Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is a Return to Childhood 

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary:

Return to Hogwarts is a Return to Childhood 

by Juliette Boland

      “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers…” to watch Harry Potter movies. Since the release of the first book in 1997, JK Rowling’s whimsical world of witches, wizards, and misfits has acted as a place of escapism for millions of Harry Potter fans, cleverly named “Potterheads,” from across the globe. If you grew up, as I did, with a childlike fascination with the otherworldly and an all-consuming passion for the books and films, I have a sneaky feeling that you, too, fantasized being told by a friendly half-giant, “Yer a wizard!” You, too, identified with Hermione’s nerdy love for learning or Ron’s endearing obsession with food. You, too, yearned for the friendships one may find at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a home for those who are different and where weird is normal. Such themes are appealing to any child who does not feel they belong. Our generation is living proof that writing and cinema have the power to guide a lost soul to finding their place in the world. These stories are the foundation of who we bunch of misfits have grown to be. HBO Max’s mystical reunion special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts allows every adult who grew up besotted with the series to grab their time turners, return to childhood, and remember what it was like to believe in magic.

       Not only does the spell-binding special track one’s magical journey through youth; it shows the original cast members and directors reconnecting with one another twenty years following the premiere of Sorcerer’s Stone and reflecting upon their experiences making the beloved films. Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) all joined together for the reunion, alongside a plethora of costars and each director from the franchise, Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates. Each Harry Potter actor and director was interviewed individually and were subsequently given time to discuss the magic behind the filmmaking process with one another. 

      Return to Hogwarts extracts enough behind-the-scenes facts out of its Chamber of Secrets to leave Potterheads “stupified.” A veritaserum potion, as Professor Snape would devilishly hiss, was not needed to draw the truth from these interviewees. Every person took this special as an opportunity to speak candidly and wholeheartedly about their memories, both the good and the not-so-good, whilst working on the Harry Potter movies. 


      Director of the first two films Chris Columbus was skeptical about reading the books, after having been approached three times. However, Potter-loving muggles have his daughter Eleanor to thank, since she was the one who convinced him to read the books after the release of Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999 and, hence, to take on the project. To echo Daniel Radcliffe, “Thank you, Eleanor!” 

      For the past decade, fans have melted over Emma Watson’s admitted childhood crush on Harry Potter rival and “foul, loathsome, evil, little cockroach” Tom Felton. Interviewed separately, both opened up about their close bond that has since evolved into a sibling-like love. Watson shared that the moment she fell for the dashing Slytherin boy was during one tutoring session when they were assigned to draw what they imagined God would look like, and “Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard.” Due to their three-year age gap, Felton always saw her as a little sister and felt “very protective of her,” as he fondly described, and “that continues to the day.” And the love was reciprocated, as Watson stated, “Tom was the one I could often be more vulnerable with.” Cue sobbing from Dramione shippers. 

      Sparks were also flying around the Chosen One himself and not for Cho Chang or Ginny Weasley. In a sit-down interview between Daniel Radcliffe and ex death-eater Helena Bonham Carter, it was revealed that The Boy Who Lived wrote a flirty note to her when filming wrapped for Order of the Phoenix. Amidst childish giggling between them, Radcliffe read the decades-old love letter aloud, “I do love you and I just wish I had been born 10 years earlier. I might have had a chance.” Even though she was a Voldemort follower and the killer of Harry’s godfather Sirius Black, this might be the best example of “no hard feelings.” 

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, from left: Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Daniel Radcliffe, on set, 2007. ©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

      Ironically, sparks could have landed on the cast of Harry Potter in a potentially serious fire hazard. What would have been CGI today, the floating candles in the Great Hall were real. Commenting on the hilarious absurdity of this production decision, Watson revealed that “hundreds of real candles that were really lit, on fishing lines, from the ceiling,” with Radcliffe joking that one of his favorite moments on set was “the moment when all the floated candles started burning through the ropes that tied them to the ceiling and just started falling through the Great Hall.” 

