All 8 ‘Harry Potter’ Films Are Returning to Theaters

Share Button

 

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Cinemark theaters nationwide will be offering all eight of the films.

Across the country, they will show the Harry Potter films from August 31 through September 6 as part of the company’s “Wizarding World XD Week.” The lineup will also include the 2016 film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Tickets to each film will be available for $5, and a pass to see all 9 of them is onsale for $25, complete with a collectible keychain, cup, and badge.

The new Fantastic Beasts film (trailer below) is in theaters November 16.

 

20 Years On: A Fan Looks Back On What Harry Potter Taught Her

Share Button

 

The rickety old wooden door shook with each booming knock. Lightning flashed, and, when each crack of thunder subsided, I could hear the rain gouging holes into the supersaturated mud that lay outside the door. With one final knock, the door burst open, coming off its hinges and falling forward onto the dusty floor. Eight year-old me gasped as I held onto my popcorn, craning my neck up at the giant figure on the movie theatre screen.

There are some very clear moments that I can recall at the drop of a pin, and the moment Rubeus Hagrid came to tell Harry Potter that he was a wizard is perhaps one of the clearest.

I had just turned 8, and was at my best friend Megan’s birthday party which was appropriately themed around the wizarding world. We got wands and little wizard figurines as party favors, and we were all seeing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time. It felt like I had been waiting a lifetime for that movie.

My father had dutifully read the first two Harry Potter books to me over the past few months: a chapter a night before bed normally followed by pleas for ‘just one more.’ My birthday gift had been Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which soon became the next bedtime book. Our veterinarian had even acknowledged my obsession with the series gifting me his paperback copy of the Sorcerer’s Stone that became my weekly show and tell at school. I read a chapter each week to my class until two school bullies tried to get me in trouble for using the same item every week.

 

 

I had not yet started collecting Harry Potter merchandise–from bookmarks and Bertie Botts Beans to clothing and figurines. I had not yet started imagining my own adventures with Hogwarts. I had not yet decided that someday, if I ever got married, it would be Harry Potter themed. That would all come over the following ten years.

At 8, I was obsessed in all of the best ways and finally getting to see the very first movie was my reward for being patient. As the lights dimmed, I thought that this was going to be the best movie I was ever going to see. But at that moment when the half-giant Hagrid smiled down at the boy with the scar and taped glasses telling him that he was, in fact, very special, I knew it was going to be so much more.

My connection with Harry Potter may seem like any run-of-the-mill, little-kid-turned-book-nerd obsession, but now as a 24-year-old book addict with the latest wave of Harry Potter themed films and the first Harry Potter book in over 8 years, the truth is I’m all that and more. I’m the little red-haired girl from Upstate NY, who grew up with the boy who lived.

I was the type of kid who ran to either books or a pen and paper for comfort. When everything else in the world seemed to go wrong I could climb inside the well-worn pages, falling through the typed words to find my best friends and run off headfirst into a new adventure.

I had learned to read in Kindergarten thanks to my parents’ attentiveness and the school’s books with corresponding tapes that you could read along with. When the tapes didn’t read the words fast enough for me I stopped using them, and by the end of the year I was reading chapter books.

My first literary friends were Jack and Annie from Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Treehouse series who were transported through time and legend to find objects for Morgan le Fay. The summer after kindergarten I finally got my own library card and tried, like Matilda, to make the acquaintance of Ishmael, but was only able to walk with him for one chapter. But the young wizard facing dangers every school-year with his friends Ron & Hermione was the one friend I kept returning to. While the Harry Potter series got so many kids really interested in reading, it made me even more interested in writing. Everything I did, from recess games to childish writings, centered on Harry Potter. I even used to bring my imaginary friend Harry to Thanksgiving with me until even my family “acknowledged” him. I had Harry Potter journals where I would try to write down my own adventures with my wizarding friends. On my 11th birthday I waited for my owl to arrive all day insisting that it would, and if it didn’t, it was only lost.

 

 

While I was enraptured by Harry Potter and his friends for most of 2001, the rest of the world was still dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When I began writing this, I didn’t believe that the two shared the same year at all. I still have trouble realizing that the first Harry Potter movie premiered a little over two months after the fall of the Twin Towers. In my mind, there is a very clear split between the worst thing imaginable and the start of my journey with Harry Potter.

