• Performing Arts

After 1 year, ‘Harry Potter’ Still Plays to Packed House in Tokyo

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A scene from the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

The play “Harry Potter to Noroi no Ko” (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) is enjoying a successful run at TBS Akasaka ACT Theater in Minato Ward, Tokyo, playing to a packed house day after day, even after celebrating its first anniversary this summer.

The play is based on the globally popular novel series by J.K. Rowling about the wizard Harry Potter and his adventures, which was also turned into a hugely successful film franchise. The play premiered in London in 2016 and then toured six cities across the globe, including Hamburg and Melbourne. The original production was split into two parts, together running for more than five hours. The Tokyo production follows the shorter, single-part Broadway version from 2021, which takes 3½ hours, including an interval.

© TBS/HoriPro, Photo by Maiko Miyagawa
Time travel brings the threat of the Dark Lord’s return.

The play is a sequel to the seven-volume Harry Potter series of novels and tells a story that takes place 19 years after the series’ final volume, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Harry, now married to Ginny, the younger sister of his best friend, Ron, has three children and works at the Ministry of Magic. The play opens with a scene in which his second son, Albus, boards the Hogwarts Express to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There is a scene change whenever the hems of the cast’s gowns fly up. The speedy developments make the audience unable to take their eyes off the stage from the get-go.

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Albus, left, becomes good friends with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy.

Being the son of a hero who saved the world puts Albus under pressure as it draws attention to him. This makes the boy rebellious and Harry finds it difficult to deal with him. Then Albus becomes good friends with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s former classmate who used to be his rival. As a new crisis creeps into the wizarding world, Albus travels back in time with Scorpius.

The production features lots of magic, such as time travel and shape shifting, which are shown not only through lighting, sound effects and props but also by actors pushing their bodies to the limit.

The play is also a serious drama about people and finely depicts various forms of love between characters — parent and child, relatives, friends, as well as teacher and student.

Kindness toward family

—Naohito Fujiki (Harry Potter)

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Naohito Fujiki was born on July 19, 1972. The native of Chiba Prefecture has appeared in such films as “Hotaru no Hikari” (“Hotaru the Movie: It’s Only a Little Light in My Life”) and a theatrical adaptation of “Umibe no Kafka” (“Kafka on the Shore”).

Harry and I have one thing in common; we are both fathers of three children. My children go to high school, junior high school and elementary school. My high-schooler son is like Albus and won’t listen to me readily. My junior-high school daughter is a Harry Potter fan. She was very happy when I passed the audition for the role.

One thing I like very much about this show is that it starts with Albus entering Hogwarts. I think it’s fantastic that both Harry and the audience can watch him growing up from the same vantage point.

Albus won’t listen to Harry when he tells his son it would be better to do this or that, and Harry ends up doing or saying things that hurt Albus’ feelings. While wondering why it has come to be like that, Harry starts to realize various things, such as that he might have pushed his ideas on his son.

I hope the audience will appreciate the show casually. Maybe they’ll just think, “The magic was great.” And I have a feeling that, by watching this play, they’ll try to become a little bit kinder than usual to their families.

Something new every time

—Haru Fujita (Albus Potter, the second son of Harry Potter)

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Haru Fujita was born in London on June 14, 1997. He was a member of the drama society at Keio University. He makes his professional acting debut in this production.

I decided to audition for the role because my family frowned on my wish to continue acting and I wanted to do something to change the situation. Perhaps I was successful in the audition because my desire to ease my family’s anxiety overlapped with Albus’.

I grew up in London and went to a school there. That’s why I kind of understand how Harry and Albus harbored a sense of alienation. I read the original script in English first to enhance the image I had of Albus. The production is really tough. I’m on stage most of the time, I have to submerge myself in water, and the director told me, “You will experience the fastest costume change of your life.”

I try to avoid performing in a routine way and do my best to find or realize something new in my performance every time. I can change the ways I act and feel when I’m up against a different character, like Harry or Scorpius. My costars are like my family because we mutually support each other.

I think the No. 1 must-see thing in the show is the magic. It’s great that it’s done not only by machines but also by people. The scene changes are done by hand too. Everything is really well-conceived and planned, so there is a very good balance between entertainment quality and theatrical quality. I would recommend the show even to people who have never seen theater and those who don’t know Harry Potter. I really hope you’ll all see it.

© TBS/HoriPro, Photo by Takahiro Watanabe
Harry, left, and Albus have a strained father-son relationship.