Before you proceed through this post: I'm writing this 2 days after seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Curran theater in San Francisco. I will do my best not to give any spoilers at all, but I will make some very generalized statements and suggestions. I'm not telling anything about the plot or the magic, but there are a few little details that I will be discussing. If you want to go in completely blind, please allow me to direct you to some different Harry Potter content, like this Harry Potter bookmark project, or maybe this make your own Polyjuice Potion slime.
OK, still here?
As you may know, I actually worked on the Curran marketing team when the arrival of Harry Potter was announced, so I've been anxiously awaiting this day longer than some others. I did indeed wait online last March to buy tickets, along with tens of thousands of other people, and the day has finally come and gone.
We gave Max the tickets for his birthday last April; we presented him with a time turner I had made, around one of the circles I engraved the words from the book, “I mark the hours, every one, Nor have I yet outrun the Sun. My use and value, unto you, Are gauged by what you have to do.” On the back I wrote my own message: “Of all the magic in the Wizarding World, if only you had a Time Turner to speed up time! We are going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on December 8, 2019!” (I realize only now that I got the date wrong. We saw it on the 7th.)
We decided to make a weekend staycation of it, putting Jamie's many Bonvoy points to use and splurging on a stay at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton. It's just a few blocks from the theater, so we could take some time to explore Union Square and still have the required 9+ hours for the entirety of the Cursed Child experience.
We bought tickets for my in-laws as well, so we had a family adventure that none of us will soon forget!
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Before the Show
When we bought our tickets, we opted to do the whole show in one day. In its entirety, it's about six hours of performance, split into two parts. You have the option of doing both parts in one day, or on two consecutive evenings. I'll probably do the consecutive evenings at some point, because I'm desperate to see it again. That's a little less expensive than the full day, but if it had been my first time seeing it, I would have regretted having to go home after part one.
Arrival at the theater
The first floor lobby and the restrooms open 90 minutes before showtime. We got there right at one o'clock and found a sizeable crowd already inside. Security was smooth to get in, with no real delays, and they'll scan your tickets as soon as you're through security. No outside food or drink is allowed, and they will look in your bag.
Take everything in! If you've been to Curran before, you'll notice some changes immediately. The carpet is the obvious one, and the merch booths (there's one in the lobby and two in the mezz) have been upgraded a bit. The bars have been revised, with new signage showing what's available, and a new array of snacks and drinks.
Walls everywhere are changed and painted, signifying the start of the immersive experience. I had heard rumors of even the bathrooms being done up, but I found the same glitzy restrooms from the 2016 remodel.
We didn't spend much time on the main level, because we wanted to take our time getting up to our seats in the balcony. We wandered up the stairs, stopping to admire the available merch and the food and snack offerings at the bars.
The doors into the auditorium opened about 15 minutes before the show, but it was nice to just meander our way up and enjoy the excited energy of the room. It reminded me quite a bit of the buzz while we waited to enter Galaxy's Edge for the first time. Geek excitement energy is a very real thing, you guys.
Side note: If you're bringing littles with you, ask a Curranator (an usher) for a seat cushion. Max appreciated the extra couple of inches it gave him.
Thoughts during the show
I love the Curran. It's my first love as a theater, where I saw my first real show, Les Miserables, when I was 11. To see her glorious chandelier never fails to take my breath away, so I was relieved that it was still there. The changes to the auditorium itself are minimal, but the things they have done are pretty noticeable, so I won't go into them here. I don't think you'll be able to miss the changes that have been made.
The staging is gorgeous, and even as the stage sits still and empty, you can see the importance of light and dark and how the lighting designers have truly perfected their craft. I mean, how often do you comment on LIGHTING DESIGN?
I knew that there was magic in the show. I mean, it's about wizards. But I knew that they had some groundbreaking practical effects, and I couldn't wait to see them. What I didn't expect, however, was how MANY feats of magic there were. You know how when you're watching a 3D movie NOT in 3D, and you can spot those moments that are just there to wow the 3D audience? I was expecting a handful of those moment. Showstoppy big magic tricks that would cause the audience to burst into applause. (There were those too!) but the ones that really amazed me were the tiny quiet magics. The flick of a wand to push in a chair, the suitcase that stops moving before the person carrying it. THOSE were truly incredible.
