If anyone wonders whether the Harry Potter phenomenon has passed its sell-by date, they need only to have visited one of this weekend’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” script-book parties to receive an answer — a resounding “No!”
I dropped by the Sunday morning festivities at the Phoenix Changing Hands Bookstore and found devotees by the carload. The cheerful, enthusiastic crowd — and yes, it was a big crowd — included all age groups from babies to grandparents, the majority of whom were in costume.
All were ready to party. Brooms, wands and house ties were in abundance, as were wizarding robes, Hogwarts T-shirts and colorful get-ups of magical Muggle-impostors.
Changing Hands seemed very much like a book-lined Leaky Caldron hosting a Hogwarts school fair, with store staff effectively posing as magical instructors.
Once visitors had picked up their copies of “The Cursed Child,” they were free to enter the Potter prizes raffle and attend mini-courses in Charms (making chocolate-covered pretzels with Honeydukes sprinkles); Divination (having their tea leaves read); History of Magic (getting sorted, then constructing and coloring their House shield); Potions (making and recognizing important magical concoctions); Transfiguration (choosing their magical look, getting face-painted and photographed); and even having a little Quidditch practice.
There was a palpable feeling of community and fun throughout, as parents and older brothers and sisters shared their love of all things Potter with younger family members and friends.
Harry Potter has definitely become an intergenerational passion. Is he the magical Sherlock Holmes? Only time will tell, but it seems possible.
In talking with attendees, I discovered that entering the Potterverse was a step-by-step rite of passage. Kids in diapers know the characters and play with wands and broomsticks while they wait eagerly to be old enough to begin the books or watch the movies. Many parents insist that their kids read the books before ever seeing the films. And most families read and watch together.
It will be interesting to see if all the enthusiasm carries over to the new book. It is reported to be the year’s top pre-ordered book, and the play is receiving fantastic reviews, but the mostly dialogue format is unusual.
The story itself is dark, rich and complex, and it must be dazzling on stage, but I found myself missing the wonderful narrative detail of the other books.
I suspect that most true fans will agree, but love it anyway because of what it gives us — precious time with old friends, a reminder of the joys and sorrows of life and love in an uncertain world, and a magical look at the consequences of choices and the “what ifs” of fate.
Related: Harry Potter’s gifts.