Theatrical Decor for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: An Augery’s Nest of Easter Eggs.

I thought it was curious that the instructions for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child specified that audience members should show up a full hour before curtain time. I even wondered if this was a plot to sell you extra butterbeer, chocolate frogs and T-shirts prior to the show. While there were certainly snacks and souvenirs for sale, as there are for all Broadway productions, there was actually plenty to see and do in the lobby area, that made the hour pass quite enjoyably.

The Lyric Theatre spent over 30 million dollars renovating the theater to host this production, so they clearly expect it to be around for a while. They spared no expense or lack of detail, inside or out. Projects ranged from huge (e.g. the black wing that extended from the entrance all the way down the block, with the augurey nest perched on a distant building) to more subtle (the winged sconces that held the outdoor lanterns) but they all added up to a treasure trove of artistry to delight the serious fan. You might even call it an Augurey’s nest of Easter Eggs.   Find out more after the jump!  Spoilers, ho!

To be honest, I was expecting decor (and merchandise!) similar to the Harry Potter amusement parks, and was pleasantly surprised that the tone was much different. Gone was the familiar lightning-bedecked font, and no butterbeer, chocolate frogs or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans were on sale at the refreshment stand: the closest thing they had were small jelly bean containers in Gryffindor or Slytherin colors. Whether because they intentionally chose to create a different mood, or had to avoid infringing on Universal Studio’s trademarks, the aura was different, and somehow classier. The displays of souvenir T-shirts were even decorated with old-fashioned, hardback books. I had to content myself with a “Frose” (frozen rose wine beverage) in a souvenir cup. But there were plenty of other touches designed to make you feel you were stepping into the wizarding world: a custom Hogwarts carpet, with unique house symbols: a Gryffindor sword, a Slytherin drop of potion, a Ravenclaw quill and and Hufflepuff leaf); a selfie spot where you could pose with your house banner (I gave in during the part 2 intermission, despite my dislike of the faulty Ravenclaw color scheme) and wallpaper on the lower level that resembled the Forbidden Forest. All of the theatre staff were wearing house ties, and the ushers sported prefect badges. Best of all, after the second, and darkest, time shift, the audience returns from their between-play break to find the “Cursed Child” merchandise at the souvenir stand has all been replaced by swag bearing the “Voldemort and Valor” logo, and the staff greeting patron’s with “Happy Voldemort Day.” 

Onto a few of my favorite artistic touches. Outside, the theater had installed a line of what appeared to be Augurey-shaped lantern-holders all the way down the block, in the area where the eager theatre-goers waited in line.  (see second picture, above) But. if you look carefully at the ones on the canopy directly over the theater entrance, you will notice slightly different shapes. Sharp-eyed fans will recognize three of the four as winged versions of the House mascots: the Gryffindor lion and the Slytherin snake (bottom left and right above) and the Ravenclaw eagle (top left). I can only assume the fourth is meant to represent Hufflepuff, but it did not look the least bit like a badger to me. The snout, if anything, appeared like an alligator’s, with perhaps the ears of a horse. Between the beige-and-brown color scheme, the mis-shaped sconce and the general abuse Cedric Diggory takes in the play, I have to conclude at least some of the creators have a major dislike of Hufflepuffs. 

My favorite part of the interior decor was the patronus artwork on the entrance level, near the cloakroom. There, the walls had been painted black, and the major character patronuses (Harry and James’ stag, Snape’s doe, Hermione’s otter, Ron’s terrier, Ginny’s horse, Dumbledore’s phoenix and McGonagall’s cat) appear to be sketched out in white chalk. But, with closer examination, you find that the animals are actually constructed from words:  notable lines that the characters speak (or are spoken about) in the play. They are not always easy to read, but I plan to go back to my copy of the script to clarify the exact quotations.  Notice also that the antlers of the stag appear to be transfiguring into fleeing dementors.  This inclusion is clearly meant to impress the book and movie fans: no patronus, apart from the Silver Doe, appears in the play. Only those familiar with the Potter books would be able to recognize the significance of the animals. Judging from the number of people who were having their picture made beside the drawings, and the number of kids I saw explaining the significance to their parents, there were plenty of readers and movie buffs there.

If you find yourself in the Big Apple, but can’t manage to score tickets for yourself, it is still worth stopping by the Lyric to see the decor. There is also a merchandise shop adjoining the patronus room that is open to the public. Just boycott the mis-colored Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff swag!



  1. Kelly Loomis says

    Haha. I, too, was miffed at the Hufflepuff colors!

  2. This was a great reveal, Louise. Inevitably the play is going to be made into a film which will diminish the draw of these remarkable stage productions (I doubt the film will be made of course until the plays have stopped generating significant revenue — and paid back the $30 million invested in the building…). When that happens and fans wonder what it was like at the theater, this post will be a great guide. I know this aspect of the Cursed Child production almost certainly isn’t ever going to make it to Oklahoma City.

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