Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's Broadway return to be substantially slimmed down as a one-part play owing to pandemic shutdowns

The show will continue to run in two parts in London; Melbourne, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany, but will be a single part in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. It was not immediately clear how long that single part would be; the two parts have a total running time of about 5 hours and 15 minutes.

The New York Times June 29, 2021 13:30:13 IST
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child's Broadway return to be substantially slimmed down as a one-part play owing to pandemic shutdowns

FILE PHOTO: Outside the Lyric Theatre, where "Harry Potter and The Cursed Child," is playing in New York, on 12 March, 2020. The play, which had been staged in two parts before the pandemic, will return as a single show on 16 November, 2021. Photo via Vincent Tullo/The New York Times

By Michael Paulson

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the sprawling stage play that imagines Harry and his friends as grown-ups and their children as wizards-in-training, will be substantially restructured before returning to Broadway this fall.

The play, which had been staged in two parts before the pandemic, will return as a single show on 16 November.

The show was widely acclaimed, winning the Olivier Award for best new play when it opened in London, and the Tony Award for best new play when it opened in New York. But it was costly to develop, costly to run, and costly for theatregoers, who had to buy tickets to two shows to experience it fully.

The play’s lead producers, Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender, in a joint statement, attributed their decision to “the challenges of remounting and running a two-part show in the US on the scale of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the commercial challenges faced by the theatre and tourism industries emerging from the global shutdowns.”

The show will continue to run in two parts in London; Melbourne, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany, but will be a single part in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. It was not immediately clear how long that single part would be; the two parts have a total running time of about 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Structured essentially as a stage sequel to JK Rowling’s seven wildly popular Harry Potter novels, the show was the most expensive nonmusical play ever to land on Broadway, costing US$ 35.5 million to mount, and another estimated US$ 33 million to redo Broadway’s Lyric Theatre. Before the pandemic, the play was routinely grossing around US$ 1 million a week on Broadway — an enviable number for most plays, but not enough for this one, with its large company and the expensive technical elements that undergird its stage magic.

The play, a high-stakes magical adventure story with thematic through lines about growing up and raising children, was written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, based on a story credited to Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany. Thorne and Tiffany said they had been working on a new version of the show during the pandemic, which, they said, “has given us a unique opportunity to look at the play with fresh eyes.”

The writers did not say what kind of changes they would make, but the production promised that the new version would still deliver “all the amazing magic, illusions, stagecraft and storytelling set around the same powerful narrative.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child began its stage life in London, opening in the summer of 2016, and winning nine Olivier awards — the most of any play — in 2017. It arrived on Broadway in 2018, picked up six Tony Awards, and initially sold very strongly, grossing about US$ 2 million a week. But the sales softened over time, as average ticket prices fell, apparently because of a combination of the lengthy time commitment and the need to buy two tickets to see the whole story, which made it particularly expensive for families.

The show has been expanding globally — adding productions in San Francisco and Australia, and planning its first production in a language other than English for Hamburg — making restructuring complicated. But the producers have apparently decided to go to a one-part structure in North America, while maintaining the two-part structure elsewhere in the world, as they try to find the formula for long-term global success. According to the production, the play has already been seen by 4.5 million people.

Tickets for the Broadway production will go on sale on 12 July; ticket prices have not yet been announced. The San Francisco production is scheduled to resume performances at the Curran theatre next 11 January, and the Toronto production is to begin performances next May at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

The two-part play is already running in Melbourne and is scheduled to reopen in London on 14 October and to resume previews in Hamburg on 1 December.

Michael Paulson c.2021 The New York Times Company

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