Curtain's up on 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'

Elysa Gardner
@elysagardner, USA TODAY
A view of  London's Palace Theatre after the first preview of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' on June 8, 2016.

Never mind the fallout from Brexit, or Will and Kate's summer holiday plans. For fans of a certain massively popular book series about a boy wizard, the biggest question looming across the pond is: What's next for Harry Potter?

The world-premiere staging of the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two opens on London's West End on July 30, the day before it is published as a "script book" in the USA.

Presented in two full-length parts, it's based on an original story by Potter creator J.K. Rowling and established theater pros John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. (Thorne is credited as the playwright, and Tiffany directs the production.)

Though Cursed Child began previews on June 7, Potter diehards who have seen it have been fairly discreet in everything but their enthusiasm, evident on Twitter accounts such as #CursedChild and the tellingly titled #KeepTheSecrets. For the rest of the faithful, and the curious, here's a roundup of a few basics — and some lingering mysteries.

What's the premise?

Fans will recall that the epilogue for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  — the seventh and last novel in the series, published in 2007 — was set 19 years in the future, with Harry married to Ginny Weasley and the father of three. Son Albus was nervously leaving for his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry's pals Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (now married to each other) and old nemesis Draco Malfoy were present at the train station, seeing their own children off.

That's apparently where we pick up here, with Harry now "an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic," according to the production's official site. "As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son" — Harry and Albus — "learn the uncomfortable truth: Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places."

The 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' team: front row, director/co-story writer John Tiffany; actor Jamie Parker; actress Noma Dumezweni; co-story writer J.K. Rowling. Back row: co-story writer and playwright Jack Thorne and actor Paul Thornley.

Who are J.K. Rowling's collaborators on the story?

John Tiffany is a familiar name on Broadway, having directed a shattering 2013 revival of The Glass Menagerie and, not long before that, the Tony Award-winning musical Once (which earned him a Tony for direction). His many credits for the National Theatre of Scotland include a decidedly quirky Macbeth that also transferred to Broadway, starring Alan Cumming (in multiple roles). Playwright Thorne has collaborated with Tiffany on other well-received productions, and also won praise for his work in film and TV in his native U.K.

It's not a musical, right?

Right, it's clearly identified as a play; lyrics are not mentioned on the site, and there are no reports of, say, a romantic duet between Hermione and Ron. There is music, though — by Imogen Heap, a singer/songwriter/producer/composer of atmospheric, quirkily melodic fare beloved among indie-pop and electronica fans — and movement direction is provided by noted choreographer Stephen Hoggett, whose numerous Broadway credits include Once (and Menagerie) with Tiffany,  as well as American Idiot and The Last Ship.

Will it be as stunning as the film adaptations? 

Theater is a different medium, of course; whatever their budget, Cursed Child producers would be hard-pressed to overshadow the cinematic majesty of the Harry Potter movies — or the enchanting performances by top film (and stage) actors, for that matter. But there's precedent for success: An adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials  staged at London's National Theatre in 2003 (also in two parts) impressed critics and audiences with its style and substance.

Members of Cursed Child preview audiences have taken to social media to praise the simulations of magic. (Special effects are credited to Jeremy Chernick, "illusions and magic" to Jamie Harrison). But a report in Variety also mentioned "simple" set design (by Christine Jones), including "a Gothic arched hallway that serves as the backdrop for multiple locations."

Details have been, for the most part, respectfully vague. "That speaks to the almost familial identification fans have with Harry Potter," says Rowling's publisher, Arthur A. Levine. "They wouldn't want to spoil surprises for anyone else."

Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, Sam Clemmett as Albus Severus Potter and Poppy Miller as Ginny Potter.

What can we expect from the new generation of wizards and witches?

In a post on Rowling's Pottermore site in June that showed Alex Price and Anthony Boyle — the actors respectively cast as Draco Malfoy and his son, Scorpius — in costume, the author teased: "I've got a feeling Scorpius is going to do nothing to turn girls off the Malfoy men."

Hermione, famously portrayed in the Harry Potter film series by Emma Watson, is played as an adult by a black actress, Olivier Award winner Noma Dumezweni.  (After catching a preview, Watson met with and praised Dumezweni, writing on Facebook, "Having seen it, I felt more connected to Hermione and the stories than I have since Deathly Hallows came out, which was such a gift.") Cherrelle Skeete, who plays Rose, the daughter of Hermione and Ron (Paul Thornley), is also black.

The grown Harry is played by Jamie Parker (fresh from an acclaimed West End revival of Guys and Dolls), with Sam Clemmett cast as Albus and Poppy Miller as Ginny.

Is it still possible to get tickets to Cursed Child?

Possible, yes, but not a cinch. Cursed Child is essentially sold out through May 27, 2017, though some seats may become available periodically, according to a representative for the production, and a new booking period probably will be announced soon.

Forty tickets are being released at 1 p.m. every Friday for choice seats to each performance the following week. "Forty Friday" offers seats to both Part One and Part Two for 30 pounds (roughly $40) during previews, and 40 pounds starting Aug. 3. Customers who visit and go to the booking page will be selected at random for a chance to buy tickets online, a maximum of two tickets for both parts in one transaction.

As is the case with Hamilton in the USA, the secondary market is another matter. On July 14, StubHub's list prices for August performances of Cursed Child started at 410 to 975 pounds (about $1,300) for both parts.

Is it necessary to buy tickets to both parts?

For Thursday evening performances of Part One and Friday evening performances of Part Two, beginning Aug. 1, tickets are available individually and as a set. On Wednesdays, matinee and evening performances (Part One and Part Two, respectively) starting Sept. 21 also can be bought either together or separately. For those who can't commit to both parts, summaries will be provided.

Cover for the book of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.

Will it transfer to Broadway, or anywhere else?

There are no confirmed plans, but given ticket sales, there are no doubt dreams.

What's next for Rowling?

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the first in a trilogy of films Rowling adapted from her 2001 book of the same title, is due in November with a cast including Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller.

Will Harry turn up again after this, on the page or stage?

No one's saying, of course. But at this point, nearly a decade after what was assumed to have been the last book in the Harry Potter series, it's safe to assume he won't disappear. Rowling has kept him and other characters from the series alive through observations and embellishments on Pottermore and Twitter — and occasionally in person, as when she revealed, during a 2007 reading at New York's Carnegie Hall, her belief that Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore was gay.

When it comes to Potter, Levine notes, "she has always said, 'I'll leave that door open.' She's said, 'If I'm inspired, I will.' And now we have proof of that."