The latest dispatch from Hogwarts might as well be called ‘Harry Potter and the 9 to 5’

The Takeaway
Fans queue to receive a copy of the book of the play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter is back. Well, kind of.

Author J.K. Rowling and playwrights Jack Thorne and John Tiffany are introducing us to a new Harry Potter in the form of a London stage play, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which was also bound and released to the world on Saturday night.

In “The Cursed Child,” Harry is no longer a teenager on the front lines of a battle between good and evil. Now, he's a dad working a regular job, struggling with middle age.

What happens when when our childhood heroes grow up? Do you want to see Calvin toiling away in a cubicle, as Hobbes lies lifeless in the attic? What about the cast of "Friends” in a nursing home?

Dressed in full Gryffindor wizards robes, Ted Sikora, 30, was definitely nervous as he waited to pick up his copy at a midnight release party at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Kingston, New York.

“I read he's overworked at the Ministry of Magic and he's trying to deal with like too much work and also having three kids. … I don't how that's going to be," he said. "Like, Harry with a desk job — do I really want to read about that? I don't know.”

That was a common refrain heard by Takeaway Producer Isabel Angell, who went to Kingston to hear from people just like Sikora.

“There was kind of this ambivalence about this,” she says. “A lot of the people that I talked to were really excited, but also kind of nervous — this is not the Harry they know, this is not the teenager fighting Voldemort, this is somebody that they don’t know that’s not from their childhood, or the books they remember reading.”

In addition to a changed character, the latest installment in the Harry Potter franchise departs stylistically — readers are digesting a manuscript for a stage play, not a lush novel full of detail.

“That definitely had some people worried about how it would read,” Angell says. “J.K. Rowling actually didn’t write the play — she created the story, and wrote the play with somebody else who’s more experienced in writing plays, so that’s kind of different.”

Isabella Barbuto, 18, was on the verge of tears from the sheer anticipation of getting more Harry Potter — but she was also was also worried about the new, grown-up Harry.

"I don't know how I'm gonna feel about that," she said. "But it's gonna be OK. I'm gonna work through it, I'm just excited that she's writing in the same fantasy area.”

Travis Wento, 31, got into the books a bit later in life, and he says he is ready for the play to explore the characters as they get older.

“You can take each character and kind of get a lesson from them on where they moved in the magical world, or what their background is or where they're going to go, or their moral compass,” he explained.

He was more worried that Harry Potter is falling into the trap of "more is better" for the money, but says he has faith that Rowling’s work will live up to its reputation.

Without revealing any spoilers, this might not be the Harry Potter readers remember, but the plot is still heavy on the magic and the adventure.

This story was first published as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.

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