      A possibly more dangerous moment on the Harry Potter set was when director of Goblet of Fire Mike Newell injured himself staging the fight scene between the Weasley twins, Oliver (George) and James Phelps (Fred). When the brothers weren’t fighting the way Newell envisioned, he demonstrated by tackling Oliver and saying, “Like this.” The then hyper-energetic 60-year-old man cracked a few ribs that couldn’t be mended with a quick-and-easy Skele-Gro. What did you expect? Pumpkin Juice? 

      Many renowned actors have turned down Harry Potter roles, from Robin Williams passing on Hagrid to Hugh Grant almost portraying Gilderoy Lockhart. Jason Isaacs, who one could not picture as any character other than the conniving Lucius Malfoy, originally auditioned for Lockhart. After reading some scenes as the memory charm expert, he was requested by Columbus to audition for Malfoy. “I was about to play Captain Hook in Peter Pan and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to play two children’s villains,’” admitted Isaacs. Through “gritted teeth” and a “deeply bitter” disposition he gave a performance that would turn out to be perfect for the evil wizard. 

      Felton even expressed his initial fear of the actor while working with him as a kid. He was an intimidating “Jekyll and Hyde” type, assuming the persona of a frightening father at one moment and returning to his normal state in the other. (It’s okay, Tom. We were all scared of him, too.) In their first scene, which was cut from Chamber of Secrets, Isaacs accidentally pierced Felton’s hand with his cane, which, unbeknownst to both of them, was sharp at the tip. Nonetheless, any Potter fan knows that Lucius would not be nearly as spine-chilling if not played by the talented Isaacs. 

      Watch our interview with Isaacs here:

      The most exciting revelation for those who weren’t already aware  was that Alan Rickman was the only cast member who had the inside track on his storyline the entire time. Discussing Prisoner of Azkaban with Radcliffe, Gary Oldman notes that he wishes to have known “the whole picture” of his character’s arc when filming. To that, Radcliffe added that the late Alan Rickman was the only actor to have been told Snape’s backstory, “He very very early said to Jo, ‘I think I need to know what happens here.” This resulted in directors questioning his acting choices, to whom he would say, “I’ll tell you later.” Of course, Radcliffe delivered this line in a Rickman-esque impression which made Oldman bend over laughing. 

      Although disclosed to the media years ago, Emma Watson shared in the special that she almost left the franchise around the time Order of the Phoenix began production. “The fame thing had finally hit home in a big way,” Watson said, at a time when there was no other fictional female character as idolized or adored as Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age, which comes with a lot of pressure for a teenager. Felton added that “People definitely forget what she took on and how gracefully she did it.” Watson has taken control of her own narrative, becoming incredibly successful in acting and activism. She is still a role model for us all. 


      One of the most prominent features of the special is diving deep into the actors’ personal growth over time and holding the Mirror of Erised to life. It is presumptuous to think that because the Golden Trio have been global celebrities since the age of ten they were saved from life’s challenges. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint had meaningful conversations about handling fame at such a young age, including the responsibility of carrying a film franchise and the feeling of having the world watch you grow up before their very eyes. As Columbus pointed out, it is a phenomenon unlike anything ever seen in cinema or ever will again. 

      The movies simultaneously capture both the characters’ and the actors’ life milestones, beginning with the first two years at Hogwarts, when the children must adapt to a new home. The advent of the Harry Potter series is childhood, when the movies were painted with gold and warm tones, welcoming the audience into the world of magic. This storybook environment was also felt behind the scenes, crafted by Columbus, who is often praised for being kind and patient with child actors. 

      “We were very much kids being kids on a set,” recalled Radcliffe, constantly playing Slap  and oblivious to what the future would bring for the film’s three young stars. Columbus, who took on the role of a father figure, explained that the kids didn’t comprehend the stature of the legends they were acting alongside, such as Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart), and John Hurt (Ollivander), “the British royalty of the acting world.” Felton confessed to Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) that when he first saw Gary Oldman he naively thought that he was a janitor. Well, Oldman is a man of many talents. 

