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J.K. Rowling brings magic to the theater with a new Harry Potter play

At London’s Palace Theater, fans of J.K. Rowling can leap back into her now-familiar magical world of a certain boy wizard. In “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a new stage play told in two parts, Harry is back, but older and with children of his own. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Finally tonight: wizards young and old. Harry Potter is back.

    And so is Jeffrey Brown, with a look at the latest version of Potter-mania from his recent trip to the United Kingdom.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    At Platform 9 3/4 in London's King Cross Station, it's time again for fans to take the leap into the magical world of Harry Potter, the young wizard of eight films, and, of course, the books that have sold in the hundreds of millions.

    Now Harry is back, quite a bit older and with children of his own, played by actor Jamie Parker, and for the first time on stage, in the new play told in two parts, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," now at the Palace Theatre in London's West End.

    J.K. ROWLING, Author, "Harry Potter": You have been amazing for years at keeping Harry Potter secrets, so you didn't spoil the books for readers who came after you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It's still in previews and all very hush-hush, so, no, we can't show you scenes. Potter author J.K. Rowling, who worked on this with an experienced theater team, is begging fans not to spoil the plot.

  • J.K. ROWLING:

    So I'm asking you one more time to keep secrets and let audiences enjoyed "Cursed Child" with all the surprises that we have built into the story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Time Out London staff writer Kate Lloyd got a look, but wasn't giving much away.

  • KATE LLOYD, Time Out London:

    It felt like going to the greatest hit show of your favorite pop star. It just felt like everyone there had read the books, loved them, and now was reliving the experience with a bit of new stuff, but it was very much rooted in the old stories.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Just a block away, we saw the Harry Potter phenomenon in action, at an exhibition of graphic art and original film props now at the House of MinaLima gallery.

    Miraphora Mina and her partner Eduardo Lima helped create the Potter look for the films. Her theory of Potter's appeal?

  • MIRAPHORA MINA, MinaLima Design:

    So everything you see story wise and prop wise, you as an audience can think, oh, yes, I'm going to get my letter, or I'm going to read that newspaper. It's not a completely reinvented world. It's kind of the real world and shifted about 20 percent.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In many ways, perhaps, it's more a re-imagining than a re-invention, something we found some 400 hundred miles to the north, at the source of all things Potter.

    The story of Harry Potter itself of course comes with its own legends about where it was written, what it's all based on. And a lot of it began here in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    So, Eric, American student wearing a cape.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD, The Potter Trail:

    Ah, it's a dream job really.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Dream job.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Dream job.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Why?

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Read all the books, seen all the movies, played all the video games, bought all the toys since I was a little kid.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Twenty-two-year-old Eric Geistfeld of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is finishing his studies at the University of Edinburgh, with a degree in physics, real magic, as he told me. But he may be an even bigger student of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter.

    We followed as he led a group along the city's Potter Trail. It includes the famed Greyfriars Kirkyard, the cemetery where J.K. Rowling gathered names for characters.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Well, she obviously got the name from this grave because, in the mid to late 1990s, there used to be a bench that rang along this wall in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and she would come here and do a lot of the brainstorming for her first Harry Potter novel within these very walls.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And just beyond that.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Hogwarts, the wizarding boarding school.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    George Heriot's School, the inspiration for the mythical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

    Then there's the Elephant House Cafe, where, as all Potter-heads know, Rowling, then a poor single mom, would sit for hours with one cup of coffee and write. Standing over Victoria Street, which Rowling turned into a kind of wizard mall in her books, our guide said the sense of place is a key to understanding the world of Harry Potter.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    J.K. Rowling came here in the mid to late 1990s and just saw something in this street, sort of felt a magic of her own and decided to base an entire location off of it in the books.

    The history of Edinburgh has really bled into Harry Potter, its settings, its characters, and sort of a lot of the themes of Harry Potter as well.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Back in London, where things can look plenty Potter-esque as well, Financial Times journalist Jenny Lee told me the spell for her has always been in the storytelling.

  • JENNY LEE, Financial Times:

    A really epic piece of storytelling, which is incredibly compelling and unlike anything I had ever read before.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And as a playwright herself, she's interested to see how it works in a new form.

  • JENNY LEE:

    There is an excitement, not a hype, but an excitement around the fact that it is theater, that people can come to the theater, and in the same way that she got a new generation of kids reading, that we may get a new generation of kids coming to theater for the first time.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    This could be a way to bring young people to the theater?

  • JENNY LEE:

    Absolutely, I think so. I think that this is not going to be published as a novel. It's going to be published as a play text. And if people can't make it to the theater, they might just have to buy the play text and read that. And that could be a young person's first encounter with that medium, with the play text itself. And that excites me.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Of course, Eric Geistfeld and no doubt millions of others want more than the text, but the first batch of tickets sold out almost immediately.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Accio tickets. Oh. Accio is a summoning spell, so whenever you wave your wand and you yell accio, it will fly to you. So…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Accio tickets?

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Accio tickets.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But they haven't come yet?

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    They haven't come yet. I assume they're flying from London to here, so it might take a little while, but I hope they're on their way.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Good luck.

  • ERIC GEISTFELD:

    Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    From Edinburgh and London, I'm Jeffrey Brown for the "PBS NewsHour."

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