The Delicate Balance of a Stage-Adaptation

Harry Potter is going spin-off crazy at the moment. 18 years after this gargantuan-sized franchise started, the demand for new Harry Potter content is as veracious as ever. The spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently in the process of being made into a movie. Harry Potter will hit the West End in his own play. And (in an unexpected spin-off) author J.K. Rowling is releasing a new short story every day for a year which features the demise of the much loved lead character Ron in a new way each time. That’s just for all you sadistic fans out there!

JK Rowling

Surprisingly, it’s not actually the stories of Ron’s 365 different deaths which inspired me to write this article. It’s the play.

Every popular franchise somehow finds a way onto the stage. Happy Days, Frozen, Shrek, Oliver and even Bring it On. All these popular movies, television shows and books (among many, many others) have moved onto the stage to capitalise on the ready audience who adore the original premise. And they have been received with mixed success. Generally the biggest complaint is that they don’t match up to the expectation created from the original piece of entertainment.

What may seem like a simple cash cow can be a dangerous game to play. Carbon copies of the original piece of entertainment often do not meet expectations because they are compared so closely with the original. New takes on these popular stories can go too far and miss out on the crucial nostalgic elements the audience is looking for. It is a very difficult tight-rope to walk.

There is much speculation that the play, titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will take the audience outside the realm of the Harry Potter books back to the time of his parents Lily and James Potter (before they were killed by Dumbledore). But this speculation of a prequel was quashed by J.K. Rowling herself who really wanted to communicate one thing with her fans today via Twitter.

So where will she take the story? This woman, who has probably authored the most popular book series next to the Old and New Testament, surely knows how to handle this difficult balance and has made the right choice to write this play outside of the Harry Potter realm readers have already seen. Who knows, it could grow to eclipse the original in the same way that Wicked has dominated The Wizard of Oz story.

Either way, when it opens there will be millions of Harry Potter fans desperately waiting in a queue to buy tickets.