At the time, I was old enough for my parents to try to explain what had happened on that sunny September day, and I remember seeing the news, but not really understanding how terrible it was. My senior year of college I saw a video of live footage from that day taken by news teams and civilians capturing the despair. I sat down on my bed and cried for a half hour, for the first time feeling what I can only imagine my parents felt 15 years prior. I’ve always dreamed of living in New York City, and when I called my mother later that day I was still in tears.

In 2001, on that beautifully horrible September Day, I have my other clearest memory of my childhood. I was in 2nd grade when the first tower was hit, and we were in the middle of a lesson. I have a sneaking suspicion it was math, because when the loudspeaker crackled to life with a ridiculous code word like “Key Lime Pie” or “Boston Cream Donut” we abandoned what we were doing, and I was excited to leave it behind. My teacher, Mrs. Sedlack, very calmly turned off all the lights and pulled the blinds down over the windows. She gathered her entire class to the reading area of the classroom, and settled herself down on the old couch. While the rest of the world was collapsing, Mrs. Sedlack, who had a husband at work and a 4-year-old son at daycare, read book after book to her class of 20 little kids whose parents were watching the world stop. In gratitude, the parents bought her a new, comfier couch for her dedication to preserving her students’ innocence.

I went home that day excited to tell my mom all about my amazing, book-filled day at school. I didn’t think my life could be any better, and I was sure it had to be the best day in the whole wide world until my mom told me that there were some very bad men who had done some very bad things. I found out the following week that one of the girls in my class lost her uncle at the World Trade Center that day. I don’t know if they ever recovered his body.

The Harry Potter universe provided an escape for me whenever the world was falling apart. My well-worn copies have been read so many times, I’ve stopped keeping track. They always seemed to provide a portal when I needed it most. When the films came out, it seemed that the opportunities opened new portals into magical moments.

 

 

When I was 9, my school hosted a Harry Potter night in the gymnasium as a fund-raiser. For one magical evening, my world was the one Harry Potter lived in. Older students had made booths to mimic Diagon Alley, and the gym was buzzing with kids running to buy Bertie Botts beans and wands and chocolate frogs.

I was dressed up as Hermione Granger, complete with a wand and my very own Crookshanks. I was even featured in the local paper for my costume and my excitement. It was, for the 9-year-old me, the best night of my life. Because of my costume, I got an extra raffle entry to win my very own Nimbus 2000 that one of the senior students’ fathers made. It turned out that maybe magic did exist because my parents helped me cart the broom home at the end of the night. It balanced on the curtain rod in my bedroom until it fell apart shortly after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out.

I don’t remember much else about the event, except that it culminated in a showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I sat with my little sister to watch it all over again. Our eyes were glued to the screen and I felt like I was watching it for the first time all over again.

That night when I went home and fell asleep, I thought for sure I would dream of Quidditch and magic classes, but instead I had the first of a recurring nightmare I still have to this day. I guess not all of Harry Potter’s influence was good.

It starts the same way: I am in my childhood bedroom, complete with pink painted walls and a plastic lamp with a rocking horse balanced on three alphabet blocks. My parents are outside listening to the news, but from the sound quality I know they are listening to the radio and not the TV. The announcer is warning locals of mysterious disappearances in wooded areas in New York. When the sound fades, I am standing on our back porch calling the family dog. While everything else about the dream stays the same, the dog always changes. When I was young it was our black lab Bootsie, during my pre-teen years it was our second lab, Jessie. Now it is always our pitbull Cricket. I call the dog, and see them in the woods wrestling with something, and when the dog finally listens and runs to me, I see it was wrestling with a hooded figure who floats with unnatural speed towards me. I wake up in a cold sweat with a scream at the back of my throat.

 

 

Sometimes my obsession with Harry Potter led to extraordinary opportunities. When I was 12, one of my mom’s old teenage employees, Jackie, had a job at the Martha Stewart Show. I came home from a particularly harrowing day of sixth grade to have my customary cup of tea and chocolate chip cookies with my mom when she asked: “How would you like to go see Daniel Radcliffe on Thursday?”

