It was only recently that I picked up J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and ventured into the young wizard’s world, and when I did so, I discovered something that millions of people round the globe already knew; that Harry Potter is rather wonderful. I was of course aware of just how big a phenomenon Rowling’s creation had become, but had always procrastinated when it came to actually reading the book series for myself as I believed them to be more for a younger audience. I’ve never been more delighted to be wrong however. The adventures of Harry and his friends at Hogwarts and in battling the dark wizard Lord Voldemort gripped me instantly, and I, along with my daughter, have now become firm fans. We’ve been re-watching the hugely popular film versions which have been playing each week in the lead-up to Christmas, but within the next few years, we will be able to travel to the West End to see The Boy Who Lived in an all-new stage show.
For Harry Potter fans, the news has come as a very welcome early Christmas present. It was announced this week that J.K. Rowling, who has previously turned down many approaches about a theatrical version of Harry Potter, is to collaborate with producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender on a stage play based on her seven-novel series. She will co-produce the play with Friedman and Callender, and although she won’t be writing the scripts for it herself, she will be working with a playwright on it.
The first question from many fans upon hearing this was, “How are they going to fit the events of all seven books into one stage play?” Unless the play was going to be at last seven hours long, that was never going to happen. Instead the focus will be on ‘the previously untold story of Harry Potter’s early years as an orphan and outcast’. When readers first met Harry in Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he was leading a miserable existence with his abusive aunt, uncle and cousin, living in a cupboard under the stairs and totally oblivious to the fact that he was a wizard. We are offered glimpses into his unhappy home life throughout the seven novels, but the notion of stage play which explores this more fully is an intriguing one. In the press statement released a few days ago, the play will feature ‘some of our favourite characters from the Harry Potter books,’ according to producers, as well as offering ‘a unique insight into the heart and mind of the now legendary young wizard’.
Harry Potter has appeared on stage before. Actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner created the Olivier Award-winning Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff which condensed all seven books into a comedic seventy-minute show which has been performed all over the world. Another parody came in the form of A Very Potter Musical, although the amateur performance (held on the University of Michigan campus) has only been seen as a YouTube video and as a cast recording. Produced by Starkid Productions, it was written by Matt Lang, Nick Lang and Brian Holden and featured music and lyrics by Darren Criss and A.J. Holmes.
In regards to an official West End Harry Potter musical though, the idea has always been disregarded by, not only the author herself, but the star of the film adaptions, Daniel Radcliffe. In an American TV interview earlier this year, the actor, who starred in the Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, commented that, “I do like musicals. I do love Broadway. And I do love Harry Potter. Do I want those things to be combined, though? My instinct is that I don’t.”
This stage play is the first proposed idea for the stage that has received both the approval of J. K. Rowling and her co-operation in getting it there. Speaking about Friedman and Callender’s pitch, the author said that their vision was, “the only one that really made sense to me, and which had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry’s story to the stage. After a year in gestation, it is very exciting to see this project moving onto the next phase.” The decision as to who will write the script alongside Rowling and who will direct the production is now being considered, but the plan is for the project to be developed throughout 2014 with the aim of staging it in the West End sometime in 2015. Warner Bros, the studio behind the eight-part films and the forthcoming Potter-themed film series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will also be involved in the play’s development.
After the staggering success of the original book series and subsequent film counter-parts, a stage version seems the natural next step. It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out. With such other attractions as the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and even a theme park in Orlando, it seems that the devoted fans have ensured that anything attached to the Harry Potter name is a guaranteed success. One can only hope this stage play doesn’t prove to be the exception to the rule.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Wednesday 25th December 2013