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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Irish Repertory Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

We can be thankful to Irish Rep Artistic Director Charlotte Moore for bringing us a reasonably faithful revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s imperfect but worthy 1965 musical -- later a Vincente Minnelli film starring Barbra Streisand -- and helping eradicate the bitter taste of the most recent exceedingly odd 2011 Broadway revival.

Here, the basic storyline, and much of Lerner’s dialogue, remains true to the original. Chain smoking Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico) is led to psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) to cure her chain smoking. Once in his class, however, she proves highly susceptible to hypnosis, and is revealed to possess extraordinary ESP and telekinetic powers. But, more significantly, when she is regressed to childhood, she trips back even further in time to reveal a past life as an 18th century English lady named Melinda Wells. Bruckner falls in love with the earlier incarnation of the lady leading to complications especially when Daisy herself falls for Bruckner.

Despite the formidable presence of Harry Connick, Jr. and Jessie Mueller in the 2011 version, adapter Peter Parnell made some fairly radical alterations, including changing the gender of the heroine to “David,” a gay florist, while the flashback sequences hearkened not to 18th century England but to 1940’s Big Band era USA with Daisy’s earlier self Melinda now a jazz vocalist. Songs from Lane and Lerner’s “Royal Wedding” score were gratuitously interpolated. It just didn’t work.

On this occasion, Moore -- who both directed and adapted Lerner’s original script -- has done some fiddling herself, but nothing half so extreme. A couple of songs and characters have been dropped. Gone is the Greek magnate who wants to leave his fortune to himself and his amusing but expendable song “When I’m Being Born Again” and so is the character of Daisy’s fiance Warren (now merely an ensemble character), and her Olde English pastiche number, “Tosy and Cosh.” only played as background. In the original, Daisy had to give up smoking so as not to compromise her fiance’s job prospects; here, it’s her own.

In place of these numbers, there’s the number that Jack Nicholson was supposed to sing in the film, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (filmed but cut prior to release) done here as an attractive ensemble piece. Joanna Gleason sang Streisand’s movie songs in a 1980 San Francisco revival opposite Robert Goulet who had popularized the show’s title tune on record, but they’re not included here. Those numbers were also utilized in 2011.

Many find the reincarnation aspects of the plot ludicrous, but I’ve always found it rather intriguing, and the whole delightful, dotted as it is with such classic songs as “Come Back to Me,” “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” and “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here.”

Errico, who brings magic to all her work for the Irish Rep, creates a distinctive Daisy/Melinda, quite unlike originator Barbara Harris or Streisand. Pure New Yawk as Daisy, she’s convincingly the genteel English lady as Melinda. And her singing is splendid as always, clean and pure, with a brassy belt at the climaxes of “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” and her second act showstopper “What Did I have That I Don’t Have?”

Stephen Bogardus is solid enough as Bruckner but I feel fails to spark sufficiently the rather colorless role. He handles his three big numbers with aplomb, however: “Melinda,” “Come Back to Me” (another chart topper in its day), and the title number.

John Cudia brings his strong tenor pipes to the role of Edward Moncrief, Melinda’s philandering husband, and “She Wasn’t You” is a showstopper. Errico sings it, too, as “He Wasn’t You.” (Yves Montand got to sing a variation of the song in the film, but that, too, was cut, and only Streisand’s remains.)

There’s nice work from Daisy Hobbs and Caitlin Gallogly as Daisy’s rooftop buddies, and Rachel Coloff as Bruckner’s crusty secretary.

Other textural changes: the lively “On the S.S. Bernard Cohn” has lost its intro referencing her fiance Warren, and Warren’s “Wait Till We’re 65” extolling the virtues of Social Security et al, is now sung by Daisy’s friends as they persuade her to take a stable job.

The ensemble of five musicians, under the direction of Gary Adler, provides a pretty if intimate orchestral palette in Josh Clayton’s new orchestrations. Barry McNabb has provided the nice choreography for the intimate space, most elaborately in the “Wait Till We’re 65” number.

Ryan Belock’s fluid projections (pretty projection art courtesy of set designer James Morgan) allow for seamless time shifting. Whitney Locher’s era-leaping costumes and May Jo Dondlinger’s apt lighting are further plusses.

The strong-voiced ensemble does outstanding work throughout, and gives good measure to the title song on the theater’s balcony steps.

