I’ve wanted to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child since it opened in London. My brother-in-law and his family got lucky with their timing, not only having already planned a trip when it was opening, but getting a great lottery number. They came back with rave reviews (though wouldn’t tell us anything because… #keepthesecrets). While I was excited for the New York premiere, my family had no interest. Yes, we all read the books – the whole series. We saw a few of the movies. And I even read the Cursed Child play when it came out (I was high on the library list, though it was so long ago I forgot the plot details).
So when it came time for Broadway tickets to go on sale, I got a lottery number and spent several hours refreshing my computer screen until my number hit, a few hours later. I started clicking different dates trying to find those magical $69 tickets – they did not exist. I texted my brother-in-law: “I have to decide right now whether to spend $1600 for the family to go see the show. Is it worth it?” He hesitated. His kids were HUGE fans, mine not so much. The staging was amazing, he said, but $1600 is a lot to spend if you’re not die-hard fans. I debated going by myself. I ended up closing the screen out.
When the next ticket block was released, I texted two friends who were also trying to get tickets. One of them was looking for a back-up plan. She had tickets for Mother’s Day 2018 – maybe she could sell me a pair if her friend bailed, at the ridiculously cheap presale price she paid. But she ended up keeping them. So when yet another block of tickets was released, I couldn’t help myself. I got a number and went to look. And the tickets were still expensive, but I could get 4 sets on a Sunday – my son’s birthday – for a little more than $1,000 including fees. Still expensive, but considering it was for a birthday, I justified it. And clicked “buy.”
The family was like “oh, you got tickets? Well, okay. I guess we’ll go.” That’s how excited they were, even though I was very excited not even recalling the plot.
Preparing for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I felt like there was a lot to prepare for with this show. First, you can’t print out your tickets (unless you get them at the box office). You either get the Ticketmaster app or pull them up on the Ticketmaster website. No screenshots allowed (I took screenshots anyway – I don’t have room on my phone for another app). I want to save the trees, but I also just want to print out my tickets on two-sided paper.
I had to figure out a dinner spot – after all – family birthday. So that meant determining the show run time to figure out how much time we had in between shows. Fortunately, there’s a ton of restaurants close by, and since our Sunday matinee ended before 5:00, it’s not like the restaurants were crowded (I believe weekend show times are changing). There are restaurants literally across the street from the 43rd Street entrance/exit. Or just walk to 8th or 9th Avenue for plenty of options – almost all very affordable. And we had way more time than we expected. In fact, after our sushi dinner we got cookies at Schmackery’s and still had time to get a drink (and for my son to get a second dinner, because…growth spurt) before standing around at the theater getting squished by others before the second showtime.
Also, the show website tells you to arrive an hour in advance. Who shows up an hour in advance for a Broadway show? Usually they make you wait outside in line until 20 minutes before the show starts. So we compromised – we’d show up 45 minutes in advance. More on that below.
You probably want to hear about the show, right? I’ll get there. But first…
Entrance to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
You can enter on either 42nd Street or 43rd Street. The line was longer on 43rd Street. Much longer. We walked around to 42nd instead. Both sides have a decorative exterior – I don’t think you miss anything using one entrance versus the other. They do check your bags (don’t bring food – water bottles were fine).
Inside the theater
You’re probably used to Broadway shows selling their wares at a table inside. Well this was sales on steroids. There’s a wand shop. There’s several walls of goods on every level. There’s a walk-in snack room – with a very long line. One line – don’t cut, thank you very much. And multiple other snack areas. And a lovely bar on the dress circle level.
They don’t actually let you into the theater/seats until about 20 minutes before the show. So you’re packed into the lobby areas like sardines, which isn’t so great if you have claustrophobia or other anxieties.
In the lobby area next to the grand staircase, they have flags for each of the four Hogwart’s houses, and you can line up and take a picture with the flags. Pssst. There’s a long line. And on the dress circle level, they have a Harry Potter backdrop (it’s not very exciting – just words and not even decorative words) and a camera that looks like the viewer for which you put in coins at the Empire State Building. You can take a picture with that and email it to yourself. We didn’t get in line for that either. We saw some people dressed up in Hogwart’s robes, and one adorable young woman in a wand dress. I thought the ushers should have worn robes or capes, but they didn’t. It would have been awesome.
That said, the stagehands wore robes, and looked like wizards while they changed things around on stage. They did it with pizzazz, waving their capes in a theatrical way. It was great.
They offer expensive popcorn ($10 for a cup), and some little boxes of salty or sweet snacks. They have butter beer – sort of. Not the same type you’d get at Universal Studios. This is a slushy butterscotch thing. It was $15. At Universal Studios (which tends to overprice their food) it is around $8. So $15 for a butterscotch Slurpee. They were selling a lot of them. Upstairs, they also had Frosé – frozen Rosé. That was tempting, but not for $19. They have $16 cocktails, but surprisingly none that were themed to the show (like at Wicked). Sodas and beers were the same price – $8. And Prosecco was $19. Given that bathrooms are always a scarce commodity at Broadway shows, my goal is always to drink as little as possible, lest I need to wait in a long line.
Also, at our dress circle seats (maybe at all the seats?) you can order food and drinks – during intermission and between shows – and they’ll deliver to you. That way you don’t have to fight the crowds. We saw people taking advantage of that. You just wave the menu card in between the seats in front of you and the usher/order taker gets your order. Prices seemed very reasonable for that.
