Harry Potter fans (Is there a name for them? I'm one of them, so you'd think I'd know. Um...Potheads?) are buzzing about the most recent additions to the empire of The Boy Who Lived, most recently the announcements of an expansion to the Orlando Theme Park and a forthcoming stage play based on Harry's childhood before heading to Hogwarts. If you're like me, you're probably thinking that after such epic book and film series, an entire play about Harry's life under the stairs is bound to pale in comparison.
But J.K. Rowling has rarely if ever disappointed us before (maybe with Pottermore), and she is excited about the project. However, she is not writing it. You read that right. Rowling is producing the play, but a writer has not yet been chosen (she might be too busy writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them). With so much yet to be decided, this thing could go either way. Unofficial stage adaptations like Team StarKid's A Very Potter Musical and Daniel Clarkson's and Jeff Turner's Potted Potter have found success, but Potter fans have high standards. Let's take a look at some of the biggest things we muggles should be worried about.
7 Things The New Harry Potter Play Had Better Not Do
- Have not enough or no (!) magic - I understand that the play is to be set before Harry gets his invitation to Hogwarts, but as one of the most famous figures in the wizarding community, you have got to believe that there were some pretty magical things happening around and to him even before his eleventh birthday. Harry is a compelling character on his own, but we need magic too. End of story.
- Exclude all of our favorite characters - Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley do not count as favorite characters. If I don't get at least a hint of Dumbledore, I'm getting my money back.
- Not have enough conflict - Rowling has said that she had been waiting for a concept with sufficient "sensitivity, intensity and intimacy" to bring Harry to the stage. All that touchy-feely stuff is nice, but without an insanely powerful dark wizard to battle, there had better be some serious drama to drive the plot.
- Present alternate or conflicting story elements - I trust Rowling and her team to supervise the accuracy of this new piece, but if there are inconsistencies with the original books or films, Potter nerds will be on the attack.
- Cast actors and/or direct performances too differently - The performances by actors Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw in the film series have become the definitive interpretations of the Dursleys. If the actors cast in these roles in the play vary too wildly from that pattern, they could meet with resistance from fans. And the same goes with any other characters. Good luck to the boy stepping into Daniel Radcliffe's shoes.
- Lose the aesthetic and stylistic essence of the series - From the tone set by the music to the architecture of the buildings to the wardrobe of each character, the films did a very good job at bringing the books to life. If the play bungles these key elements of the experience, it is in trouble.
- Forget its audience - Granted, there are constantly new generations of children (and adults) discovering the wonder of the Harry Potter series. But those of us who spent our adolescences awaiting the releases of new books and films, those of us who were the closest in age to Harry during this time, are young adults now. If the play aims for too young an audience it might seem silly; if it shoots for too old a crowd, it will lose the magic it holds for the young adult fans. Let's hope it walks that line well enough to work.
Only time will tell what this new Harry Potter play will become. Since the main series ended, fans have been hungry for more, so we certainly have the best hopes for each new addition to the franchise, but we also fear the worst. Here's hoping that this stage piece can satisfy the protective fans and expand Harry's story with the same magic it has always had.