‘Something More Reflective’
The play begins where the books end. We are at King’s Cross station as Harry, married to Ginny Weasley and a father of three, sees his middle child, Albus, off to Hogwarts.
The ensuing story encompasses Harry’s difficult relationship with Albus, who develops an intense friendship with Scorpius Malfoy (the son of Harry’s school-era enemy, Draco Malfoy), and it suggests that the weight of the past is a continual influence on the present.
It was Ms. Friedman and Mr. Callender who, six years ago, brought the idea of a play to Ms. Rowling, even though she had consistently rebuffed proposals to create stage versions of her novels. “Most of the ideas were about musicals, which I don’t love,” Ms. Rowling said, “or redoing the books on stage. I wasn’t interested in doing Harry in every medium.”
Their proposition was different. They suggested extending the story and creating a new work, which intrigued Ms. Rowling.
“We talked about loss, fear, bereavement, what it’s like to try to make a family when your own is poor or nonexistent,” she said. “I was really interested in making something more reflective than had been possible in the films. I don’t think we ever deviated from those themes.”
Ms. Rowling said that she had been clear that she would commit to the project if she could work with a playwright she felt was right. After Ms. Friedman approached Mr. Tiffany (a Tony winner for “Once”) to direct, he suggested Mr. Thorne, a self-professed Harry Potter nerd with whom he had collaborated on the teen vampire play “Let the Right One In.”
“When I met John and Jack, I think we knew pretty quickly that the play would center around Albus,” Ms. Rowling said, adding that she had always “been interested in Albus Severus. He was the one I thought about. Imagine going to Hogwarts with those two names — which of course I gave him!”
Mr. Thorne interjected: “It takes Harry a while to see why those names are a burden, which, from a dramatist’s point of view, is amazing.”
Just as Ms. Rowling has meticulously controlled her public appearances, she has also maintained a tight lock on the Potterverse empire.
Her willingness to put her characters in other hands is surprising, but Ms. Rowling said she had loved the entire process of cocreating “Cursed Child,” and hadn’t been prepared for the “emotional punch” the play delivered when she saw its final version.
She and her collaborators are also proud to have brought new audiences to the West End. Mr. Callender said that market research in the first year of the London production showed that 60 percent of ticket buyers were first-time theatergoers, and that 15 percent had subsequently bought tickets for other shows.
The Magic of Playacting
How to stage a Harry Potter tale without the benefit of the whiz-bang special effects movies can deploy? Mr. Tiffany approached the assignment with one guiding principle.
“The idea that the magic we put onstage could be a version of playacting stories in your bedroom,’’ he explained. “There was something about the aesthetic Jo had created, with cloaks and suitcases, that I wanted to harness directly and simply.”
Mr. Thorne predicted that even those loyal fans who’ve digested the best-selling script will be in for a surprise. “The stagecraft is such a massive part of the story that you still don’t know what will happen when you come into the theater,” he said.
Although the play will essentially remain the same on Broadway, the creative team is not taking anything for granted.
“If we see audiences aren’t getting anything, we’ll obviously adjust,” said Mr. Tiffany. “We’re always working on the show, and there are certain things about the architecture of the Lyric which means some things will change. It’s a theater with different kinds of possibilities, and I want to exploit them all.”
Ms. Rowling laughed: “Never leave a possibility unexploited,” she said.