Our $1,000+ bought us seats in the last row of the dress circle. The good news about the last row was that no one could kick us. The other good news is that we could easily be close to first in line for the bathrooms at intermission. And there was plenty of leg room. We could see just fine (granted, the people looked pretty small on stage). There were two times I really wished we were closer. There are dementors – I won’t say more than that, other than it would have been nice to be closer to the front of the dress circle, the front of the balcony or in the orchestra to get a better view. If you see Parts 1 and 2 the same day, you’ll have the same seats, though you can’t leave things at your seat.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a theater actually decorated this much for a show before. They actually changed the carpeting and the wallpaper for Harry Potter. You’ll spot an “H” logo which I assume is for Hogwart’s, not Harry. And in the lobby area, there’s a mural of different patronuses.
Harry Potter and wife Ginny (Weasley) have three kids, two of whom are promptly forgotten after the first scene (siblings? what siblings?). Harry’s son Albus is en route to his first year at Hogwart’s. He and Harry have relationship issues. Albus befriends Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius. The unlikely pair have a time travel adventure full of all kinds of magic. Plot twists ensue.
The set and staging
The show is set mostly at Hogwart’s with big wooden arches and a wood floor. It does change, depending on the scene, like in the enchanted forest or the train station, for example. Staircases are used as wonderful props. In one scene, where Albus and Scorpius are having relationship issues, the staircases are gracefully moved around the stage like a dance. I thought it was quite poetic and lovely, while my husband thought it was pointless and absurd.
There were some other “dancy” scenes, including one with suitcases, and another with people in capes. Sometimes I believe it was to allow time to change the set behind them, and other times maybe just to add to the mood? Don’t know, but the cape scene was lovely.
The lighting was fantastic. They used light (and the absence of it) to great effect. Blackness was their friend. And the talking paintings came alive using the blackness along with intense and rich lighting. It’s not like it fooled anyone – it wasn’t really magical, but the lighting was so good that the talking paintings really were spectacular.
The best part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The best part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the staging. It was incredible. They make a big deal out of #keepthesecrets, so far be it for me to detail all the magic and plot points, and spoil it for everyone who comes later. We argued over which was the best scene from an illusion point of view, as there were many to choose from.
The worst part of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The relationship issues between fathers and sons were so overwrought and overplayed that we just wanted to should “WE GET IT!” They even have a psychiatrist analyzing parent/child relationships in the Playbill. As the New York Times review said, “The script has more variations on father issues than the entire canon of Greek tragedy.”
The other thing was that Scorpius and Albus were so affectionate with each other we just wanted them to come out of the closet. We kept thinking “is this when they’re going to declare their love to each other?” Yet they each declared their girl crushes. It’s not that boys can’t be affectionate with each other, but it just didn’t ring true for two straight teen boys to be so huggy with each other. It was kind of awkward and weird.
Vanity Fair had this to say about it: “they do have some touching scenes together. I only wish the play was brave enough to act on its obvious subtext…Disappointments to their fathers, ostracized by their classmates, and intensely devoted to one another, the boys are basically living a queer prep-school narrative…It’s probably safe to explore all that in this post-Dumbledore-is-gay era, and yet the play walks up to the line (there are several scenes that are downright romantic) only to skitter away.”
What did the teens think?
My jaded teens who have seen a lot of Broadway shows thought the magic, illusions and staging were incredible. They also thought the plot was stupid (I disagreed) and that the dialog was terrible. “It’s like bad fan fiction!” they said. They weren’t wrong. Yet, “that was really fun. I’m glad we went,” they said at the end. They were in a great mood after both shows and didn’t hate me for making them sit through more than five hours of live entertainment (I can’t believe I just typed that – they sound so spoiled).
Other thoughts about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
We’re still not sure who the Cursed Child was. It is Harry’s son Albus? Is it Scorpius? Is it Harry himself? Not obvious. That said, my husband’s comment was “Harry Potter is an a**hole.”
We were a bit out of sorts that Hermione Granger was black. It’s not a bad thing, but we’re so used to lily white Emma Watson, that in the beginning, we wondered “who is that?” after seeing Hermione. Also, the cast is mostly white. There was a missed opportunity to make it a more diverse cast, especially since there were some people of color in the books. There was a mention of Parvati Patel in the play, but she wasn’t in sight. I’m sure there are plenty of qualified people of color who could have played any number of the roles.
I don’t advise going to the show if you haven’t read/seen Harry Potter and don’t know the basics (I can’t speak for those who only saw the movies – I read the books and only saw bits of the movies). The Broadway show really does rely on a foundational knowledge. The Playbills (yes, one per show) do have a brief description of all seven books, but that’s not enough to give you the foundation you need.
The show says it’s suitable for ages 10 and up, and kids four and under are not permitted in the theater. Also kids 15 and under must be with an adult. The show had a few scary scenes, and I don’t know how younger children would react. We thought we would see a lot more kids at the show, but it was a lot of adults.
You have to buy tickets to TWO shows to see the whole thing. Some days you can see both shows in one day (parts 1 and 2) and other days you need to stagger it.
If you’re looking for discount tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, good luck. I don’t think there are discount tickets. Just kidding. There are.
Every Friday, Today Tix releases 40 tickets for the next week at $20/seat.
Time Out New York has some other tips for getting Harry Potter tickets.
Running time of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Part One, 2 hours and 40 minutes (including a 20 minute intermission)
Part Two, 2 hours and 35 minutes (including a 20 minute intermission)
This is what the website said, and it was true.
Have you seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think?