By Alfred Branch, Jr.
London’s West End theater district is bracing for a new Harry Potter musical to debut in 2008. Published reports have casting directors feverishly searching for fresh-faced, young actors for the top roles. Whether any actors from the current film versions of the books will be involved in the theater production was unknown but unlikely since casting calls were already being formulated.
Details of the musical have not yet been released, but an unnamed London theater executive, who is believed to have knowledge of the production, was quoted in Contact Music and several publications saying, “The musical has the potential to be huge. You are already off to a head start with the most popular book of recent times. Everyone loves the characters and the mythical world [J.K.] Rowling has invented.” . . .
Despite the popularity of the series and the movies based on the books, condensing seven novels into a single musical could be tricky. “One possibility is to tell the whole story. Another is to just take a single plot,” the source said, adding that the production would likely include choreographed flying scenes of the cast playing Quidditch “and big showdowns with Voldermort.”
Producers are said to be working on a script and looking for a composer to tackle the music.
In 1999, Rowling sold the film rights to the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Bros. for a reported £1 million (US$1,982,900). A demand Rowling made was that the principal cast be kept strictly British, nonetheless allowing for the inclusion of many Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and for casting of French and Eastern European actors in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where characters from the book are specified as such.
After considering many directors such as Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, and Alan Parker, on March 28, 2000, Chris Columbus was appointed as director for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (titled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the United States), with Warner Bros. citing his work on other family films such as Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire as influences for their decision. After extensive casting, filming began in October 2000 at Leavesden Studios and in London itself, with production ending in July 2001. Philosopher’s Stone was released in 16 November 2001.
Just three days after Philosopher’s Stone’s release, production for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, also directed by Columbus, began, finishing in Summer 2002. The film was released on 15 November 2002.
Chris Columbus declined to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, only acting as producer. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón took over the job, and after shooting in 2003, the film was released in 4 June 2004.
Due to the fourth film beginning its production before the third’s release, Mike Newell was chosen as the director for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, released on 18 November 2005.
Newell declined to direct the next movie, and British TV director David Yates was chosen for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which began production on January 2006, and was released on 11 July 2007. Yates is confirmed to direct Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with release due to 21 November 2008. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has its production confirmed with release set for 2010.
The Harry Potter films were huge box office hits, with all five on the 50 highest-grossing films worldwide.
On 31 May 2007 Warner Bros., Universal Studios and Leavesden Studios announced that a Harry Potter area will be built in Orlando, Florida at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.The announcement described “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” as “the world’s first immersive Harry Potter themed environment.”
According to the Warner Bros. press release, the section is “Expected to open in late 2009. The new environment will feature immersive rides and interactive attractions, as well as experimental shops and restaurants;.” In an online announcement it was revealed that plans have been in place for over a year and a half; with contributions from J.K. Rowling and Stuart Craig.