We've seen many versions of the Harry Potter story since the release of the first book, but never anything like the story put on a live stage. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the Hamilton of the United Kingdom, as phrased by Jamie Lambert in an interview with a cast member. I had the privilege of seeing the original cast perform last month, just a week before the award show, and I was thrilled to see them win as much as they did.

The nominations

The show was nominated for eleven Oliviers:

  • Outstanding Achievement in Music - Imogen Heap
  • Best Theatre Choreographer - Steven Hoggett
  • Best Lighting Design - Neil Austen
  • Best Set Design - Christine Jones
  • Best Sound Design - Gareth Fry
  • Best Costume Design - Katrina Lindsay
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Anthony Boyle
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Noma Dumezweni
  • Best Actor - Jamie Parker
  • Best Director - John Tiffany
  • Best New Play

The winners

First things first, the lighting.

Neil Austen's design was destined to win: smoke machines reveal beams of light, dry ice for dream sequences, projections and colors and perfectly-placed spots, this show had everything. That, of course, paired with Christine Jones' eerie backdrop, and it was breathtaking. The set consisted mainly of old-fashioned suitcases – doubling as gravestones, the top of the train, chairs, tables, columns, and more – and were so fun to see be taken offstage in choreographed moves. (And as an actor myself, I know how hard it is to make scene changes exciting.) Gareth Fry's sound design was impeccably paired with the musical underscore, putting sound effects exactly where necessary. Costumes, of course, were elegant Hogwarts robes (similar to that of the movie); Katrina Lindsay clearly deserves her Olivier.

And the actors. Ron was the perfect comic relief. Young Harry was adorable and just how I imagined him in the books. Ginny was just like her mother, and Draco just like himself. Also, the Sorting Hat was a fedora. I personally felt like Delphi was too flat of a character and therefore we do see her big plot twist coming a bit, but otherwise this was a very well-cast show.

I must admit that I fell a little bit in love with Anthony Boyle's portrayal of Scorpius Malfoy. He sings a few of his lines, and shouts a lot more lines than necessary, which leads me to…

When Boyle's Scorpius doesn’t know what to do, he just screams. Some notable examples –

  • Scorpius is on the train alone, and Albus decides to sit with him. He offers him sweets. He screams.
  • Albus and Scorpius are trapped in Godric’s Hollow, 1981. Their parents travel back to find them. As soon as Albus sees his parents, he runs to them and hugs his father. Scorpius starts to run to his dad and then stops. He screams. (“We can hug too, if you like,” Draco says.)
  • Scorpius is getting emotional trying to explain to Delphi how much they’ve screwed up time. He screams. Then he quickly mutters “sorrysorrysorry.”

He’s so unbelievably human.

Boyle has such a brilliant way of getting into this character’s head and making him three-dimensional. Not only does he quickly back off as soon as he finds himself shouting, he is jumpy and self-conscious and always unsure what to do with himself, trying so hard to win everyone’s approval. His hand gestures – especially in Part I – are awkward and fidgety, but as he gets to know Albus better and better, he relaxes around him and doesn’t shout so much. When they are forbidden to see each other, we watch Scorpius’s walls go back up. We watch him recede into his old, outcasted, eleven-year-old self. Albus later tells him that he never believed the rumors about Scorpius being Voldemort’s child since Scorpius himself was so kindhearted.

Scorpius teared up (probably the first time he had gotten a genuine compliment like that), and I have to admit, I did, too.

For some reason, Scorpius is oddly obsessed with Bathilda Bagshot. When they go to Godric’s Hollow, he sees her door there and exclaims that he recognizes it. She opens the door and walks past, where Scorpius then jumps up and down in excitement. (“My geekiness is a-quivering!”) Later, they need an ingredient from her house and he knows that she notoriously left her house unlocked. He tries the door. It opens. He screams.

Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) was an actress I had heard a lot about and seen on a few episodes of Doctor Who, so my expectations were high for her - and she achieved each and every one of my hopes.

It's obvious she has studied Hermione as hard as Hermione herself studies for exams. Her choices on the stage were brilliant - especially when pretending to be Delphi pretending to be Hermione; she kept her levels well-balanced, perfectly contrasted from the real Hermione.

The one Olivier win I don't quite agree with is Jamie Parker's Best Actor award. Parker's Harry shouted so often and for so many different reasons that it began to feel a little mundane. Sometimes it’s more fun to see an actor trying to fight an intense outbreak than exploding into one, but Parker could not grasp that concept. Though he physically looked like Harry Potter, pieces of his body language didn't feel entirely in-character to me, and he could have done much better.

Now, it’s been a while since I read the screenplay, but as an actor I know that no one sticks exactly to the script when performing live. It’s hard to say how many of the added lines, directions, expressions, and pauses were John Tiffany's directions versus improvised at my performance, but they all worked great. It’s odd, too, how much of the show is read differently than performed. I read Scorpius to be this shy, insecure kid, but Boyle played him to be constantly embarrassed by himself. The scene I thought was saddest while reading – Hagrid finding baby Harry – was played comically live. The contrast between my reading in July and my watching in March changed my perspective completely, and it was no surprise at all to hear that the company had won Best New Play.

The losers

Imogen Heap's score wasn’t at all your classic, whimsical Harry Potter theme music. It was much deeper and more intimidating, going in and out smoothly. Sadly there was no live orchestra, but the music cues were all exact. As for the choreography done by Steven Hoggett, anytime they wanted to either buy time or add intensity, the ensemble members came onstage with their cloaks to do twirls and jumps and bring the props in and out of the center all symmetrically, then the lights snapped on and everyone snapped to position almost as if it were a jumpcut in a movie. It was astounding. I'm very disappointed to know neither of them won the award, but they were very good contenders and the nomination was well-earned.

Naturally, I did not see every single show that ran against The Cursed Child, so it's hard for me to fully cast my vote as to whether these could have or should have won; I just can't imagine a lighting design, a musical score, a supporting actor which could have been more impressive than what I saw on the Palace Theatre stage.