The attention to detail is staggering. The wizards robes could almost be a character in the show! There are some gorgeous movement sequences with flying, snapping robes that are seared into my memory, but even the stagehands got into the act! When a table has to be moved off stage, those black-clad stagehands zip out and with a swoosh, their robes make the table disappear before they roll it offstage. It's such a tiny thing, but amazing, and just adds to the immersive experience.
When you exit the theater after part one, be sure to look around as you leave. Pay attention to everything.
There's a standard 15-20 minute intermission in each part. You can refresh your drink, stand up and stretch a bit, go pee. A note about the bathrooms, especially if you haven't been to the Curran before. There are single/non-gendered bathrooms up on the balcony and the mezzanine. Obviously, the lines for those can get long. A trek down to the basement however, will reward you with almost 20 stalls per gender. Don't let a line scare you off! The Curranators (ushers) are well-trained in keeping the line moving along, and it will go much quicker than you could predict. There are lots of toilets available, so don't let a line that snakes up into the lobby make you uncomfortable not use the facilities.
Also, and this is a really cool thing, the next level of preordering your drinks and snacks for intermission is that there's now an APP that will allow you to order and have things delivered directly to your seat! (I recommend the frosé, Max recommends the cheddar and caramel popcorn)
Dinner Break Between Parts
We had an approximately three hour break, at which point we went out to find some dinner and conspiratorially whisper about the show across the dinner table, careful not to share any spoilers with tables near by.
Reservations for near by restaurants absolutely do book up, so make them in advance if you can! I really like Tratto and Bartlett Hall, both just a couple of blocks from the theater. We ate at Cafe Mason, a nondescript but reliable spot that didn't have a wait, and I used to eat lunch there semi-regularly, so I knew the food was better than expected.
Questions from Friends
Here are some of the questions that people have wanted to know, and again, feel free to DM or email me if you have anything specific!
Is this a musical, like with singing and dancing? Nope. It's a play. No spontaneous musical numbers to be found. That said, the music is amazing and was created by Imogen Heap. You can find it on CD and vinyl, or grab it on Amazon Music and listen online.
Both parts in one day or not? Like I said before, I can't imagine leaving at the end of part one and then trying to like be productive at work the next day before seeing part two. It's long, but also flies by… Max wasn't fidgety at all, the action and the story keep you engaged the whole time.
What should I wear? Like all shows at the theater these days, you always see a huge variety of outfits. We saw lots of Hogwarts scarves and tee shirts, with the occasional wizard robe thrown in. I got my dress at Hot Topic last summer, and Max's sweater is from Primark last year.
Do you need to have read the books? If you're talking about the Harry Potter series, it's not required, but it'll be better if you have. Character references and jokes will go right over your head if you aren't familiar with the full story. I also didn't read the Cursed Child script, because I don't enjoy reading scripts. Max had read it, so he knew the story, but I went in blind and am glad I did.
What age is it appropriate for? This is a tough one. I saw kids as young as five or six, but it's a long show and does get pretty dark (storywise and actual darkness wise) at times, so if your kiddos are really sensitive, it may be challenging.
What tickets do you recommend getting? There are seriously no bad seats in the Curran house. We were 4th row balcony, and had to lean forward a couple of times to see some action right up front, but otherwise we had a great view throughout. My absolute favorites in the entire houses are the Loge, which is the first couple rows of the Mezzanine.
How long is it playing? It's going to be in San Francisco for at least a couple of years; it's currently an open ended engagement.
Where else can I see it? There are currently only six theaters showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: San Francisco, London, New York, Hamburg, Sydney, and Toronto. Learn more on the Cursed Child website.
When is it coming to my city? Short answer, it's not. This is not a touring production, because of the extensive preparations that are needed to put it on stage. It took about six months of construction and preparation to get the Curran ready; it's simply not a scale that can go on tour. Even if, someday in the future, they were to develop a touring version, it would be like comparing a middle school play to Broadway. They simply wouldn't have the resources available to pull off the extraordinary show that currently exists. Here's a quick overview just a little bit of what it takes to bring this show to life:
All that's left to say is that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in San Francisco is simply something that must be experienced to be understood. Truly. It is groundbreaking theater unlike anything I've seen. The fact that it's about one of our family's favorite fandoms is just a bonus.