(Irish Rep Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street; 866-811-4111 or; through September 6)

Pictured: Craig Waletzko, Melissa Errico, and William Bellamy. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Monday, July 2, 2018

Skintight (Roundabout Theatre Company)

By Harry Forbes

That always-rewarding playwright Joshua Harmon has come up with a generally amusing comedy (albeit with serious undertones) about an unhappy 40-something divorcee who pays a surprise (and unwanted) visit to her gay fashion-designer father on the occasion of his 70th birthday. “It’s not an achievement to not die,” her father observes sardonically.

Idina Menzel, in a rare departure from musicals, is terrific as the self-absorbed, one minute loving, the next spiteful, daughter who arrives a bundle of raw nerves as her ex-husband is poised to marry a vapid 24-year-old. Her comic timing is really fabulous throughout.

Her distant father Elliot (Jack Wetherall) has a 20-year-old lover Trey (Will Brittain), the latest in a string of boyfriends, but this one may be more real than the others, as Trey resolutely identifies himself as Elliot’s “partner.” Adding to the mix is the imminent arrival of Jodi’s lackadaisical 20-year-old son Ben (Eli Gelb), who happens to be gay, and is on leave from a summer in Budapest majoring in Queer Studies, while exploring the Jewish family tree. (Elliot’s parents had fled Hungary during the Holocaust.)

Completing the unorthodox household are Orsolya (Cynthia Mace), a Hungarian maid who seems to have an unlikely bond with Trey, and a servant Jeff (Stephen Carrasco) who says little and is treated with arrogant disdain by Trey.

Harmon’s play, generally quite entertaining, doesn’t quite seem to me on the level of “Significant Others” or last season’s “Admissions,” but it's still quite worthy.  Part of the problem is that the characters here, though all demonstrating some good traits, unpleasantly veer towards the sour. But the basic setup is intriguing, and it's especially amusing to watch Jodi’s reaction to Trey, whom she refuses to accept as a member of the family, though she’s otherwise nonplussed about her father and son’s gayness.

Besides family and the nature of love, Harmon’s main theme is the supremacy of youth and beauty, despite all we’ve been traditionally taught about the inner self being most important.  Elliot effuses dreamily about Trey’s beauty in a late monologue that may strike some as a bit icky, especially when he says he wants to sleep on sheets made from his young lover’s skin. Harmon gets further mileage from several Botox gags.

Elliot is the most buttoned-up character, but Wetherall captures the enigmatic contradictions. The well-buffed Brittain -- who casually parades through the living room in a thong in one scene -- is superficially the dumb boy toy, but his Okie character shows more substance as the play progresses. Gelb is also impressive as Elliot’s more privileged-than-he-admits grandson, and his midnight exchange with Trey on the living room couch is deftly played.

Though Mace and Carrasco have the least to say as the servants, their body language speaks volumes. And Mace’s ascent up the stairs with a heavy suitcase is the most memorable staircase maneuvering since Julie Halston made her hilariously drunken ascent in “You Can’t Take It With You” a few seasons back. In fact, every time a character climbs or descends on those steps, we witness little gems of acting and direction.

Set designer Lauren Helpern has designed a coolly elegant West Village duplex set for Elliot including that tall staircase which we see in side view.

Frequent Harmon collaborator Daniel Aukin (“Bad Jews,” “Admissions”) is finely attuned to the playwright’s rhythms and the quirkiness and contradictions of his characters.

Jess Goldstein’s apt costumes and Pat Collins’ classy lighting are further pluses on the production side.

(Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, 111 West 46
Th Street; 212.719.1300 or;  through August 26)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Carmen Jones (Classic Stage Company)

By Harry Forbes

The revival of Oscar Hammerstein II’s very clever 1943 updating of Bizet’s “Carmen” -- a big hit in its day and one which had the critics outdoing themselves for superlatives -- is receiving a quite wonderful small-scale revival at CSC.

When the show first opened on Broadway, “The New York Tribune” declared the show was “as wonderful and exciting as it is audacious,” and found the libretto “brilliantly translated.”

“The Daily News” concurred that it “...rates all the adjectives that hurried fingers can find on a midnight keyboard. It is superb; it is enchantingly beautiful: it is musically exciting and visually stirring...Hammerstein, the best lyric writer in the business, has done a poet’s and a musician’s job with the libretto. His incandescent imagination sets your own afire.”

Indeed he did. And all these years later, I believe the show registers as worthy as ever.