It turned out that Martha Stewart needed audience members, and Jackie thought of my sister and I with our noses always buried in the latest release. Being like Hermione, I was terrified to miss school since actual absences were only applicable if you were sick, had a doctor’s appointment or had a family emergency. My mom jokingly said we had to go visit her “sick Aunt Martha” in NYC. I panicked about it, but as the day of the show got closer, the jitters were replaced with butterflies in my stomach. I was going to see Daniel Radcliffe up close and in person.

We went down that day with Jackie’s cousins, her aunt and her mom and waited in line to get seats. The entire time mom kept reminding us to not expect too much. We’d probably get the extra seats, but Jackie had an ace up her sleeve. She caught us just before it was our turn to go in and asked if we all had a question ready for Mr. Radcliffe. I had about a million. What was it like on set? Did he have a favorite book? What was his favorite part of being Harry Potter? I would have volunteered to interview him if I could. When we all said yes, she told the gentleman in charge and we four kids were led to the fourth row from Martha Stewart’s counter top.

When Daniel Radcliffe came out later in the show, we were maybe 10 feet away from him. Jackie’s cousin Briar and I were seated right in front of a camera so whenever the show went to commercial break we chattered about how Daniel Radcliffe had looked over at us and smiled. I can’t remember another time I was so excited. It seemed like a dream a week after the show, and even now I have a hard time believing it happened. I was never lucky, but for one afternoon I got to sit ten feet away from my celebrity crush.

I went back to school the next day, and my teacher asked if I had enjoyed my visit with my “sick Aunt Martha” and winked. She had known where we were going the entire time.

Harry Potter didn’t just give me nightmares and make-believe fantasies. As Harry, Ron and Hermione grew up, I grew up with them. When I had my first real crush, I retreated to the books to see what Harry or Hermione would do. When I had my first heartbreak, I understood Harry’s mopiness, and Hermione’s anger at Ron and Lavender Brown. Every major life event for me would resonate with something in one of the books: my first dance, my first date, even my first kiss. Those things were never exactly a first for me because I had lived them in some way through Rowling’s writing. I knew how life could go wrong. I would find myself saying “so this is how it really is.” The book world prepared me for things I would face, and not all of them would be good.

At 18, I lost my cousin Michael to suicide, at 20 my cousin Thomas to cancer. I had dealt with the deaths of grandparents as I grew up with Harry Potter, but I suddenly began to understand Harry’s, and Hogwarts’, stunned response to the death of Cedric Diggory. There was no reason for it. There was no reason for the deaths of Sirius, or Fred or even James and Lily Potter. It made me angry, but it also reminded me that life ends. Rowling never shied away from breaking our hearts, because it taught her readers how to cope with loss.

Life is about loss. You lose your baby teeth, you lose your innocence, and you lose people you care about. But they never truly leave you, because like Lily Potter’s love for Harry, they will always surround you. I still see things and think of my cousins, much like people would think of Harry’s mum when they looked into his eyes. Life means we lose people, but it doesn’t mean that it has to end for us. We have to keep on living, and carrying them with us. That’s how they live on.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out when I was 14 years old. I reread every book before biking up to my mailbox and waiting for the mailman to deliver my preorder. I tore through it in 24 hours, sleeping for about six hours when I fell asleep with the book still in my lap. I mourned the end, but it wasn’t for me. Not yet. I still had the final movies to look forward to.

 

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came out the July before my senior year of high school. I was five months shy of 18 when I returned from a European trip and finally got to see it in August of 2011. Ten months prior at the local movie theatre’s premiere of the Deathly Hallows Part 1 I found myself in the company of Megan’s birthday party from 9 years prior. We all sat together, and watched as the final battle between good and evil really began.

My parents and sister were the only people with me when I watched the final movie. I didn’t cry, as I had with the book. I thought I would be a mess, but as I watched the characters I considered family sustain injuries and die, I didn’t cry. I’m not sure if I was numb to it or if I was in a state of denial. I watched as the Elder Wand was destroyed and Harry and his friends turned back to a wounded Hogwarts.

