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Why Albus Potter needs to join his dad, Harry, in Orlando

August 1, 2016, 1:09 PM · The "eighth story" in the Harry Potter saga has premiered on stage at the Palace Theatre in London, and yesterday, Potter fans around the world got the opportunity to buy and read the script for the two-part play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Set after the events of the original novels, the play starts where "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" left, on Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross as the adult Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Draco see their children off to Hogwarts. From there, we get an original story focusing on Harry's second son, Albus Severus Potter, as he begins his Hogwarts adventure.

What does this have to do with theme parks? On the red carpet for the play's premiere in London, J.K. Rowling — who co-wrote the story for the play though not the script itself — said "I'd love it to go wider than [Broadway]. I'd like as many Potter fans to see it as possible."

If Rowling is serious about using Harry Potter to expand the market for live theater, there is no better venue to do that than the Orlando theme parks. Running the Broadway circuit in America will allow theater fans in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles to see the production... just as they get the chance to see every other successful Broadway show that hits the road. But if you want to reach millions more potential theater fans at once, you need to go to the place where so many of them go.

Orlando.

An Orlando production of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" could reach millions of fans from communities without the resources to stage the production or from towns where the show likely wouldn't get to in years of touring. By attracting millions of theme park fans each year, Orlando's a perfect (if wildly underutilized) market for expanding the appeal of Broadway and West End-style theater.

If you love theme parks for more than just the thrill rides, chances are that you love, or will love, live theater, too. The connection with theme park shows is obvious, but so many dark rides and other narrative theme park experiences draw from theater, too. The people who design the effects and techniques used in theme park attractions often have experience in theater production and understand how to apply what people have learned on stage to the "moving stage" of a theme park. And thanks to Universal, Orlando's already established itself a powerful draw for Harry Potter fans.

Universal owns those theme park rights to the Harry Potter characters, though it's unclear what rights that deal provides them to the new characters and locations in the Cursed Child script. But Universal Orlando does have one asset beyond its two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands that would help make it an ideal home for a Cursed Child production — the theater currently used for the Blue Man Group show.

That theater seats a little more than 1,000 people, making it smaller than the 1,400-seat Palace Theatre in London where the show is now playing. But if Cursed Child is to meet Rowling's goal of bringing theater to the masses, it can't play miles away from the theme park zone in something like Orlando's new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts downtown. It needs to run where the people are — at the parks.

Playing in two parts and demanding pretty much a full day's commitment to watch, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" might be a tough sell to theme park fans who already feel pressed for time to see and ride everything they want in Orlando. But it also might provide another incentive for people to extend their Orlando vacations. Or, for Universal Orlando, it might provide the tipping point the resort needs to convince more visitors to make the Universal Orlando Resort their primary destination in Central Florida instead of the Walt Disney World Resort.

One way or another, here's hoping that "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" makes its way to Orlando — and its millions of live entertainment and Harry Potter fans — sooner rather than later.

Replies (16)

August 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM · I disagree that it belongs in a theme park - it's 5 hours long!

But, in the "downtown" resort area it certainly has a place. Dinner and a show will be a welcome and entertaining change after a long day ground-pounding

August 1, 2016 at 2:41 PM · Forget theater. If the goal is to reach a mass audience, adapt it into a movie ( or 2 or 3)! In a few years, the original cast will be about the right age to play the roles again. Once Fantastic Beasts finishes its planned trilogy, it will be time to prep for the next generation of Hogwarts students.
August 1, 2016 at 3:24 PM · I'm in favor of a Harry Potter show that will last 30 to 45 minutes max. I don't see a point to do an entirely new show since few will care and many kids grow restless rather quickly. The stories are not a musical. Few people watch plays anymore. It has to be more or less an action story with plenty of special effects. The Shanghai Disneyland Pirates show comes to mind. Not much build up. A few lines. Quick costume changes. Much rope, trapeze, and trampoline acts. Maybe a few songs that are squeezed in like a Hogswarts School initiation song. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the school rivalries storyline would be most appropriate story to adapt. In fact, it should be turned into an evening spectacular with an enclosed amphitheater.
August 1, 2016 at 3:25 PM · Holy Cow, I LOVE This idea! I've always wondered why Universal and Disney have never built Broadway style houses. Disney obviously has an entire stable of Broadway style shows that it could stage. Frankly, the Hyperion theater at Disney California Adventure looks remarkably similar on the interior to the New Amsterdam in New York. I wouldn't be surprised to learn it is built to the exact specifications of the New Amsterdam, just without all the ornate trappings of that glorious old house.
Universal owns the wildly popular Wicked show, and even ran a condensed version of Wicked at the Osaka park when that park first opened (in a mix of English and Japanese).
Producing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at UO is a great idea, but I would imagine they would want to custom build a larger house than the theater that houses the Blue Man Group show. I honestly doubt that theater has the fly space or back of house capacity to produce Cursed Child. It's a LONG shot, but my fingers are crossed.
August 1, 2016 at 4:36 PM · I think the idea of a Harry Potter play at Universal Orlando is actually really good, but simply transplanting this one to the resort is likely to fail. The resort needs a shorter performance (~2 hours) that visitors can go enjoy after a day in the parks, not something that is going to take the majority of an entire day of their vacation. It also isn't something that should happen until there's a known market for the play...after reading a summary, I could see this story dividing Potter fans as it messes with existing canon quite a bit.

