Wizard on the Way
Universal’s new Harry Potter-themed island—at Islands of Adventure—is set to open this month. Jay Boyar
For J.K. Rowling fans, this month’s grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a bit like the second coming.
Well, actually, it’s more like the 14th coming, following the author’s seven Harry Potter novels and the six hit Warner Brothers movies (with two more on the way). In fact, you’d practically have to be one of Rowling’s fearsome, soul-sapping dementors not to be at least a little excited by the prospect of this enchanted addition to Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.
Among the Wizarding World’s various attractions, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey will be the most ambitious. You’ll enter the ride through Hogwarts castle, and soon you’ll be on a flight with Harry and his friends that’ll include encounters with all manner of magical creatures (even, perhaps, a dementor).
Speaking of magical creatures, not far away will be Dragon Challenge: twin, intertwined roller coasters (i.e., dragons) called Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail. (Actually, it’s a repurposed Dueling Dragons.) For the little muggles, there’ll also be a gentler coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff (formerly, The Flying Unicorn).
When you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be able to visit Three Broomsticks, a restaurant featuring fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and other Brit-style delicacies. Beverages will include the family-friendly Butterbeer (which tastes like shortbread mixed with butterscotch) and pumpkin juice, as well as beer, wine and mixed drinks.
If you just want a snack, you might stop in at Honeydukes, where you’ll find such sweet treats as Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees and the ever-popular Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans.
At the Wizarding World, you’ll also discover a working owl-themed post office called Owl Post (remember, owls deliver the mail in the Harry Potter books) and several other shops with branded merchandise.
At Ollivanders, for example, a wandkeeper will assist you in purchasing a magic wand that, as the saying goes, chooses
you. Zonko’s Joke Shop, meanwhile, will be the place to find such novelty items as sneakoscopes, screaming yo-yos and shrunken heads.
You never know: Some of those items might even make a dementor crack a small smile. Grand opening June 18. Price is included in admission for Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. universalorlando.com
JUNE 2-JULY 4 A ground-breaking ‘labor opera,’ The Cradle Will Rock galvanized Depression-era audiences with its story of corruption in a strike-torn steel town. The play, which is coming to Mad Cow Theatre, was written by Marc Blitzstein for the Federal Theatre Project. The original production gained notoriety when it was shut down on opening night, ostensibly due to budget cuts (although it was believed that the true reasons were political.) Director Orson Welles and producer John Houseman hired another theater and the actors, who were forbbidden to be on stage because the show had been shut down, performed their parts from their seats in the audience. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday 2:30 p.m. $10-$28. 105 S. Magnolia Ave. 407-297-8788. www.madcowtheatre.com
JUNE 15-20 The Tony Award-winning musical Chicago sizzles with sin, corruption and all that jazz. The musical’s tale of murder, greed, adultery and treachery holds a sardonic mirror up to American values. With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb (the Cabaret team), the musical was originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. This revival has choreography updated by Fosse’s creative heir, Ann Reinking. The raucous musical, based on a play written in 1926 by a Chicago crime reporter, is the final offering of the season for Fairwinds Broadway Across America Orlando series. Tuesday-Saturday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m., Sunday 1 and 6:30 p.m. $34-$65. Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St. 1-800-745-3000. ticketmaster.com
Can We Talk?
JUNE 4 Sharp-tongued comedian Joan Rivers has made a long and successful living poking fun at herself and other celebrities. From her early days in front of the brick wall at The Bitter End in New York where, along with legends such as Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, she sharpened her act, to a career-making gig on The Tonight Show, Rivers has never strayed from her shtick. After nearly a half century, her wit is still as sharp as her tongue. 8 p.m. $45-$55. Hard Rock Orlando, Universal Studios CityWalk, 6050 Universal Blvd. 407-351-5483. hardrock.com
JUNE 5-6 Florida’s cattle-ranching tradition is alive and kicking (literally) in Kissimmee. The Silver Spurs Rodeo, known as the largest event of its kind east of the Mississippi, has been attracting riders and enthusiasts for more than half a century. It’s still the place to see steer roping, barrel racing, and bull and bronco riding. Now ranked in the top 50 events sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the rodeo started as a small gathering of Osceola County ranchers in the early 1940s. It has grown into an institution that celebrates the cowboy way of life in the Sunshine State. Saturday 7 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. $15, children 10 and under are free. Silver Spurs Arena, Osceola Heritage Park, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee. 407-677-6336.