Sheer Wizardry: Watching The Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Play In Melbourne

When I was 11, I recall stumbling across a dog-eared book at my cousin’s place. On the cover was a flying blue car with two boys and an owl sandwiched in between. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, the title said. I flipped it… and a whole new world of wonder and imagination opened up to me. Harry Potter and the wizarding world in which he inhabited and battled Lord Voldemort was the pinnacle of adventure for me. Needless to say, I secretly wished for a Hogwarts letter of my own!

When you grow up with a story and its characters, they become like friends. I anguished over Sirius’ death, rooted for Ron and Hermione to finally get together, and even years after the series ended, there is and always will be a special place in my heart (and bookcase) for the Harry Potter books. I was beyond excited when my editor told me I was going to Melbourne.. to watch the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play! It was literally a dream come true.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is based on a story written by JK Rowling, together with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, who also directs. Melbourne is the third place in which the play has been staged since it made its debut on London and Broadway. Housed in the historic Princess Theatre in the city’s East End Theatre District, the building has been renovated exclusively for the play, and now includes beautiful themed fixtures including a giant nest at the entrance and various decorative elements within such as velvet red carpets with the Hogwarts sign, dragon-shaped lamps and more.

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The play is about six hours long (!) and is split into two parts, intended to be seen within the same day, or on two different nights. The excitement was palpable as we stood in line to enter the theatre, with people dressed in robes and their ‘house colours’ waving wands. The atmosphere was infectious. After having read the last HP book years ago (Sorry Fantastic Beast fans, not too keen on the films), I was looking forward to entering that magical wizarding world again, one that had so captured my imagination as a child.

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The theatre was packed. Even before the stage opened, we could see that the set and the pieces were amazing; soaring buttresses, clocks on the archway, movable staircases. Then the lights dimmed, a hush fell over the crowd… and the magic began.

Featuring a 35-strong Australian and New Zealand cast, the story picks up with an adult Harry, now an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, and a husband and father of three school-aged children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

It’s hard to describe in words how the play is like: it is definitely an experience that you have to see to believe. The way wands light up in the darkness, the way actors appear and disappear from seemingly thin air and how brooms soar up into the air. There were parts where the audience laughed, cried and gasped as one – and I with them.

There were several breakout performances, especially by William McKenna as Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’ Potter’s best friend (whom I think is the real hero of the story!). I was also mindblown by the clever use of set pieces, which truly came together to create ‘real magic’. One of my favourites was the scene where Dementors actually float towards the audience and you can see the slow fluttering of their sleeves – it felt like they were real and not just props! Another was when our young heroes Albus and Scorpius try to escape from a moving train and the scene featured a gigantic train set piece.

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Of course, Part 1 ended with a cliffhanger, and once the lights came on the hall immediately burst into a riot of voices, as everyone started talking about what they had just seen. If it were up to me I could have sat through another three hours of the play but I guess the actors have to take a rest too. 😛

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The motto for the play is Keep The Secrets – ie no spoilers, so that others may go into the play and experience the magic for themselves.

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As part of a media entourage, we were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into production before the play opened for its second night – and as you can see, there is a lot that goes into making it a success. What we see on stage for a couple of seconds is the result of months of careful planning, and perhaps hours of setting up.

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You can visit the theatre during the day to get some Harry Potter exclusive merchandise such as scarves in the Hogwarts house colours, wands and other souvenirs.

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I always thought that I would be a Ravenclaw (being bookish and all) but surprisingly, got sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore. 😀

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People like a streak of the dark – the shirt with the Dark Mark was especially popular.

 

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The atmosphere was equally electric on the second night, as people now anticipated what the play had in store after the dramatic cliffhanger.

While I felt that the second part was as brilliant as it was the first, the climax that I anticipated never did come. It felt like last night’s cliffhanger was the climax, as opposed to the actual one in the second part. Still, the twist that came at the end was quite unexpected, and the play wrapped up on a high note.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is definite must watch for Potterheads (heck, even non-Potterheads – although you do need a bit of a background knowledge of Harry’s world). Having it in Melbourne is an awesome idea, as it is the only one playing in the Southern hemisphere, making it more accessible to Potter fans who will not have to go all the way to North America or Europe. The play has taken up a two-year residency since early 2019, which means you will still have time to watch it until the end of 2020.

Tickets are available at harrypottertheplay.com/au/ticket-information/. 

 

 

 

The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) @ Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre 12-15 October 2017

Even if you’re not a fan of classical music or theatre, I’m sure you’ve heard of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro somewhere or other. Or at least, this famous tune:

Composed in 1786, The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera in four acts that first premiered in Vienna. The opera was based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais and tells of how servants Figaro and Susanna struggle to get married while foiling the efforts of their philandering employer, Count Almaviva, to seduce Susanna.