Directed by John Doyle, whose last Hammerstein venture for CSC was the not-so-hot “Allegro” (Rodgers & Hammerstein) which, as I recall, had followed not long after a far superior staging by the Astoria Performing Arts Center. This occasion, however, finds Doyle at his best, eliciting strong performances from all, and staging the in-the-round presentation ingeniously. His work is wonderfully complemented by Bill T. Jones’ choreography which allows a seamless flow from scene to scene.

Compared to the lavish original Broadway production with its huge cast and full orchestra, CSC’s production is a chamber version with merely a six-piece band led by Music Director Shelton Becton, and a talented cast of 10. But no matter; the power of the piece remains undiminished. And one appreciates anew Hammerstein’s apt lyrics -- in the Negro vernacular of the period -- and holding up very well indeed. Like the original Opera-Comique version of “Carmen,” Hammerstein employed spoken dialogue, not recitatives, between numbers. Those were, in fact, composed after Bizet’s death as Hammerstein had defensively pointed out in a program note back in the day.

Besides the terrific 1954 Otto Preminger film with Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, I had previously seen Simon Callow’s exciting 1991 version at London’s Old Vic (which actually won the Best New Musical Olivier Award, as it was the show’s West End premiere) and was justly acclaimed, and York’s brief but excellent 2001 mounting in its Musicals in Mufti series which had featured Anika Noni Rose as good girl Cindy Lou, who loves soldier Joe.

On this occasion, Rose plays Carmen, displaying impressive operatic chops (as does the rest of the cast), and gives as good a dramatic performance as she did as Maggie in the 2008  “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She doesn’t overdo the hip-swiveling vamp aspects of the role, but she’s plenty sultry, sinuous, disdainful and, when confronted by a murderous Joe at the end, bravely defiant. The men in her circle are strongly played and sung by Clifton Duncan as Joe who deserts the army for love of her (his Flower aria most sensitively sung, and his fury in the later scenes powerful), David Aron Damane as prizefighter Husky Miller (Bizet’s Toreador song transformed into the rousing “Stan’ Up and Fight”) and Tramell Tillman as Joe’s commanding Sergeant Brown who lusts after Carmen himself.

Soara Joye-Ross as Carmen’s friend Frankie makes “Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum” a real showstopper, teasingly flirting with the patrons in the front row and aisles, while Lindsay Roberts makes a lovely Cindy Lou, Joe’s hometown gal, and convincingly shows her backbone when she comes to take Joe home. Other multiple roles are taken expertly by Erica Dorfler, Justin Keyes, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Lawrence E. Street.

Scott Pask’s scenic design -- effortlessly morphing from army base to Billy Pastor’s to a Chicago country club, and so on -- makes ingenious use of boxes and crates, and at one point, a voluminous parachute doubles as a tent (a striking coup de theatre). Ann Hould-Ward has provided vivid costumes (Carmen’s red dress, Husky’s purple robe really pop), and there’s superb lighting by Adam HonorĂ© and fine sound design by Dan Moses Schreier

Joseph Joubert’s  reduced orchestrations -- led by Music Director Shelton Becton -- are just right for this space. And though the book is trimmed and the show clocks in at 95 intermission-less minutes (shades of Peter Brook’s famous 1981 reduction of “Carmen” as “La TragĂ©die de Carmen"), nothing of consequence, at least that I can recall, is missing.

Get thee to 13th Street!

(CSC, 136 East 13th Street;, 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111; through Sunday, July 29)

Pictured: David Aron Damane & Anika Noni Rose.  Photo by Joan Marcus

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Othello (The Public Theater)

By Harry Forbes

As I walked into the Delacorte Theater on a balmy Sunday night, I felt a strong sense of deja vu remembering seeing my first Shakespeare plays at the Delacorte. This was because, even before the play began, Rachel Hauck’s set -- a series of stone archways suggesting 16th century Venice -- looked so reassuringly traditional, it was very much the way I remember things being in the days of founder Joseph Papp.

And as the players came out, that nostalgic feeling was happily reinforced by Toni-Leslie James’ lovely period costuming. It was clear that Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s production would not be subverted by any high concept notions but would unfold the story in reassuringly straight-forward fashion. And so it did.

Which is not to say, I hasten to add, that the two most recent “Othello” productions of my experience, both updated to a present-day military setting -- the 2016 New York Theatre Workshop production with David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig, and the 2013 National Theatre staging with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, screened here in an NT Live presentation -- were inferior. Far from it; those productions were each in their ways revelatory, and featured superb performances..

But there’s something to be said for tradition. And in this sylvan venue, the time-honored approach seemed just right.

