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SCRUTINY | All-Star Canadian Cast, Spectacular Stagecraft In A New Harry Potter Story

By Paula Citron on June 21, 2022

Toronto cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Photo: Evan Zimmerman)
Toronto cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Photo: Evan Zimmerman)

David Mirvish, Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender & Harry Potter Theatrical Productions/Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, original story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany, play by Jack Thorne, directed by John Tiffany, CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, open-ended run. Tickets here.

In case you are wondering why some of your favourite actors are missing from Stratford, Shaw and Toronto stages, it’s because they are all in the Mirvish production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Given that tickets are now being sold to the end of December, these actors won’t have to worry about jobs for a considerable time to come.

The production delivers big time. It is three-and a half-hours of mind-boggling stage wizardry (and kudos to Jamie Harrison, who is credited with Illusions and Magic). The visual effects are just fabulous, and it also helps that the story itself has substance, based as it is on father/son conflict. In fact, amid the flash and dash, there are many poignant moments.

The popularity of the show is not just because of the Harry Potter phenomenon, which began in 1998 with the publication of J.K. Rowling’s first novel in the series. Potter fandom is unforgiving and very protective of their beloved hero, so Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had to come up to scratch — and it does, in superb stagecraft. It is also a surprising new take on the characters from the books and movies.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened in London as a two-part play in 2016, and still remains in that format in the West End. The original Broadway production was also in two parts. Sensing a better mousetrap, this Toronto production, along with those in San Francisco and Melbourne, is “reimagined” as one three-and a half-hour vehicle. Believe me when I tell you that the hours fly by.

The play is based on an original story by Rowling, Jack Throne and John Tiffany, but in the program, they do give you a very comprehensive summary of what came before, plus a glossary of Potterisms. The action begins 19 years after the end of the last book (2007) where Harry and his friends saved the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort.
Harry (Trevor White) is married to Ginny Weasley (Trish Lindstrom), and Hermione Granger (Sarah Afful) is married to Ron Weasley (Gregory Prest). Both couples have children who are just about to start their education at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

(L-R) Thomas Mitchell Barnet as Scorpius Malfoy and Luke Kimball as Albus Potter (Photo: Evan Zimmerman)
(L-R) Thomas Mitchell Barnet as Scorpius Malfoy and Luke Kimball as Albus Potter (Photo: Evan Zimmerman)

There is already tension between Harry and his son Albus (Luke Kimball). Suffice it to say, things take a turn for the worse when Harry makes friends with Scorpius Malfoy (Thomas Mitchell Barnet), the son of Harry’s old enemy Draco Malfoy (Brad Hodder). If you want to know what happens, you’ll have to see the show.

Barnet literally steals the stage as Scorpius, but this Canadian cast is uniformly strong (except you do lose words when the characters are in high dudgeon). How can a show not be good that features Kaleb Alexander, Raquel Duffy, Shawn Wright and Sara Farb, not to mention the great Fiona Reid and Steven Sutcliffe?

Everything about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child works, and the original English creative team have done a brilliant job in transforming two plays into one. Christine Jones’ set is gloriously Gothic, Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are spot on in terms of character, Neil Austin’s lighting is wonderfully atmospheric, not to mention acclaimed composer Imogen Heap’s original score. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not a musical. Rather, it is live theatre with accompanying instrumental and choral music that is like a character in its own right.

While director John Tiffany has done a bang-up job with character portrayal and staging, we have to give a special kudos to movement director Steven Hoggett, who has turned scene changes into dance interludes. He even provides in sync movement numbers to introduce mood and locale. The actors changing sets wear full black university robes which they swing and twirl about with flourish, so the stage looks like a whirlwind. Very impressive indeed.

And there’s more cheery news. I was a good girl, and binged all the movies because I didn’t know anything beyond the Harry Potter name. My guest at the media performance, however, came cold. The name Harry Potter to her was a pop culture icon — she loved the show, and that is without reading the program summary.

This means that anyone, fans and non-fans, can enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The story and characters are interesting enough in themselves to hold attention, and of course, there is the marvellous technical wizardry happening on stage.

A good time was had by all!


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Paula Citron
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