Few cultural phenomena have lingered in the conscious memory like the Harry Potter franchise.
JK Rowling’s tales of a boy wizard spawned seven original novels, eight film adaptations, a West End play, a theme park and numerous spin-offs, the next of which arrives in cinemas in the autumn with the unwieldly moniker of Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
What is apparent from the return of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra to Leeds’s First Direct Arena is that the magic is still not lacking for the Harry Potter in Concert series; but in sophomore outing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, this impressive showcase finds itself oddly subdued as a fan-pleasing experience.
Harry’s second year at Hogwarts is the longest film in the series, despite the relatively slim volume it draws from; subsequently, it is arguably the most faithful page-to-screen adaptation of the bunch.
Chris Columbus’s film universe remains a candy-coated wide-eyed-wonder of technicolour, positively glowing, and the collective mass of child actors and British thespians having a ball helps sell its oft-clunky cartoon-mystery romp aesthetic (aided by more humour and a gloriously daft Kenneth Branagh bringing megawatt foppishness, who earns every eye-roll from the chipper young scamps of Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint).
As the last of Columbus’s Hollywood matinees – he was replaced by Alfonso Cuaron for third outing The Prisoner of Azkaban – there is great, innocent fun to be had in and amidst the hokier elements; and there is still, after all these years, a poignant quality to finale piece Reunion of Friends that brings a tear to the eye, dispatched by the RPCO with excellent panache and gusto.
In spite of their effort though, reception is more muted than six months ago when the same orchestra visited Yorkshire with The Philosopher’s Stone in tow. Alan Rickman’s sneering Severus Snape gets an obligatory cheer on his first appearance, and Harry’s battle with the basilisk sparks a late, last act outbreak of liveliness from the crowd. But as an interactive experience, conductor Tim Henty has his work cut out motivating the same receptive passion he received previously.
It makes for a rather impersonal atmosphere in parts, instead of the Potter party promised. It’s highly likely that the RPCO will return next year to tackle the third year at Hogwarts, in just as immaculate fashion; one would hope that Potterheads are in finer voice when the time arrives.