Ironically, though, the most unconventional aspect of the evening turned out to be the casting of Othello himself. The part is played by Chukwudi Iwuji, a fine actor and a bright spot in the Public’s recent production of ‘The Low Road” fall when he played a well-educated slave who gets the better of his arrogant young master.

But here, from his very first entrance, he somehow lacks the requisite majestic bearing of a military leader, and as soon as Iago begins poisoning his ear against his wife Desdemona, he takes the bait all too easily and become unhinged rather too quickly. While he plays the crazy jealousy very well on its own terms, at times emitting unmanly squeals and he tries to come to terms with her alleged infidelities, there’s not so much a sense of a great man brought down.

As the scheming Iago, Corey Stoll -- very impressive in last summer’s “Julius Caesar” as Brutus -- is capable enough, but can’t honestly be described the epitome of evil, as he’s simply too matter-of-fact in his machinations, and it’s somehow off-putting for Iago to be so much taller than his Othello.

Heather Lind is attractive, intelligent and fetchingly coquettish as Desdemona (and her “Willow Song” is lovely), but it is Alison Wright’s Emilia who walks away with the show as her steadfast lady-in-waiting and subservient wife to Iago. Her outraged indignation after Desdemona’s death were the finest moments of the evening, and throughout she was a model of clarity showing just how “American” Shakespeare can be done.

There was capable work too from Babak Tafti as Cassio, Flor De Liz Perez as his mistress Luce, Miguel Perez as Desdemona’s infuriated father Brabantio, and Motell Foster as Roderigo (though it was rather odd to cast a black actor as Desdemona’s disappointed suitor in a play where Othello’s race is such a key plot point),

Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s direction is admirable in its unfussiness, though hasn’t quite been resourceful enough, as had been the case in those aforementioned productions, to make us overlook the implausibilities in the Bard’s narrative. Desdemona’s endless pleadings on behalf of Cassio which so plainly fuel Othello’s jealousy and Emilia not confessing earlier that she had passed on her mistress’ handkerchief to Iago, strain credulity more than usual.

Derek Wieland’s music is always apt, coming in like movie music at key moments, but sonically has a canned perfunctory quality.

The murder of Desdemona is particularly well staged, though the aftermath -- satisfying as ever to see Othello get his comeuppance and Iago’s villanies revealed -- feels overly protracted, allowing Iwuji’s whining regret to go on too long.

Despite these occasional failings, there is much to enjoy here, and no matter how often you’ve seen it, such is the power of the piece that one is completely gripped, particularly throughout its exciting second act.

(The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, 81st Street and Central Park West or at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue; free ticket distribution or call 212-967-7555 for more information, or visit; through June 24)

Photo by Joan Marcus: (l.-r.) Alison Wright, Chukwudi Iwuji, and Heather Lind

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Beast in the Jungle (Vineyard Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

The top-flight team that last brought us “The Scottsboro Boys” at the Vineyard -- composer John Kander, book writer David Thompson, and director/choreographer Susan Stroman -- have come up with something completely different on this occasion, a “dance play,” loosely based on Henry James’ novella, and updated to the present day.

The narrative -- which admittedly veers considerably from James’ more subtle tale -- charts how womanizing art dealer John Marcher (Tony Yazbek) meets May Bertram (Irina Dvorovenko), but each time he has the chance to surrender to love, a beast of his imagination (and spookily embodied here by some clever puppetry manipulated by the ensemble), prevents fulfillment.

They first meet in Naples and spend an idyllic day at the beach (until John’s demon gets in the way, that is), then 20 years later in England’s Cotswalds, by which time May is a noted photographer and married to a wealthy, gun-toting Englishman (excellent Teagle F. Bougere), and then, finally, three decades after that at an art gallery. The real beast is revealed to be nothing more than his fear of commitment.

The play begins with an elder Marcher, well played by Peter Friedman, visited by his nephew (Yazbek), a short story writer, who has just broken up with his girlfriend. Rather like the elderly Marchioness in Noel Coward’s “Bitter Sweet” advising the young lovers not to miss their chance for love, Marcher counsels his impulsive nephew to return to the girl he loves. And thus his own story unfolds.

Structurally, though, I thought the switch from rather prosaic spoken dialogue scenes -- including some jarringly un-Jamesian f-bombs -- to the wonderfully lyrical dancing didn’t quite gel. I think I’d have preferred the spoken portions delivered as sung recitative to maintain a more cohesive musical flow.

