J.K. Rowling’s best characters. It’s a journey of learning to accept oneself whatever way you’re intended to be and not just fitting into a mold that someone assumes fits you.”
“It was so great to see, especially as a Black woman playing this character, all these different children dressed up as Rose, performing magic for us when we went out the stage door,” Brown says of her previous performances as Rose. “It was like, Wow, representation does matter.” She adds that “getting immediate feedback from an audience again is going to be game-changing. Just being able to adapt and adjust in real time will be the best.”
“Doing this show was always amazing; we had such giving audiences,” Romney notes. “But coming back, after everything we’ve all been through this year—the hunger for theater, the hunger for art—I know there’s going to just be this incredible, ecstatic feeling. For us to do what we love with people we love, and for the audience to see such an exhilarating play, I think opening night is going to be electric, a million times over.”
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