The screen faded to black, and the words “19 Years Later” appeared, and in that moment the tears came. I didn’t have a tissue so I cried into the sleeve of my sweatshirt as Harry reassured Albus Severus that he would succeed at Hogwarts whether he was a Slytherin or a Gryffindor. The tears didn’t want to stop, and as the credits rolled and the lights came back on my little sister leaned over and nudged me.

“What are you crying over?”

Looking back now there were so many reasons. The End of my Innocence. The loss of my steadfast friends. The fact that I would be preparing to go to college a year later. The end of my childhood. The end of the magic I so strongly believed in.

I tried to stem the tears, but instead I started to laugh. I felt ridiculous.

“It’s over…it’s all over.”

But it wasn’t. Last summer I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and got so lost in the movie, I forgot I was watching it. I devoured The Cursed Child and cried at the end of it, except this time I realized something. I had something even better than a time-turner…I still had my Harry Potter books. My friends would never leave me, because I could visit them any time. And every time I visit I’ll still have that connection with it. I’ll still remember which passages comforted me during my first heartbreak, or fight with a best friend. I’ll still remember the adventures I imagined. I’ll still be able to find advice, because I can always go back.

The thing about Harry Potter that really made it special wasn’t the magic. It was the fact that someone who was chosen to save the world, the smartest witch of her generation, and a brave, hand-me-down wearing redhead not only had magic, but went through the same struggles any Muggle kid did. They had their hearts broken, fell in love, and had to learn how to be their own people. I think that’s what Harry is doing most of the series. He’s always had this role as “The Boy Who Lived” and while he tries to grow and fulfill that role, he also tries to determine who he is as an individual. Who he would be if he wasn’t “The Boy Who Lived.”

I laughed and cried with my friends from Harry Potter. I fell in love with them. I felt jealous that they lived in this perfect magical world. Except the point was it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. They had magic, but there was evil in their world, just like in my world, and on top of all that, they had to go through the normal growing pains any kid does. They had to learn how to navigate life just as much as anyone of us in the ‘real’ world.

I’m 24 now. I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I bought The Cursed Child (my 8th first edition Harry Potter book) and read it in two days. But while I’m a different person than I was at 18, I’m still trying to navigate through my life. I work at a job that’s rewarding, but it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve never seriously dated anyone. There are days when I feel completely and utterly alone and the world seems too impossible to conquer. Yes, I am 24. Seven years older than Harry and his friends when they won the Battle of Hogwarts and changed the world for the better. What have I done compared to that?

Well, the answer is I fought there alongside them. And I’ve travelled back to the early 1800s and fallen in love with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney. I’ve fought against the Nazis in World War II. And I’ve gone back to New York City in the 1920s and helped Newt Scamander catch fantastic beasts.

Harry Potter will always remain a part of my life because it taught me that even on my darkest days I can always escape into a book. Real-life isn’t perfect, but neither was Harry Potter’s life. We and our fictional friends face different dangers every day. We battle our own inner demons and try to help those around us fight their own whether they are jealousy or drugs, alcohol or vanity. Harry Potter helped me grow up because it taught me that having an imagination is perhaps the most important thing we can keep from our childhood because it provides us with an escape.

And I know when I feel most helpless and overwhelmed, all I need to turn on the light in my life is to open the cover, fall back in between the ink and my friends will be waiting for me. Ready to teach me something new. Ready to show me that I too am special. That magic can and does exist. All you need to do is open a book, and let your imagination fly away.

 

Harry Potter is Leaving Hogwarts to Hit the Broadway Stage

Share Button
Photo: @Hpplyldn on Instagram

Aveda Ke-Jazz Square! If you’re a Harry Potter freak and also a Broadway freak, you’re about to truly freak. That’s because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling’s two-part play that serves as an eighth installment to her world-changing series, is coming to the Great White Way.

While we cannot confirm if Harry will kick his face or if Hermione will do a death drop, we can say this: the play will open April 22, 2018 at the Lyric Theater just off Times Square and tickets will go on sale at HarryPotterThePlay.com this fall. You might want to drink some Felix Felicis before trying to buy.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ends. Now, Harry’s got three kids, a stressful job at the ministry, and a subscription to AshleyMadison.com. Kidding about that last part.