Watch our interview with Kenneth Branagh here:


      The optimism surrounding Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets slowly faded away as the film series shifted into a new and darker era. Columbus passed the reins to Cuarón who interpreted the Prisoner of Azkaban book as Harry, Ron, and Hermione “passing the threshold between childhood and their teenage years.” A cloud overshadows Harry, which Cuarón conveyed stylistically as a representation of how dementors suck the souls out of their victims. 

      Cuarón was the first director to assign Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint homework and truly treated them as teenagers. The three were to write essays in character and turn them in. Watson wrote twelve pages, beautifully written quite characteristically, Radcliffe wrote one solid page that he felt was sufficient, and Grint wrote nothing. Cuarón says that the excuse Grint gave him was, “I thought that Ron wouldn’t do it.” 

      Prisoner of Azkaban was a turning point for the teenagers’ development as actors, due to the fact that they were provided the task to film a pivotal scene in the Shrieking Shack opposite acting giants Alan Rickman, David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew), and Gary Oldman. Radcliffe talked to Watson and Grint about being in awe of Oldman when he joined the cast, and Watson vividly remembered Radcliffe telling her, “Listen, Emma, you need to be cool.” 

      Cuarón and David Yates look back on how Oldman generously embraced Radcliffe and included him in the acting process. The way in which Harry and Sirius’s relationship unfolds paralleled Radcliffe and Oldman’s connection. Oldman can appear to be a daunting person at first glance, when, in reality, he is as agreeable and charming as Sirius Black. He had a natural paternal energy towards Radcliffe. As Cuarón says, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

      Goblet of Fire, when magic was in the air. Mike Newell’s film introduced romance to the Harry Potter universe, and it was dealt with realistically, not shying away from the awkward phase every teenager faces. Radcliffe found that channeling his inherent awkwardness wasn’t necessarily an acting challenge to surmount. Grint recollected those years as “a lot of hormones flying around,” particularly with the two massive groups of purposefully good-looking people entering Hogwarts, the Beauxbatons girls and Durmstrang boys. 

      It was comforting for fellow self-conscious teenagers who felt out of place to watch the film’s three heroes struggle with self confidence and undergo emotional change. Lewis stated further that the actors themselves were crushing on and dating one another. “We were literally having the same experiences.” 

      The anxieties and insecurities that are born from a high school setting circulate the students at Hogwarts when they must ask one another to their first school dance, the Yule Ball. From Radcliffe’s rigid dancing with Katie Cheung to Emma Watson learning how to gracefully walk down stairs, without falling, in her Cinderella, “duckling becomes a swan” moment, Goblet of Fire illustrates the innocence of young love. 

      Soon, this romanticized reality comes to a crashing halt. Mike Newell concludes this section with, “The moment of Cedric Diggory’s death is the moment the series comes of age. The children have left childhood and must face the perils of adulthood.” This was an eye-opening experience for any kid who watched this scene. For many, it was the first time seeing someone so young greet death. It is a tragically powerful image one never forgets. 

      Order and the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince required an even darker mood, for the world of Harry Potter evolved into a divided political environment where Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s actions had the power to influence major events. One may argue that this is the most emotionally exhausting story for Harry, who shows signs of trauma after having witnessed the murder of a peer his own age, caused by his sworn enemy Lord Voldemort. It’s when he feels the most alone and distant from everyone in the entire series, despite his friends being at his side and offering their support. Interestingly, at that time, Radcliffe himself was dealing with his own problems, as were Grint and Watson. 

      Watson rediscovered a diary she kept during production and said, “I could see at times I was lonely.” Responding to Watson’s feelings during this period, he noted that while Radcliffe and Grint had each other to depend on, and Felton himself had his “cronies.” Watson was younger and all by herself. Nobody fully understood everything she was burdened with as a young female icon and star. 

      Radcliffe explained that because they were so young, it never occurred to them to ask one another how they were doing amid the success: “As a 14-year-old boy, I was never going to turn around to another 14-year-old and be like, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Is everything ok?’” 

