Review: Harry Potter and the Hollywood Bowl Make Magic

Angelenos cheered, laughed and applauded every scene of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Bowl.

Angelenos cheered, laughed and applauded every scene of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the Bowl.

The Hollywood Bowl became Hogwarts on Thursday night and wizards from across the Southland couldn’t wait to be enrolled.

It has been 20 years since J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter franchise captivated audiences around the world and fans at the Hollywood Bowl screening of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” the second film in the iconic saga, still clamored with the same passion as when they first discovered their love of all things Hogwarts.

Thursday’s showing of “Chamber of Secrets” and Friday’s performance of “Prisoner of Azkaban” were part of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series which began in June 2016 with a sold-out, philharmonic-accompanied screening of the first film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” on July 6, 2016.

The 2002 sequel, directed by Chris Colombus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Night At The Museum series) follows Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe, during his second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where the mysterious and deadly Chamber of Secrets is opened by the heir of Salazar Slytherin, one of the founding members of Hogwarts who believed that only “pure blood” wizards should be allowed to practice magic, and unleashes a monster that petrifies the children of Hogwarts and seeks to kill any muggle-born (a witch or wizard who is born to two non-magical parents) students.

Conducted by Justin Freer, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played the live score created by the legendary John Williams (the Star Wars series, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Jaws) as the film was projected on giant screens around the Bowl auditorium.

Freer greeted the audience first by leading everyone in the crowd cheer for their respective house that make up the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. The Gryffindor house drew the most cheers, it being the house that Potter and his friends, Hermione Granger, played by a very young Emma Watson and the affable Ron Weasley are all members of. House Slytherin drew the ire of most the crowd since Potter’s rival, Draco Malfoy is the defacto student leader and the head of the house, Professor Severus Snape, is quite off-putting and hostile toward titular character because of a bitter history between Potter’s parents and Snape.

After the fitting roars of applause for house Gryffindor (whose mascot is a lion) and serpentine hisses and boos for house Slytherin, Freer encouraged the audience to continue to cheer, make noise and keep the energy level up during the film as he lifted his wand and began to transport the sold-out crowd to their favorite wizarding world.

Watching the film, which 15 years later is firmly seared into the minds of fans like Potter’s iconic forehead scar, still had the audience reeling and cheering, laughing and applauding every scene with their favorite character.

Whether it was a dumbfounded look on Ron Weasley’s face as he crashes his father’s car into a very upset Whomping Willow, or the first appearance of Granger on screen, the audience lauded every scene, mouthing the lines and waving their wands as Hermione fixed Harry’s glasses with a confident and bold “Oculus Reparo!” or when Draco and Potter wand-duel during class.

There were some touching scenes in film as well, like when Professor Snape, played by Alan Rickman, who died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer first appeared on the screen to accuse Potter of being the heir to Salazar Slytherin, followed by the emotional scenes with Potter and Hogwarts’ Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, played by Richard Harris, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma a month before the film’s Nov. 2002 release. As Freer and the LA Phil played William’s poignant and visceral soundscapes, there were moments of dead silence as the audience watched the final performance of Harris’ charming and lovable character give Potter his assurance that he was meant to be in house Gryffindor after defeating the evil that almost brought down Hogwarts.

William’s score was the standout character of the evening that not even Rowling herself could have created to give her story such vibrance and life. The action scenes of Potter and Malfoy battling it out during a game of Quidditch were exponentially enhanced with the live power of Williams’ score. You didnt just hear the music, you felt it in your bones.

Watching a scene with Potter and Weasley on the run from an army of giant spiders would not have been nearly as thrilling without the edge-of-your-seat, memorably dynamic soundtrack that only a man like Williams– whose bombastic scores terrified audiences with the Jaws theme song and gave rise to Darth Vader’s infamous entrance music– could do.

As the film credits rolled, the crowd rose to their feet as Freer and the LA Philharmonic took a bow before exiting the stage for the evening.

There’s no doubt that following the success of both last year’s and this weekend’s performance’s, that Potter fans will soon be back next year, like a wizarding summer camp, to cheer on the five other films in the franchise.

As the audience was filing out of the amazing landmark Hollywood venue, many of the young wizards in attendance moved their hands in the air as an homage to Freer’s own waving all evening. Perhaps even a few young muggle-born wizards and witches might switch from casting spells to a career in making musical cinema magic like Freer and Williams… I mean, they already have the wands to do it after all.

Evan Solano is a Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering arts and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter: @evansolano

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