Fun fact: Did you know that Marriage de Figaro was first banned in Vienna ? The Emperor apparently took a dislike to its risque (for that era anyway) and political content and wanted the Austrian Censor to ban it. Eventually, Mozart’s librettist Da Ponte (the guy who writes the lines/script in opera) managed to get approval for the operatic version (he did a few tweaks, such as changing Figaro’s speech about inherited nobility into an aria about unfaithful wives) and bam. Worldwide success – not just for that era, but for hundreds of years to come.

Now, Malaysian audiences can catch the play, as The Marriage of Figaro will be showing at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre from 12 til 15 October. Revolving around themes like fidelity and love, the story is sure to entertain the crowd with its meaningful messages and classic songs, coupled with comedic timing.

A sequel to another one of Beaumarchais’ works, the Barber of Seville, the story is set several years later and follows a ‘day of madness’ in the palace of Count Almaviva in Spain. Almaviva, formerly a romantic youth, is now a scheming, bullying lord. He is constantly trying to exercise his doit du seigneur (similar to the English prima noctie) – which is the right of a lord to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – on his head servant Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna, who is the Countess’ maid. He comes up with excuses to delay the wedding, So Figaro, Susanna and the Countess conspire to embarrass him and expose his scheming. He counters with his own plans, and so on and so forth – but will true love prevail and can the Count be brought back to his old noble ways?

Presented by the KL City Opera, the production features talented local performers such as Chi Hoe Mak as Count Almaviva, Ho Chi Mei as Susanna and Samuel Lim as Figaro, along with characters such as the Countess, Cherubino. Marcellina, Dr Bartolo and more. Music will be presented by the KL City Opera Orchestra Ensemble, the KL City Opera Chorus, and the children from the Opera for Kids workshop.

Tickets and info can be found at klpac.org.

 

Love Story the Musical : Live in KL @ the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

 

Hey guys! So I was recently invited to the opening night of Love Story: The Musical, happening from now til 18 June at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Not my first time at a musical, but I thought it’d be a good idea to bring B along since he’s never been to one before! 🙂 I’ve also never been to KLPAC, even though I know it’s like THE place for the performing arts in Malaysia.

B and I got to the place early. Located in Sentul within a gated and guarded park area, the centre was opened in 2005 – but the building itself has impressive history dating back to the 1800s, formerly housing a wood-crafting workshop, a sawmill, a railway depot and workshop. At the end of WWII it was bombed but rebuilt and made into a golf clubhouse before being abandoned in the 1990s.Today, the remodeled building houses glass windows on the front.

Entering the spacious, high-ceilinged interior, we were greeted by an open space with stairs on the right leading up to the second floor. Posters of plays, dance performances and music shows were plastered on the pillars, and at the back was a mini library with a space for ongoing art exhibitions. Under the staircase area was a chic cafe called Espressolab, where B and I had some drinks since the show wasn’t due to start in an hour.

Posters of ongoing and upcoming shows on the notice board.

Show that we watched that night!

I’m sure everyone has either seen or heard of this movie from 1970, based on the acclaimed novel by Erich Segal. Even if you haven’t, you would know the popular song “Where Do I Begin”, the film’s instrumental theme (which also seemed to be a favourite tune of music boxes lol). The story was then adapted into a musical in 2010, with the script written by Stephen Clark and music by Howard Goodall. It enjoyed successful runs in UK and the US, and now, luckily for us, has been brought to Malaysia for the very first time!

View from the staircase.

Mini library with books donated from the public.


At 8.30PM, we entered the theatre, which looked like an auditorium with colourful seats. There was a small screen at the top which ran subtitles.

As photography wasn’t allowed during the show, I only took two photos of the before and during the intermission.

The play tells of a rich, spoiled boy, Oliver Barrett, and poor music student Jennifer Cavilleri, whose paths cross in the most unlikely way. They eventually marry against Oliver’s family’s wishes, and Jennifer gives up her lifelong dream of a scholarship in Paris in order to put Oliver through law school. He eventually graduates, lands himself a job and the happy couple move to New York to start their new life together. But as usual, fate has other plans…

(SPOILER) As far as it goes, it was a great play and I enjoyed it, although personally I don’t like watching sad plays or movies :/

The actors were good at conveying their emotions, especially Joshua Gui, the lead actor who plays Oliver Barrett, and Michelle Tan, who plays Jennifer Cavelleri. Both had awesome stamina; having to run around the stage, dance, sing and also convey emotion is no mean feat. I really admire the production crew and the speed in which they changed the sets around – basically after every scene, they had to rush out and spin/move the huge sets around and have them in place within seconds. The songs were also really great with nice melodies and meaningful lyrics, from the upbeat ‘Pasta’ and ‘Summer’s Day‘ to the haunting What Can You Say. 

The play is produced by Dama Asia, which has a long history of staging theatrical shows and musicals in Malaysia.

Showtimes:

  • 16 June – 8.30PM
  • 17 June – 3PM & 8.30PM
  • 18 June – 3PM

Ticket prices start from RM65 on Friday evening and Saturday Matinee, and RM85 for Saturday evening and Sunday Matinee.

More info on http://www.dama.asia, or call 03-4047 9000 (KLPAC) / 03 7880 7999 (Ticketpro).