When Cursed Child made its debut on London’s West End, we knew it would probably be cool and good. What we didn’t know is that it would break the record for most nominations (11) and wins (9) of any production in history at the Olivier Awards, London’s Tonys. This included Best New Play, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. God, I’m getting chills just writing this.

New “Harry Potter” is Series’ Last Says Rowling

Share Button

This Saturday, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the two-part play written by J.K. Rowling that picks up Harry’s story as an adult, premiered to rave review on London’s West End, as well as being released in script form in bookstores around the world. The author told Reuters that this would be the true final chapter of the epic wizarding series.

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know,” she said. “I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

The play is being warmly received by audiences and critics alike – Rowling received a standing ovation when the show was over.

A fan told Reuters: “It was magical. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole time. There was a lot to live up to and they did it.”

Rowling wrote the script for “Cursed Child” in collaboration with playwright Jack Thorne. The play is directed by John Tiffany.

Split into two parts that can be seen consecutively in a five-hour saga or separately, “Cursed Child” follows Harry as a tired Ministry of Magic worker in his thirties, raising three children. It’s script is available in bookstores everywhere.

Where to Celebrate JK Rowling’s Birthday Based on Your Hogwarts House

Share Button

Everyone’s favorite mistress of magic, JK Rowling, turns 50 today! Here, we scoped out the perfect spots to celebrate the Harry Potter author’s birthday tonight based on your Hogwarts house (we KNOW you know yours).

Ravenclaw—Le Philosophe

Clever Ravenclaws will feel right at home at this NoHo restaurant; themed around famous philosophers, dinner conversations will naturally skew academic. But, the no-nonsense rustic French cuisine won’t make you think too hard.

ravenclaw

 

 

Hufflepuff—The Spotted Pig

Cozy gastropub chic fits Hufflepuff’s humble demeanor well. Even though Kanye has been known to frequent this place, it’s overall a good, low-key spot to nestle into rich dishes like burgers and skirt steak.

hufflepuff

Slytherin—Mission Chinese

Located on the gritty cusp of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, Mission Chinese is the perfect haunt for Slytherins. The strong, spicy flavors match their devious personality, and snagging a table here requires some cunning tricks.

slytherin

Gryffindor—The Clocktower

Hearty, contemporary British fair suits a Gryffindor’s night out. From fancy prime côte de boeuf to down-to-earth mac and cheese, this classic restaurant is the perfect place to raise a toast to JK Rowling’s birthday.

gryffindor

For more places to eat and drink in New York right now, check out the BlackBook City Guides.

Nerd Builds Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Out Of 400,000 LEGOs

Share Button

Meet Alice Finch, the Harry Potter enthusiast who built an architecturally accurate interior and exterior of Hogwarts with 400,000 LEGOs.

 

There’s a new time-lapse video on Geekologie showing the landcape, which took over a year to create, being set up. In addition to her nearly half-million LEGOs, Finch also used over 250 mini figurines. The completed works fit inside 40 large boxes for transport.

Very much deservedly, she took home the Best In Show and the People’s Choice awards from 2012 LEGO convention, Brick Con. You really have to look at Alice Finch’s Flickr page for photographs for just how intricately she designed the setup.   

Watch the video below. It will either make you feel like you’ve accomplished nothing with your life or like you must be doing everything right.

Email me at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Pop-Culture Parody Musicals Are as Meta as We Get

Share Button

Growing up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, I had really weird taste in music. Sure, I liked whatever the Top 40 pop hits were, but I also belted out showtunes, and I had every word memorized of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s song parodies. Through his ode to food “Eat It,” I learned how badass young Michael Jackson was. Likewise, I would never have known what “MacArthur Park” without the cheeky "Jurassic Park.”

In a 2003 interview with NPR, Yankovic mused on how his fellow artists would respond as he prepped each album of song parodies. “At this point I’ve got a bit of a track record,” he said. “So people realize that when ‘Weird Al’ wants to go parody, it’s not meant to make them look bad… it’s meant to be a tribute.”

While it seems as if “Weird Al” has hung up the accordion for the time being, there are plenty of creative teams who have adopted that same motivation of writing silly lyrics to poke fun at pop culture and elevated it to the next logical incarnation—the musical. In the past few years, more and more pop culture parody musicals have popped up on the Internet, in universities, and even off-Broadway. They’ve launched the careers of stars like Darren Criss (who played the starring role in A Very Potter Musical), and even famous folks like Joss Whedon (with Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) have joined in.

