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Harry Potter and the Philosophical Theatregoer

July 1, 2015

So Harry Potter is scheduled to arrive in play form at the Palace Theatre next year. Fascinating.

Have I already staked out where I wish to sit? You bet. My owl will be circling the box office waiting for the moment booking opens… They’ll be cleaning owl s*it off that counter for weeks, I’m guessing.

And yet, and yet…

… remember “I Can’t Sing.”

Based on the massive worldwide hit TV Show, “The X Factor” it lasted about 6 weeks at the London Palladium in 2014. It wasn’t great – fatally flawed in the second half, in fact – but it was nowhere near as bad as some shows which hang around for years.

What it comes down to, I think, is capturing the “zeitgeist.” That moment when the public will pay anything for anything, just because the brand is currently the hottest thing on the planet.

In theatre terms, we are talking the upcoming Cumberbatch “Hamlet.” Sold on the name of the leading man alone, it doesn’t matter if this is the best version since the original (5 stars from Qyntyn Lytts in Ye Daylee Mayl) Globe Theatre production or an epic failure to rival the O’Toole Old Vic Scottish play. The tickets have been sold, a profit made and the producer hasn’t a care in the world beyond hoping the star stays alive to complete the run and that the theatre building remains standing. As for the public, you’ve more chance of getting into Mr Cumberbatch’s pants than of getting a ticket to see him act, probably.

The fact Universal Studios have invested so much in a theme park area for Mr Potter suggests that this is one phenomenon which will be ongoing. Still, will the public buy tickets for a stage version? My guess is that it will sell exceptionally well – enough that the producers will get a return on their investment – as booking opens.

My other guess is that what happens next will depend on showmanship and exceptional theatre management.

By that I mean that the producers will need to be realistic about ticket prices. Premium seats dominating much of the stalls and dress circle, with regular top price extending to the particularly uncomfortable upper circle is simply a “no.” It could well happen, and will shorten the life of their show unless the production itself is so unmissably amazing that a family ticket costing more than their annual holiday still seems a wise investment.

And that’s the second thing… can they produce something that compelling on stage? It’ll need to look “the business,” with clever magic and enough story to reveal things Potter fans would wish to lap up and not find elsewhere. Just like the theme park, it’ll need to be unique and compelling to last, and no doubt spread around the world.

So, yes, exciting times. Now please excuse me, my owl needs feeding, and then it has my booking missive to despatch.

 

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