There is something about Harry Potter that never fails to give me goosebumps and bring tears to my eyes. This time was no different. At NYCC, we had the chance to experience the magic behind the scenes of movement in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with the cast and crew. Moderating the panel, we had James Snyder (Harry Potter) and joining him on stage Benjamin Wheelwright (US Resident Movement Director) and James Brown III (Movement Captain for Broadway Production). They both work in training new members of the cast on movement and how to use their bodies to create magic.
Snyder started by establishing the real magic behind Harry Potter and The Cursed Child: the movement. Wheelwright and Brown then proceeded to give us an understanding of their job. Being part of the Wizarding World, they strived to be as magical as possible without the use of CGI. With this in mind, they decided to find different ways of making magic and using the human body itself to make it happen. Most importantly, they wanted to stay as simple as possible and use every day items to make add to the illusion. The plan became using movement as transition as well as a story-telling device. The first thing they developed was the “the physical vocabulary”—the actors’ movements. One of the key elements was the manipulation of fabric, using what they called “cloak-ography”—they worked on movement cues to maneuver the cloaks and make items appear and disappear on-stage.
With this, Wheelwright and Brown brought an actor on-stage to do a demonstration. The actor did a couple of movements walking throughout the stage to show how the cloaks can be used. He then brought a chair to show how the use of the cloak can make it vanish with just a swoop. After, they used an actress who displayed the magic of movement with a wand. This time, Wheelwright and Brown reminded us that the wand chooses the wizard. It was magical. And to add to our excitement the a whole ensemble performed for us the scene in which first year students are learning how to properly use their wand. Needless to say, I felt like a kid. It felt like it did all those years ago when I read and when I watched Harry Potter for the first time. As someone who has not been able to watch the play, it made me a bit teary. It was also the first time pyrotechnics were used on-stage at NYCC.
Throughout their discussion they showed us a few clips of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to illustrate their points. After, they welcomed on to the stage part of the cast of the Broadway show itself who introduced themselves along with their Hogwarts Houses and their dream Wizarding World job: Matt Mueller (Ron Weasley) a Gryffindor and Auror, Bubba Weiler (Scorpius Malfoy) a Hufflepuff and Herbologist, and Diane Davis (Ginny Potter) a Ravenclaw and Daily Prophet Reporter. The cast was able to squeeze in a few questions about their respective experiences working on the show before the panel ended – but the true highlight was seeing how the on-stage magic is brought to life.