Pop culture has passed into an incredibly self-reflective and meta phase. We can’t watch a TV show or political debate without immediately reacting through GIF form and then scrutinizing our reaction. We’re compelled to interrogate the highbrow and especially the lowbrow works that capture our attention. But it gets boring and one-dimensional to use the same medium that we’re discussing in our analysis. We’re constantly turning our opinions over and over, seeking out the smart new angle that someone hasn’t thought of. Enter this new breed of musical.

We’re lucky that many of these productions have tested the waters in New York City, where you can stage an outrageous parody for even just a weekend. In the past year, I’ve taken in four shows that probe the boundaries of good taste and challenge the books, actors, and even religious institutions they mock. Last Christmas, I joined the throngs of theatergoers laughing so hard they were crying at Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon. Since the, I’ve also giggled my way through song-and-dance parodies of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, its offspring Fifty Shades of Grey, and the ‘90s thriller The Silence of the Lambs.

Whether each show’s attack is sweet or snarky, there is indeed that sense of tribute that Yankovic mentioned—cheeky nods to the genre of musical theater itself, or a hat tip to the impact Clarice Starling or Anastasia Steele has had on pop culture. In fact, 50 Shades! The Musical pokes fun less at Ana’s whirlwind romance with Christian Grey, and more at the way Americans have gobbled up E.L. James’ erotic fanfiction.

“I think anything that is so popular that everyone knows about it, you can start to home in on certain details,” said Emily Dorezas, one of the 50 Shades co-writers. “That’s why, as soon as the presidential election starts, everybody can laugh at the same things about the different candidates. Fifty Shades of Grey is just this brand that doesn’t go away. Even if you know nothing about it, you know everything about it. Part of what we’re doing is making fun of the phenomenon of it. [Audiences] can laugh at that because they’ve seen it in their house, with their wives and girlfriends.”

Twilight: The Musical employs a similar shorthand: They’re betting on audiences’ familiarity with the movies so that they can skewer not only Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, but also Robert Pattinson’s insanely dramatic delivery and Kristen Stewart’s penchant for lip biting. The more layers you can work through, the better you’re rewarded, like when Edward and Bella’s literary contemporaries Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger pop in to declare a wizards-versus-vampires war.

When you’re addressing the young adult fiction booms of the past fifteen years, of course you have to poke fun at the consumers who waited in line at midnight for the new books and movies. But how do you mock a solid film classic from the ‘90s that’s entirely straight-faced and even rather terrifying? You make it self-aware.

What most struck me about Silence! The Musical (which has existed online and onstage since 2002) is that it follows the movie beat-for-beat. I was especially aware because I had watched the film for the first time just a few weeks prior. Aside from the addition of a lamb chorus—paralleling the ancient Greek chorus and performing the same duty of commenting on the action onstage—the musical starts and ends where the movie does. Watching it, you’re delightfully surprised to realize that it is kind of ridiculous to start a movie with Jodie Foster huffing and puffing through the woods near Quantico, and that most of Anthony Hopkins’ dialogue is snarky one-liners. The cast turns even the most innocuous phrasing into a punchline; currently, Pamela Bob amps up Clarice’s unfortunate lisp to an art form.

The decision to do a shot-for-shot spoof had less to do with the movie itself and more with how co-writers Jon and Al Kaplan write all of their parodies. “We’re very detail-oriented,” the brothers said of what began as a collection of songs and evolved into a screenplay. “We focus on details and blow them up. It’s meant to be a love letter to the movie; we want to tailor it to people who are big fans.” It helped that Hunter Bell, who wrote the book for the stage show, and original director Christopher Gattelli had the same M.O.: “They love the movie and wanted to focus on the details—sometimes different details [from us].”

To be fair, the brothers were wary of audience reaction to some of the songs. But when the original movie brings Lecter and Clarice together after another inmate comments on her vagina, how can you not give Lecter a love song called “If I Could Smell Her Cunt”? However, it wasn’t until Book of Mormon opened in 2010 that the Kaplans felt more secure about their bawdier musical numbers.

