I took my four kids to see J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in San Francisco. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy taking your kids to this magical play. You might also enjoy our Harry Potter studio tour review.
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What to Expect When You Go to See Cursed Child
We bought the script for the play when it first came out. It was interesting, but not amazing.
I would have left it at that except for two facts:
- I am raising a house full of serious Harry Potter fans and
- Everything I read reported that this play redefined theater magic.
As a former drama geek, those two facts were enough to convince me that this would be a great family Christmas present. The kids were so excited about going that they gave up their entire Christmas in exchange for tickets. We had friends who wanted to come, too, just in case I needed one more reason to say yes.
The play was amazing. I watched six kids aged 13 and under sit spell bound through both parts, even though they add up to over five hours of theater time! Could the play have been edited down to something shorter? Probably. But my kids didn’t mind the length; my 13-year-old Harry Potter mega fan wanted it to last longer! Read her review of the play here.
Because it’s the special effects and the emotion the actors put into their parts that make the play. There was some incredible puppetry, nearly all of it invisible from our balcony seats. Even the set changes were choreographed to feel magical.
Because the play is SO long, I’ve shared tips for dealing with that – especially when taking children – at the end of this post. Be sure to read those before you go!
What Is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child About?
Harry Potter and the cursed child is the story of what happened once Harry Potter grew up and became a father. The play opens with Harry and his wife Ginny shipping their son Albus – who struggles with his father’s fame – off to Hogwarts. Hermione and Ron are there, too, sending their daughter Rose to school. Harry’s son Albus meets Draco’s son Scorpius on the train to their first year at Hogwarts. Mix your parents’ childhood rivalry with some serious time traveling, and you get a play full of drama and surprises.
How Long Is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two part play that you have to buy two separate tickets for. So, the important question is, how long is each part of the Cursed Child play?
The entire play lasts about 5 hours and fifteen minutes, including two twenty minute intermissions. You won’t make it in and out of the theater in anywhere near that amount of time, though, because of the way the play is set up.
How Long is Part 1 of Cursed Child
Part one of the play is about 2 hours and 40 minutes long, including a 20 minute intermission.
You should then expect a 2-hour-plus break before it’s time to start the second part of the play.
How Long is Part 2 of Cursed Child?
Part two of the play is 2 hours and 35 minutes long, also including a 20 minute intermission. So just barely shorter than part 1, and potentially longer when you factor in the curtain call.
Our play started at 1pm. We were told to arrive an hour early, to accommodate the narrow theater entryway and security requirements. So we arrived at the theater shortly after noon, and given the security line later this was a good call. We left the theater after 9pm.
That’s a LONG day. I have no idea how the actors do it, day in and day out, but they somehow managed to make the parts feel fresh for our performance.
Can You Go to Just Part 1 or Part 2?
Parts 1 and 2 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are sold separately, so you can. But I don’t recommend it. You need to see the relationships established in part 1 in order to enjoy part 2. And part 1 ends in a very bleak place, as you can tell by the set backdrop for the beginning of part 2. So if you see part 1, you’ll want to get everything resolved in part 2.
You CAN see the play on two different days, if you want. But I think our approach of seeing it in one mammoth theater day is more satisfying.
How Do You Deal with the Long Break Between Parts 1 and 2 of the Cursed Child Play?
We booked a hotel, waiting until the last minute when prices were low.
San Francisco is less than an hour from our house, so we decided to drive home and sleep in our beds. This meant we only used the hotel in between parts one and two, but it was a fantastic investment for us.
We picked a hotel room that was walking distance from the theater (there are several options in that area). We packed food for everyone in a couple of suitcases.
Our friends brought the Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit they’d gotten for Christmas. Between that and some food, all six kids were well entertained.
The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Theater at the Curran Theater
J.K. Rowling picked the Curran theater specifically for this play. The entire theater was remodeled specifically for these performances – something I’ve never seen done before. From the carpet to the wallpaper, the entire theater screams Harry Potter.
That being said, there are some frustrating things about this theater!
- The bathrooms are in the basement. We were up on the balcony (top) floor, and the line (queue) to go to the toilet (loo) stretched all the way up to the balcony floor throughout both intermissions. They managed to get everyone through, but it was especially frustrating to people in the fancy orchestra seats who had to climb all the way to the top of the stairs just to get in line. There are only 20 stalls for women, which is ridiculous for a sold out theater designed to seat 1,667 people. There are four (if I counted correctly) individual stalls on the second and third floors, but only 10 people at a time were allowed to line up for those. Also, men were allowed to line up for those alongside women, which was annoying given that the line for the men’s bathroom was MUCH shorter.
- You have to arrive early, and it is incredibly crowded. They ask you to arrive an hour before the performance starts, but they don’t open the theater doors until half an hour before it begins. This means that you have the relatively compact theater entryway and passageways packed with people.
- Temperature control is wacky. The basement especially (where the bathrooms are) was uncomfortably warm, especially when we first arrived.
What is the Cursed Child Theater Set Like at the Curran Theater?
The theater set was lovely, but the real magic came in the way it was used. The kids found the water in the stage especially impressive. There was a lot of flying, including over the audience, plus two other fun interactive audience moment that I’ll save as a surprise.
Wizards and furniture flew across the stage. Fire shot out of wands. Books spoke. Wizards vanished into a telephone booth floo network, and arrived through a lit fireplace.
Simple tricks felt the most impressive, like the flick of a wand sorting a stack of papers perfectly on a desk.
Our Top Tips for Taking Kids to see the Harry Potter Cursed Child Play
#1 Read the Books First!
You don’t need to read the play script, but I definitely recommend reading the Harry Potter series before attending this play! The playbill includes a synopsis of all seven books, but so much of the play is based off of more subtle interactions of characters that I don’t think you’ll truly enjoy it without reading the books first.
#2 Have a Plan for what to do While You Wait
We secured a relatively inexpensive hotel by waiting at the last minute. The prices was about a fourth what it was when I originally looked at hotels when we first booked tickets, so this is a situation where waiting to book pays off.
The hotel felt like a splurge, but I actually think it saved us money since it meant we could bring our own food. Local eateries are pretty crowded between the two plays, anyway.
We definitely enjoyed the second half of the play more having relaxed privately for a couple hours.
#3 Wear Layers
The Curran theater had some weird heating things going on when we went. I’d dressed in layers, and that was a good call. San Francisco is a layers city, anyway.
What Age is Ideal for Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
This play is ideal for anyone aged tween and older. There were plenty of adults going to see it as an adult-only date; in fact, they made up the majority of the audience.
I saw children as young as three years old watching. 7-year-old Anna found parts of it mildly frightening, but on a “yay rollercoaster” level. The beauty of theater is that it’s easier to remember that this is all just make believe, as opposed to a movie where things tend to feel more realistic. Even the voices on a stage feel like make believe voices; in a movie they sound like an everyday voice.
Can We Just Wait for the Movie to Come Out?
There are rumors of a film version of this play coming out, but I couldn’t find any official confirmation.
See the play if you can. It was clearly written for the theater stage, and the special effects are honestly special because they are being done by people in real time on a stage. I’m not sure how well that magical feeling would transfer to a film.
More importantly, this is a fantastic current play that even my 7-year-old and our 6-year-old friend sat through FIVE hours of in breathless wonder. Isn’t that worth experiencing?
I’m actually dying to see it again just to see if I can work out a few of the special effects that I found particularly flabbergasting…
Have you seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think?
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