Yazbek, fresh from his show-stopping rendition of “The Right Girl” from “Follies” in Stroman’s “Prince of Broadway” is again superb as the young Marcher, dancing romantically or rhythmically and dramatically conveying his ardent romantic feelings and tortured fear of the beast. And he handles those framing present-day scenes as the bespectacled nephew with good contrast.

Irina Dvorovenko, so impressive recently in the Encores’ “Grand Hotel” as the lovelorn aging ballerina, is equally bewitching here, both dancing and acting, as her character ages over the decades. So, too, there’s wonderful chemistry between her and Yazbek.

John Kander’s musical score -- purely instrumental, no songs here -- consists of nothing but waltzes, and ranks with his best. I hope a CD may be coming. The nine-piece ensemble under the direction of David Loud plays the mesmerizing melodies most feelingly.

Stroman’s choreography is, as usual, ceaselessly inventive, and cleverly utilizes her terrific dancers -- Maira Barriga, Elizabeth Dugas, Leah Hofmann, Naomi Kakuk, Brittany Marcin Maschmeyer, and Erin N. Moore -- modelling their movements on Matisse’s “La Danse” (that painting having special significance to May). So they morph from the women with whom young John shamelessly flirts, to stately statuary on pedestals who magically come to life, to young ladies gamboling on the beach with scarves, to New York socialites. And there are further magical Stroman touches such as some witty sexual interplay on a picnic blanket, and May swimming into the sea to retrieve an unmoored skiff.

Though the story is rather somber, Stroman leavens the mood with many of these delightfully light moments.

Michael Curry’s costumes and elegantly spare but evocative settings, and Ben Stanton’s gorgeous lighting create pleasing visual imagery throughout. There’s a particularly striking criss-crossing of blue lights during an erotic pas de deux for the leads. Peter Hylenski’s sound design is also first-rate.

“Wasn’t it just beautiful?” an elderly lady asked me about a block from the theater when she saw the program in my hand, summarizing succinctly the general audience reaction.

(Vineyard Theatre, or by calling the box office at 212-353-0303; through June 17)

Photo by Carol Rosegg: Irina Dvorovenko and Tony Yazbeck

Friday, June 1, 2018

Saint Joan (Manhattan Theatre Club)

By Harry Forbes

Any production of George Bernard Shaw’s classic 1923 telling of the 15th century Joan of Arc, her battlefield triumphs, and her trial for heresy must be strongly anchored in the performance of the actress in the name part. So let it be said that Condola Rashad is a very persuasive Maid throughout, playing with resolute conviction and purity, and missing perhaps only a degree of spiritual fervor when pushed to the point of recanting her “voices” at the trial.

The color blind casting doesn’t matter a jot, any more than it did when, ages ago, I saw my first “St. Joan” on stage with the late Diana Sands on the Vivian Beaumont stage where, as happenstance would have it, Shaw’s musicalized “Pygmalion,” “My Fair Lady” now holds the stage so commandingly. (If your appetite is whetted for more Shaw, so too there’s always David Staller’s excellent monthly readings in his Project Shaw series.)

Daniel Sullivan, who mounted such a fine production of “The Little Foxes” last season, directs with an equally sure hand here, and has assembled an especially good ensemble, though economic exigencies, presumably, entail quite a bit of doubling of parts. The actors are more than up to the challenge.

Thus we have the commanding Patrick Page as Robert de Baudricourt, whom Joan must convince to equip her with men to rout the English occupiers, in the early scenes, and then a fine Inquisitor at the trial; John Glover plays both the Archbishop of Reims and and English soldier; and Robert Stanton as Chaplain de Stogumber, convinced the Maid of Orleans is a witch, and Baudricourt’s steward. Also excelling in multiple roles are Matthew Saldivar and Max Gordon Moore.

Among other highly accomplished portrayals, Walter Bobbie plays the Bishop of Beauvais, Jack Davenport his opponent, the arrogant Earl of Warwick, Daniel Sunjata the stalwart Dunois, Joan’s comrade-in-arms; and Adam Chandler-Berat the weak Dauphin, later Charles VII after Joan succeeds in having him crowned at Rheims cathedral.

Shaw described the play as a “tragedy without villains,” and indeed though one, of course, roots for Joan at her trial, and doesn’t want to have her burned at the stake, the playwright has laid out the arguments on all sides so we understand fully the political and religious motives behind their fatal verdict.

The 25-years-after epilogue which has Joan appearing to Charles in a dream with other characters -- including a 20th century emissary informing her of her canonization three years earlier -- is written in a lightly humorous tone, wrapping up things in dispassionate perspective.