“I think we’re proudest of Lecter’s song,” the Kaplans said. “It’s not the typical song you would expect from him, the ‘liver and fava beans’ number. It’s the moment where the audience really has to buy into the concept or not buy into it. It has to be well performed; Lecter has to really sell it as a love song. We’re also proud of Buffalo Bill’s song ‘I’d Fuck Me’ because it came late in the game. We felt like we had already written our Buffalo Bill songs.”

”I’d Fuck Me” represents perhaps the closest adherence to the source material. Our audience was on the edge of their seats during this swirly burlesque number because we all knew the iconic sequence from the film and were waiting with bated breath to see if David Ayers would attempt the infamous dick tuck. When he did, that prompted the most cheers out of any point in the show. Honestly, we wouldn’t have respected the creative team if they hadn’t included that moment.

Each of these shows has unlocked a new take on the source material through the medium of the musical. The visual nature of a stage show has been most beneficial for 50 Shades! The Musical. One of the book’s most ludicrous elements was Anastasia’s “inner goddess,” the subconscious manifestation of her repressed horniness. Sadly, she was absent from the New York production, but Dorezas said that she showed up in Chicago in “a scene with Christian and Anastasia, [where] the inner goddess comes in and basks to have this whole moment to herself,” and that she’ll appear in future iterations.

Some of the most fun that the 50 Shades! The Musical cast and creative team had was subverting the audience’s expectations of the characters’ appearances. For the past year or more, fansites have cast achingly smoldering types like Ian Somerhalder and Alexis Bledel for Christian and Ana, but what makes Chris Grace and Amber Petty’s portrayals so refreshing is that neither are stereotypical beauties. They play up the comedic contrast between the prose and their onstage looks and behavior.

“It was totally a conscious decision,” Dorezas confirmed. “I don’t think anybody’s gonna be 100 percent satisfied with whatever Christian Grey they choose [for the movie]. We just wanted to go the complete opposite direction, but Chris plays it so sexy, and he owns it! There’s a certain point where it’s like, ‘This is our Christian Grey, and everyone in the audience is sold on it.’

”It’s always my favorite when he walks onstage for the first time, ‘cause you see the audience pointing at each other like, ‘Oh my God, this isn’t what you said!’ I know they think Ryan Gosling is gonna come out there. I think in Chris’ mind, he thinks he’s Ryan Gosling. And Amber as Anastasia—she’s so funny. We wanted it to be more of a wink at these characters, not the actual characters. I think if we went for super hot and sexy, we’d lose funny.”

Similarly, the writers grappled with the first draft because if they gave in to the temptation to absolutely skewer James’s admittedly ridiculous novel, they wouldn’t be able to keep an audience. “I think the first round, we felt like there was just too much punch and not enough heart to it,” Dorezas said, citing their shared experience in the comedy world. “We wanted the audience to want these two people to be together outside of a bondage/S&M situation.”

The parody can’t just be about the content; the creative teams must also consider conventions of musical theater itself. One of the first big laughs in The Book of Mormon is “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a seemingly joyous African chant that brings to mind The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata” but actually translates to “Fuck You, God.” Mocking religion was one thing, but dragging the esteemed medium of musical theater into the mix? That’s when audiences realized that no one was safe.

In the New York production of 50 Shades! The Musical, the inner goddess got sacrificed in favor of a big, Les Miserables-esque ensemble number. “We just had to find another place for the inner goddess, ‘cause we all were like, ‘Ah, we want this moment where everyone’s having doubt and not sure what to do,’” Dorezas said. “There’s a nod to Phantom of the Opera in the show, as well. We definitely put little things in there that even if you’re not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, if you’re a fan of musicals you’ll appreciate the moments as well. If some of the moments are too insidery—you don’t know who Jose is when he walks in, you don’t know Christian is against type—there’s still something for you.”

The Kaplan brothers’ nods to musical theater occur more in the fabric of the musical’s choreography: “It’s just integrating little homages here and there. There’s A Chorus Line in ‘In the Dark with a Maniac,’ [with] the dance move that Clarice does before she shoots Buffalo Bill. There’s also [elements from] The King and I.”

