Suddenly I’m not so certain of the one Fact of Broadway Life that I’d
been so sure of for decades.
As I’ve often proclaimed over the years, “No play will ever — EVER —
outrun LIFE WITH FATHER’s 3,224-performance, seven-years-and-
In the last forty years, the only non-musical that’s remotely
approached that mark has been DEATHTRAP. Starting in 1978, it
logged 1,793 performances. That’s impressive, but it’s a mere fifty-
six percent of FATHER’s masterly run.
Of course I never could have predicted The Harry Potter Factor.
True, HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD will need to stay put
until 2025 to break the mark. But Broadway in the last thirty-five
years has had five productions that have run longer. Yes, they were
(or are) musicals, but none had brand names nearly as potent as
(One had me unexpectedly yelling “Wow!” so loudly that the people
in front of me turned around and glared.)
Plenty have also waxed rhapsodic over the magnificent incidental
score by Imogen Heap, who composed it with a little help from seven
friends on six tracks. Xenophilius Lovegood should stop the presses
of The Quibbler right now to accommodate a new headline:
MASTERWORKS BROADWAY RELEASES “THE MUSIC OF HARRY
POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD.” So although tickets are
murderously hard to secure, you can at least hear the music.
The CD’s booklet offers pictures, an interview with Heap and six bios
of people involved with the production – but no plot synopsis in order
to keep the show a surprise to those walking in. The play’s producers
and J.K. Rowling even began a #KeepTheSecrets campaign which
asks those who’ve seen the Tony-winning hit not to spill the (Bertie
Botts Every Flavour) Beans. As a result, I’ll keep mum (and I don’t
mean Ginny Potter).
No play-with-music on Broadway has ever sounded like this. You
won’t encounter many of its instruments in THE MUSIC MAN. An
array mbira gives the sounds of harps and bells. Standard-issue
drums are augmented by those made of steel – tongue and hang,
they’re called. There’s a marxophone, which gives the best zither
sounds since that 1949 film THE THIRD MAN. The Shritu box, one of
India’s favorite instruments, is there to provide the drones (which are
notes or chords that repeat throughout a piece). Boomwhackers –
those plastic tubes cut to make different notes of the scale – are in
Heap didn’t neglect the past. She included a nail violin that was
invented 278 years ago and a glockenspiel that had come into
existence a full forty years earlier.
Heap wrote a suite for each of the four acts making for forty-two
different cuts. To paraphrase a famous quotation from Dumbledore,
“One can never have enough tracks.” Suffice to say that some of the
music is darker than the Dark Lord while other parts are thunderous
enough to complement the lightning bolt on Harry’s forehead.
My favorites started right when I boarded the train on Track One
(“Platform 9 3/4”) and caught “The Hogwarts Express.” It bubbles
with so many sounds of sleigh bells that it may become a Christmas
classic. “Wand Dance” will get your juices flowing and may well
replace everyone’s need to do The Time Warp again.
“Albus Severus Potter” – Harry and Ginny’s boy – expresses the
sensitive nature of the young man. You know that a selection called
“A Malfoy” will just have to have some portentous sounds that are
second cousin to the music of JAWS.
Lest you yearn for the glory of the human voice, “Anything from the
Trolley, Dears?” is mostly a vocal selection both sweet and sour. It
admirably reflects the witch who can change her mood faster than a
cheetah can zoom across a veldt.
“Ministry of Magic,” the organization over which Harry now presides,
shows that life there can be serious at times and playful at others.
Remember how Stephen Sondheim surprised us by having Sweeney
Todd cut people’s throats while singing the lovely and lilting
“Johanna” instead of a song where he rants and raves? Similarly
speaking, Heap eschews a mournful melody to “St. Oswald’s” – that
home for senior wizards and witches – and instead has a lively
xylophone start the selection before a marching band comes in.
Heap apparently thinks “Privet Drive” is more interesting than it’s
seen in the books, for her music has a getting-down-to-business
flavor. A visit to “McGonagall’s Office” takes little more than a minute,
which is a godsend to anyone who has ever been sent to the inner
sanctum of a principal for doing some alleged atrocity.
Herald trumpets usually announce kings; here they trumpet the
arrival of “Dragons!” Heap’s music allows you to feel the animals
plodding onto the stage. “Dumbledore” (as in Albus) is where that
array mbira takes over and “Staircase Ballet” – perhaps the album’s
most beautiful track – may very well inspire choreographers to design
accompanying dances for their troupes.
And you knew, didn’t you, that there’d be a selection called
“Invisibility Cloak”? You can’t see it, but you can hear it. “Moaning
Myrtle” does get the synthesizers to moan a bit and creates a fun
Act Two comes to an end with “Scorpius Alone.” (Don’t blame me if
the title gives away too much; it’s what Heap called it.) As every
POTTER fan knows, Expecto Patronum wards off Dementors, so
there’s no surprise that “Dementors” should be Track Twenty-Seven
and “Expecto Patronum” Track Twenty-Eight.
By going for a bouncy melody, “In Trouble (Again)” manages to
make us feel the trouble won’t last. And you wouldn’t mind being
assigned to “Slytherin Dormitory” if this music were piped in through
the sound system. Ditto “The Owlery,” where birds of a feather and
many instruments flock together.
We won’t give the details of “A New Prophesy” but considering the
nature of the music, you just might guess who could be coming back
on the scene. “The Augurey” is often used as an honorific in
Rowling’s books, so it sounds lofty enough and has regal closure.
“Extraordinary General Meeting” nicely reflects Hermoine’s magic.
“Godric’s Hollow” is eerie before “Paint and Memory” becomes far
more joyous. See if you can tell just from the melody of “Lily and
James” whether the lady in question is Lily Luna Potter or Lily Potter,
You expect an eleven o’clock number in a musical to be a rouser, and
you can tell from the title “Burning Bed” that CURSED CHILD has one
In the end, Imogen Heap’s music will weave as strong a spell as
Ginny’s Reducto. So if you’re looking for a nice holiday present for a
Potter person and can’t find a Pygmy Puff, THE MUSIC OF HARRY
POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD should do nicely.
Neither Flourish and Blotts nor Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon
Alley can be counted on to carry the disc, so you needn’t bother to
get on the Knight Bus to reach either emporium. But you and even
Charlie Weasley in Romania can find it here, although copies are
expected to disappear as quickly as – well, a vanishing cupboard.