      At times, Grint himself wondered what his life would look like if he “called it a day” and said, “I feel like I lost track of who I was and who the character was. I didn’t really know where they ended or began. Even my name didn’t feel like my name. I felt I only knew how to do one thing. I knew how to play Ron.” 

      At the heart of Harry Potter is an alliance of friends, offering as Carter describes, “a great relief of loneliness.” This can be seen in Evanna Lynch’s unique path to Luna Lovegood. As someone who saw herself an outsider, Lynch appreciated Rowling’s “secret world of oddballs,” so she wrote the acclaimed author a letter saying, “I would find life a bit hopeless without Harry Potter.” Years later, she took a chance at a cattle call audition and won the part with her uncanny performance as the spacey and lovable Ravenclaw. 

      The special is full of overwhelming waves of nostalgia that will surely make every Potterhead tear up. The most moving section is when the cast pays tribute to the main actors who have sadly passed on, Richard Harris, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Helen McCrory, and Alan Rickman. With his voice breaking, Felton reflected on his wonderful bond with McCrory, who played his mother, and how much she meant to him. Radcliffe and Columbus laughed over having tricked Richard Harris into believing that Fawkes was a real phoenix. Emma Watson shared how the late Alan Rickman never treated her as a child, and Fiennes named him a “magician” when acting. 

Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) 1946-2016

John Hurt (Ollivander) 1940-2017

Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy) 1968-2021

Richard Harris (Dumbledore) 1930-2002

      “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – Albus Dumbledore 

      The actors and crew members who have left us too soon left an indelible mark on our hearts, and the special honors their contributions to the franchise by beautifully listing their names across The Great Hall’s bewitched night sky. Raise your wands. 

      As the Harry Potter series came to a close, the franchise transformed into an earthier and more visceral version of the magical world, an aesthetic that suited this sad farewell. Whether it be Hermione and Ron’s first kiss, a long-awaited moment for Potterheads – mostly for Radcliffe whose mischief was assuredly not managed on set – Snape’s backstory finally unveiled, revealing he was a hero all along, or underdog Neville Longbottom saving the day by destroying a horcrux, resembling Lewis’s own route to self-confidence, the Deathly Hallows movies were wholly satisfactory for the fans and the actors, who had to bid adieu to characters they had been playing for ten years. The Harry Potter movies were a cinematic accomplishment, but the goodbye was bittersweet. 

      This powerful, collective emotion is expressed in the final interviews. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint sat down together in what may be the most touching part of the special. Watson, without trying to get emotional, said, “You are like a pillar in my life.” Rupert responded, “I’ve watched you grow up. We’ve watched each other grow up. We grew up together. We’re a family. I love you.” Is there a spell to reverse tears? No? Bring out the tissues. “As a friend.” Rupert assured. Classic Ron. 

      In her own interview, Watson completely broke down, saying, “It’s just the best, most amazing experience. I can’t really explain to you, like they’re such good people. They’re so kind. They both took their responsibilities really seriously. I appreciated that so much.” 

      Radcliffe, visibly emotional, concluded, “The crew on these films were unbelievable. There are people on these films that are… are foundation to who I am, as a person and an actor. I feel so lucky to be where I am and to have the life that I have and be able to work with the people I work with now. But none of it is possible without this… It was a very good ten years.” 

      If you were ever a Potter fan or a child who believed in a world where witches and wizards could find camaraderie and love, you were crying along with them. Anyone could tell that twenty years later our Golden Trio is still inseparable, forever intrinsically linked by Harry Potter. 


      Reaching my twentieth birthday this year, I see that Harry Potter has always been a part of my life and always will be. From the age of nine, I completely redesigned my room to appear as if it were taken right out of a Harry Potter novel. My parents, or shall I say Santa Claus, constructed a wooden castle as my bed. The top floor is where I slept, and below I created my very own Gryffindor Common Room. I attained every piece of Harry Potter merchandise you could imagine, thanks to Whimsic Alley, a store akin to Diagon Alley that I frequented many a time. My room exploded with Potterhead geekdom. 