Now, a lot of the musical theater greats are dead and can’t defend themselves against this mockery. But how about the creators of the books and movies parodied? Despite the hard-R nature of Silence! The Musical, the Kaplans said that several of the people involved with the movie found it uproariously funny.

For one, director Jonathan Demme decided to celebrate his twenty-year crew reunion by going to the show. “We sat behind them, and they were laughing their heads off,” the Kaplans said. “It was a real kick… We thought he was gonna be a really serious guy, just sitting there scowling, but he’s got a real sense of humor.” They can’t vouch for Jodie Foster’s reaction, since she attended a different show. However, “Anthony Heald, who played Dr. Chilton, was very enthusiastic, said he would love to play his character in a future reincarnation of the show. Anthony Hopkins, as far as we know, hasn’t gone.”

”We did look toward Silence! The Musical a little bit in terms of what they were able to get away with,” Dorezas said. Because the original production of 50 Shades! The Musical debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they’ve been caught up with UK copyright laws, combined with the reaction from James’ people. “For the UK opportunities that we are currently discussing, we could change some things around with the show that would make it fall under safe parameters,” Dorezas said. “If the parody laws change in our favor, then we would not have to do that. We have an idea of what we can do, but we’re kind of waiting to see how it changes.”

Musical parody reinvigorates seemingly played-out stories because it’s such an unexpected medium. It’s likely that the first time you saw Clarice Starling or read about Christian Grey, you never dreamed that either would break into song. These pop culture parody musicals crack these seemingly solemn characters and give them the added dimensions to ensure their endurance in the zeitgeist, whether they’re twenty or two years old. As the Kaplans confessed, “We never thought we’d be talking about this eleven years after the fact.”

Follow Natalie Zutter on Twitter.

‘Harry Potter’ Gets a New Cover for Fifteenth Anniversary

Share Button

While they are certainly not as offensive as the recent covers for The Bell Jar and Anne of Green Gables, the new covers for the Harry Potter series will likely cause an uproar among Potterheads. Mary GrandPré’s original cover art for the novels is getting shelved (see what I did?!) in favor for new artwork by Kazu Kibuishi. A box set will be available in September in honor of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone‘s fifteenth anniversary, which means you’re going to have to buy new copies for your library. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the next room freaking out that Harry Potter has now been around for fifteen years. 

[via Wired]

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

‘New York Times’ Review Of J.K. Rowling’s Adult Novel: “Harry Potter Isn’t In It”

Share Button

New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani, contrary to popular daydreams, does not have such a great gig. As far as I can tell, her duties are to act as lightning rod for vitriol from cranky authors—Jonathan Franzen infamously called her the “stupidest person in New York City”—and read every new Philip Roth book to the bitter end. Often she is obligated to use the word “limn.” Likewise, reviewing The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s 500-page career move into the world of adult-targeted fiction, is a thankless task. So Ms. Kakutani elected to talk about Harry Potter the whole time.

With two paragraphs of perfunctory plot summation crammed in at the tail end, and just one icky example of Rowling’s prose, the column could mark any writer’s cold reception. Except that we apparently need it repeated to us, a few dozen times, that there’s no magic here, it’s “Muggle-land,” the climax is not a battle between good and evil wizards, Hogwarts doesn’t really exist, and that really, no joking, kids won’t like it. There are seventeen separate mentions of Harry Potter. Here’s one telling passage:

In some respects “The Casual Vacancy” is grappling with many of the same themes as the Harry Potter books: the losses and burdens of responsibility that come with adulthood, and the stubborn fact of mortality. One of the things that made Harry’s story so affecting was Ms. Rowling’s ability to construct a parallel world enlivened by the supernatural, and yet instantly recognizable to us as a place where death and the precariousness of daily life cannot be avoided, a place where identity is as much a product of deliberate choice as it is of fate.     

Yes, those wonderful themes of aging, death, identity, choice, and fate—monumental elements of narrative that were never available to us before Harry Potter showed up in a basket on our doorstep. I get that we want to weigh any art against the value of the work that preceded it, but if this book is such a departure, do I really need an exegesis of the old stuff? Which, by the way, had its fair share of clichés and tedium and clunkiness, though I’d never point that out for fear of being beaten to death with brooms.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.