Scott Pask’s set eschews spectacle for an all purpose backdrop of a dominating backdrop of organ pipes, lighted expertly by Justin Townsend, most dramatically when Joan is burned at the stake offstage. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are traditionally medieval

Productions of “St. Joan,” despite its classic stature, are relatively rare, so MTC’s production is well worth your time.

(Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th Street; 212-239-6200 or; through June 10)

Photo by Joan Marcus. Condola Rashad and Daniel Sunjata.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Lyric Theatre)

By Harry Forbes

This lavish sequel to the popular books (seven in all) joins “Angels in America” as this season’s highly recommendable two-part, multi-hour, British import, albeit one, unlike the Tony Kushner play, you bring the kids to see.  Both are outstanding pieces of theater, not only for stagecraft but emotional content as well. Playwright Jack Thorne -- in tandem with author J.K. Rowling and director John Tiffany -- have fashioned a worthy continuation of Rowling’s engrossing narrative that honors and enriches all the elements of the original.

Harry Potter (Jamie Parker) is now father of young Albus (Sam Clemmett) of Hogwarts age who has grown up in the oppressive shadow of his famous dad. On the train to Hogwarts, with his friend Rose (Susan Heyward), daughter of Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron Weasley (Paul Thornley), Albus surprisingly bonds with Scorpius Malfoy (Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s arch enemy at school Draco Malfoy (Alex Price), now a concerned father himself.

Harry is married to Ginny Weasley, nicely played by Poppy Miller. Hermione now heads the Ministry of Magic, and Harry has a desk job there. Ron is still endearingly silly.

Determined to prove himself worthy in his own right, Albus contrives to use a Time Turner device to prevent the death of Cedric Diggory (Benjamin Wheelwright) who perished in a game of Quidditch in the earlier story. They are aided in this endeavor by Delphi Diggory (Jessie Fisher). However, the stunt results in changing the present with disastrous results. And therein lies the crux of the plot. I’ll say no more as, much like Alfred Hitchcock in the trailers for “Psycho” years ago had begged audiences not to reveal the film’s surprises, the producers have done likewise here. In fact, everyone is given a button upon exiting reading “#KeepTheSecrets.”

The Showbill includes helpful synopses of the seven books and a glossary and even if you know the books (or seen the subsequent film versions), unless you’re a Potter obsessive, you’d be well advised to refresh your memory. Though I’d seen the films and read a couple of the books, I had frankly forgotten many of the details, so I found myself a bit lost at first. So, too, the actors tend occasionally to rush their lines, losing intelligibility. I had a veteran American actor on my left, and an English one on my right, and they were uniformly tsk-tsking at the sporadic lack of clear enunciation.

For my part, once I read the synopses and the helpful glossary, I felt completely up to speed, and there’s no denying that the first act ends on a real cliffhanger, with coup de theatre stage effects. Indeed, the effects throughout -- not overdone, but used judiciously -- are quite astonishing. Jamie Harrison is responsible for “Illusions and Magic,” both of which brilliantly abound.

Casting throughout is exceptionally well done, with most of the actors chosen for, or made up to look like, their movie counterparts, the big exception being Hermione. Ms. Dumezweni couldn’t be more different than Emma Watson, but she’s so dynamic and perfectly in character, one doesn’t sense any confusion on the part of the audience..

The excellent actor and singer Parker does well as the adult Harry, deeply troubled by his uneasy relationship with Albus particularly after he undercuts his son with a hurtful remark, but most of the stage time goes to Clemmett and  Boyle, the latter particularly winning.

The story is as gripping as the films, and given Rowling’s involvement, is invested with the requisite integrity. Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Tiffany directs with obvious affinity for the material, and the action is wonderfully fluid, thanks also to Movement Director Steve Hoggett. Sound Designer Gareth Fry’s stereophonic effects are also marvelously effective.

Christina Jones’ set is a marvel, switching back and forth effortlessly from the train station to the Potter home to Hogwarts to various other locales, with various cleverly employed motifs including suitcases and clocks.. Finn Ross and Ash Woodward’s video designs and Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are splendid.

For sheer entertainment value not to mention all the dazzling stagecraft, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is tough to beat. And best of all, underpinning everything are such time-honored themes as parenting, friendship, love, courage; in other words, the stuff of drama and life itself.

(Lyric Theatre, 214 West 43rd Street; 877-250-2929 or

Photo by Manuel Harlan: Pictured  (l-r): Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward,  Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright,  Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, Sam Clemmett. Credit:  Manuel Harlan