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Wizard magic: JK Rowling hopes Harry Potter play goes global

Writer J.K. Rowling talks to media upon arrival at the gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at the Palace Theatre in central London on Saturday. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, it is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and is the first of the stories to be presented on stage. (Joel Ryan / Associated Press)
Writer J.K. Rowling talks to media upon arrival at the gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at the Palace Theatre in central London on Saturday. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, it is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and is the first of the stories to be presented on stage. (Joel Ryan / Associated Press)
By Jill Lawless Associated Press

LONDON – London is under Harry Potter’s spell once more – and J.K. Rowling hopes the rest of the world will eventually follow.

The stage play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” had its gala opening Saturday in London’s West End and is already the theater event of the year.

Rowling joined director John Tiffany, playwright Jack Thorne and the cast onstage to receive a raucous standing ovation at the end of the two-part show at London’s Palace Theatre, where it’s scheduled to run at least until December 2017.

If the boy wizard’s creator has her way, that will only be the beginning.

“I’d like as many Potter fans to see it as possible,” Rowling said on the red carpet before the show, as fans cheered and poked camera phones over crowd barriers in hope of getting a picture.

There’s already talk of a Broadway run, and Rowling said: “I’d like it to go wider than that.”

Co-producer Sonia Friedman said she had big hopes for the show, which has been more than two years in the making.

“Hopefully many countries at some point will get to see it,” Friedman said. “But it’s a big piece of theater, it’s a big endeavor. You can’t just turn this around overnight.”

The play has been in previews at the theater for almost eight weeks, but few details of the plot have leaked (though those seeking spoilers online will find them).

People leaving the show are handed buttons urging them to #keepthesecrets – and most have complied.

Tiffany said spilling the play’s secrets was “like unwrapping children’s Christmas presents for them in November, in front of their eyes. And why would anyone want to do that?”

Rowling said fans have “been amazing, they’ve been incredible.”

“It is the most extraordinary fandom, so I’m kind of not surprised, because they didn’t want to spoil it for each other,” she said. “But I am so happy we got here without ruining everything.”

The script of the play is being published Sunday, with a global print run in the millions, so future audiences will have more opportunities to know the plot in advance if they choose.

Without entering spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that the play has much to make fans rejoice. This is both an eighth instalment in the Potter saga worthy of Rowling’s seven novels, and a stage spectacle to delight even the uninitiated.

The script – written by Thorne from a story by Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany – picks up 19 years after the end of the final novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

The cast is anchored by the adult trio of Jamie Parker as Harry, Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger and Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley.

Buoyed by the work of movement director Steven Hoggett and composer Imogen Heap, the show captures the warm spirit of the world Rowling has created – one that has moved from page to screen to stage with its magic intact.

Rowling – who wore golden winged shoes, reminiscent of the golden snitch she created for the magical game quidditch – said she hoped the show would attract “people who have never been to the theater before.”

“I would be so proud to think that kids from my kind of background, who didn’t come from particularly theatergoing families, learn what theater is all about through this show,” Rowling said. “That would be an incredible thing.”

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