Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Concert, The Royal Albert Hall

Who knew Harry Potter had such vocal, enthusiastic fans? A unanimous me? Fair enough. J.K Rowling’s phenomenally successful series turns 20 this year and with repeat visits and continued expansion (The Cursed Child will head to Broadway in 2018), if we don’t shut up about it soon, we might all actually turn into magic folk. One can dream.

Screened on a 40ft screen in high definition, The Royal Albert Hall starts its Harry Potter Film Concert Series with the film that not only brought delight to children and adults alike, but kick-started the careers of its three leads. Originally released in 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is perhaps not the strongest in the series of movies, but it provides the loveliest feeling of nostalgia.

There’s a heavy mix of people arriving in the audience with some dressed in Hogwarts gear and others simply dressed as though they are having a night out at the theatre. There’s nothing that outwardly appears to connect these people until we sit down and enter what truly feels like another world; one that everyone loves with all their heart. John Williams’ (who also composed music for Star Wars and Jurassic Park) timeless score is performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, and conducted by Justin Freer, who gives a witty introduction.

Often you forget the score is being performed outside of the huge screen. Whilst it is nice to tear your eyes away and study the orchestra for a short while, revelling in the exceptional experience, it shows just how wonderfully talented Freer, the Orchestra and Chorus are at keeping the audience fully engrossed in the film.

The atmosphere is just sublime. There’s frequent laughter – mostly at how gloriously cheesy Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is and how, shall we say, inexperienced the child actors are; but that is part of the charm. Cheers erupt at pivotal moments such as Hagrid telling Harry he is a wizard and, most bizarrely, but no less entertaining, the appearance of cat, Mrs Norris.

The audience also boo at characters like Draco Malfoy and of course, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Ordinarily this would be very bad theatre etiquette and initially it takes a bit of getting used to but by the film’s half way point, you’ll find yourself wolf-whistling louder than anyone.

The only criticism here is that we have to wait until next year to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (boo!). A wonderful, uplifting experience, The Royal Albert Hall’s film series will leave you smiling for days and gushing to all of your friends.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Concert played at The Royal Albert Hall until May 14.

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