If J.K. Rowling really wants to reach a mass audience, creating a 2 part film adaptation with all the original actors returning seems like the best option. Not only will many people go see the film, but if it is marketed as being based on the play it may encourage viewers to go for the live theater performance as well.

August 1, 2016 at 5:52 PM · Yeah, I do think this would need a custom theater, but the BMG site would provide a great location. The south property also provides another option, but I don't want to wait until that's developed!
August 1, 2016 at 9:58 PM · I'm in favor of trading Blue Man Group (yawn) for Potter, especially since a permanent location might have higher production values than a touring show would. However, the five hour length is definitely an issue that would need to be addressed.
August 2, 2016 at 3:11 AM · I think the idea is great and I would love it. The play is a huge critical and commercial success in London. To shorten it would result in hate of the fans who are the main target group for this show. I think they should expand the theater, theme the facade and offer a Hogwarts Great Hall dining room as part of CityWalk that should be booked between the 2 plays for guests of the play and be open the rest of the day for other muggles.
The main problem I see is that people won't come if they can't book a show during their stay.
August 2, 2016 at 4:40 AM · Really interesting idea. Liked it at first, but the running time for this show is a problem. Given a vacation averages a week, a play this long is better suited to be seen closer to home (or special trips to London/Broadway/etc.) where you commit 1 day out of 365, not 1 day out of 7, to it.

Another consideration is international tourism, a big part of the Orlando market. A play is driven by dialogue more than other live performances. Shows like Cirque and Blue Man Group don't require an understanding of English to be enjoyed. The popularity of HP would likely have enough English-speaking theater goers to overcome that barrier, yet it's likely why the shows in theme-park adjacent resorts are more spectacle than narrative.

August 2, 2016 at 4:56 AM · Great idea! Put in the Blue Man Group theater, make it a separate ticketed event and watch 1000 people show up daily to spend their money on parking, food and drink in City Walk. Most are sure tobe going to the park, so an extra day is in order. There are sure to be a Fantastic Beast ride, exhibit or even Island to come and the play will surely add to the HP frenzy.
August 2, 2016 at 7:07 AM · Will theme park Hermione also be black?
August 2, 2016 at 7:58 AM · If theme park Elsa can be, why not?
August 2, 2016 at 10:16 AM · And if Disney really wants to fire back, how about replacing La Nouba with Hamilton?
August 2, 2016 at 11:55 AM · From James' keyboard to Bob Iger's to-do list, please.
August 2, 2016 at 2:18 PM · Rocketeer The Movie and Iron Man in the comics are getting remade with a black girl. Stop the madness.

Splash The Movie will be remade with Channing Tatum as the mermaid (or merman). Goodness. Stop the madness.

August 2, 2016 at 11:34 PM · The chances of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" coming to Orlando full time are slim to none. The producers of the show (Colin Callender and Sonia Friedman) both have prior experience producing shows on Broadway. That's where this is going. In fact, a New York Times article on 7/31 reported that the producers are headed to New York City in the fall to work on the details.

There's little reason to think that producers forgo a sure thing on Broadway (not to mention the prestige of potential Tony Awards) by taking this show to the untested waters of Universal Orlando. If that ever happened, it would be many years down the line.

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