How changes made ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ better

When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premiered in London’s West End in 2016, it wasn’t the only differentiator that it was the first Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. Nor was it the nine Olivier Awards it won, or the six Tonys that came after it was transferred to Broadway.

The play was also a rarity, especially for a theater program specially designed for families, since it was performed in two parts with two tickets and a total playing time of over five hours. Audiences could see it all in one day – with a one-hour dinner break between shows – or split the story across consecutive nights. In other words, a great expense of money and time for parents who brought their children.

“The production is undeniably long”, wrote Times critic Charles McNulty in 2016, “and there were moments when I wondered if its sheer scale wasn’t more of a marketing strategy aimed at producing a theatrical event than a narrative necessity.”

It turns out that the Cursed Child creative team got his point. During the pandemic, they reunited to trim their behemoth down to a three-and-a-half-hour performance.

“Given the challenges of Reassembling and running a two-part show With the magnitude of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the US – combined with the commercial challenges facing the theater and tourism industries due to the pandemic – we have decided to proceed with a new version of the play that will allow the Audiences can enjoy the full Cursed Child adventure in one go,” producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender told The Times via email. “It was a joyful process of rediscovery and gave us a unique opportunity to look at the piece with new eyes.”

Now available with two-thirds the original runtime and half the price, the resulting experience is much more accessible to families – and thanks to its thoughtful features, the slimmer version more effectively celebrates the relationship between parents and children, which is reflected in its target audience.

That "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" Cast is in groups on the stage.

From left: Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger), Draco Malfoy (Lucas Hall), Ginny Potter (Angela Reed), Harry Potter (John Skelley), Albus Potter (Benjamin Papac), Hermione Granger (Lily Mojekwu) and Ron Weasley (Steve O ‘Connell) in the San Francisco production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(Evan Zimmerman)

Two men point at each other while a woman paces between them.

Harry Potter (John Skelley), Hermione Granger (Lily Mojekwu) and Ron Weasley (Steve O’Connell) in the San Francisco production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(Evan Zimmerman)

Based on an original new story by franchise writer JK Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, Cursed Child is set decades after the last Harry Potter book and film. Harry, Ron and Hermione are parents to children who are as brave and adventurous as ever. Upon arrival at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry’s son Albus quickly befriends Scorpius, son of arch-rival Draco Malfoy. They get their hands on a rare time-turner and attempt to correct a dark stain in Harry’s legacy.

Compared to the 2018 New York production, the revamped Cursed Child, currently set at San Francisco’s Curran Theater, is a lot more focused — a fun dose of Potter lore. A line-by-line comparison of the two scripts reveals that the on-stage adventure has been carefully compressed, like a sculptor painstakingly carving away excess sound to present a more defined output of a creation. Dialogue was trimmed with throwaway jokes, offstage mentions of characters, and wordy replies. The lyrical scene transitions that earned the show a Tony nomination for Best Choreography are largely gone, and some sections of the exhibition are delivered at a pace so frantic that even a devout Potterhead could become confused.

But without so much unnecessary small talk, lackluster punch lines, and ineffective jabs, anything that survived the cut is far more impactful than before. This is especially true of his emotional beats: when Harry struggles to communicate with his son; when Albus despises the weight of his father’s fame; as Scorpius grapples with rumors of his parentage. These situations, once diluted with dialogue, have been rewritten into simpler, more direct feelings—short monologues or emphatic one-liners, each given seconds to sink in.

A man presses his son's head against his shoulder.

Harry Potter (John Skelley, left) and Albus Potter (Benjamin Papac) in the San Francisco production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(Matthew Murphy)

Some scenes were cut entirely, particularly those built around parents’ conversations about raising children and various interpersonal hurdles. Even moments where Ron and Hermione’s smart daughter Rose or Harry and Ginny’s daughter Lily take center stage have been left on the cutting room floor, and that’s disappointing. The erasure of these – as well as laborious plot summaries, dream sequences re-enacting key moments from the books, and Harry’s narration of them – keeps the play moving and keeps the audience’s focus on the plot at hand.

It is notable that in a revision where most scenes were shortened or rewritten, one was extended. The censored version ends with a final conversation between Harry and Albus as they come to understand who the other person is for the first time. Albus then asks his father a question:

ALBUS: You know, right? This Scorpius is the most important person in my life. That he could always be the most important.

He looks at his son. He knows this is important. He smiles. He knows.

Harry: I know. And I like it. In fact, I really like him. And if he’s the most important person in your life, then I would say that’s a very good thing.

This more explicit acknowledgment of Albus and Scorpius’ gay romance was added after the original version was barbed for calling these characters “secret lovers with all the subtext and none of the consequences”. as Billy McEntee of Logo wrote in 2018 – ahead of a Fantastic Beasts sequel. hinted at Dumbledore’s sexuality. “This is not the ‘Harry Potter’ universe needs LGBTQ Narratives; they should just not be hinted at and then left unfulfilled.” (If this “cursed child” is making a welcome effort to nearer that fulfillment, it can still be cold comfort to patrons who are fed up with Rowling’s continued embrace of transphobic ideas and rhetoric to have.)

A young man with steam coming out of his ears next to another shocked young man

Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger, left) and Albus Potter (Benjamin Papac) in the San Francisco production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(Evan Zimmerman)

A blond young man looks up at two ghostly figures.

Scorpius Malfoy (Jon Steiger) in the San Francisco production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

(Evan Zimmerman)

Of course, Cursed Child’s biggest selling point is the opportunity to experience the magic of this beloved wizarding world in person. So every illusion on stage remains excitingly intact. What fun it is for a fan to see the Sorting Hat in action, Polyjuice at play and James Potter’s Invisibility Cloak now worn by his grandson. I gasped with delight when a tail-wagging centaur took the stage and couldn’t help but scream when I saw cloaked dementors flying over my seat. There are enough tricks per hour to keep even a passing Harry Potter fan entertained; If they don’t care much about the narrative implications of a spectacle, they will at least wonder how each one is pulled off.

Cursed Child now has seven productions in six countries on four continents and claims to have “actors performing live on stage anywhere in the world continuously over a 24 hour period”. Theaters in London and Hamburg still split the story into two parts; those in New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Melbourne and Tokyo offer it as just one.

The play’s success may be a testament to the power of the ‘Potter’ brand more than anything else – but it’s certainly a bonus that a production that was revamped primarily to contain costs and is continuing after closure is one too better play for it is . The revised “Cursed Child” isn’t just a sharper story from parents and children; It’s a sharper story to the Parents and children, and one designed to encourage the creators of other established productions to keep coming back to their material with fresh eyes.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Where: Curran Theater, 445 Geary St., San Francisco

When: 7pm Wednesday to Friday, 1pm and 7pm Saturday, 2pm Sunday

Tickets: From $40 (subject to change)

Contact: (800) 806-0247 or

Running time: 3 hours, 30 minutes (a 20-minute break) How changes made ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ better

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