      My mother would throw spectacular Harry Potter parties for Halloween. Our living room transformed into The Great Hall, complete with candles hanging from the ceiling and house flags flying. Long tables were covered in confections, chicken legs, and corn for each Hogwarts house. My dad would dress as Professor Snape, and being the amazing impressionist he is, spooked the kids with his eerily accurate Alan Rickman impression. My mother would dress up as Professor McGonnagall or Professor Trelawney and place the students into their houses with our very own Sorting Hat. (If I remember correctly, I dressed up as Hermione three years in a row.) 

      Ever since kindergarten, I awaited the highly-anticipated school event that every fifth grader has the privilege of enjoying which was… Harry Potter Day. Of course, most of the decorations utilized for the event were from my own collection, acquired over the ten years of my early life. I was placed into Gryffindor – fate, right? I won the Potter quiz and was assigned the Gryffindor prefect. Slytherin may have won the House Cup, which was actually the TriWizard Cup, I might add, but that was probably the best day of elementary school. 

      As I grew older and aspired to be a journalist, I began to see in person, meet, and sometimes interview some of my Harry Potter idols on red carpets, like Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Kenneth Branagh, Alfred Enoch, Tom Felton and Emma Watson. I also covered different Harry Potter events, like the opening of The Fantastic Beasts exhibit or The Universal Studios Hollywood Christmas at Hogwarts event. 

      Harry Potter has brought magic into all of our lives. I believe it is so loved because of its compassion and relatability. When we had school principals, Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint had directors. When we had teachers, they had acting legends teaching them the ropes of acting. At our core, we are all the same. We all go through the different stages of life. We all encounter grief. We all feel happiness. As someone who often struggled to find my place, I found friendship with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I knew that Hogwarts would be a home for me. Always.

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Watch Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts now streaming on HBO Max.

Juliette Boland is Harvard Prize recipient, a four-time National Arts & Entertainment Journalism and Southern California Journalism Award winner and a proud member of Los Angeles Press Club. Juliette is a sophomore at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.


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The Anglophile Channel Reviews “Spencer”

By Elyse Ashton

The controversy about the film Spencer is raging before it even opens on November 5th.. I was invited to attend a screening last night in Hollywood followed by a q&a session with star Kristen Stewart. I didn’t know what to expect, but this wasn’t it. We were warned before the screening “This is NOT a bio-pic” so I tightened my KN95 and prepared for a wild ride.

And, dear reader, it was. I am still processing what I saw. It is thought provoking, emotional, both delicately soaring and uncomfortably confining, containing some truth, fact based fantasy and outright invention. The film itself begins with the disclaimer that it is a fable drawn from a “true tragedy” which plays out as three surreal days in the imaginary life of Diana during a Christmas visit to Sandringham. It begins with scores of vehicles laden with provisions for the royal celebration making their way over a dead pheasant in the road. We also meet Diana, getting lost on her solitary drive. The royal chef recognizes her on the side of the road and helps her discover exactly where she is, which is very near her childhood home. Immediate metaphors! Massive symbolism! Let’s dish!

The Good

The acting was superb. There has been a lot of apprehension about the casting of Kristen Stewart but she pulled off the role of Diana well beyond my expectations. She revealed to the audience during question time that she had six months to work and prepare for her role, and it shows. She acknowledged she isn’t a ringer for Diana physically, but trained with William Conacher (who also coached actors Naomi Watts and Emma Corrin), to take on Diana’s voice and mannerisms to the point where they look unstudied. Kristen Stewart carries this film and makes it her tour de force. She and director Pablo Larrain bring the audience on an intense surreal psychological journey though isolation and mental illness reminiscent of 1960’s films like “Repulsion”.

Stewart is surrounded by a brilliant supporting cast. Jack Farthing is underused but strong in his subtle portrayal of Prince Charles. Jack Nielen and Freddie Spry are perfect as young William and Harry. They radiate love, bring moments of fun, and embody the pain felt by children in the midst of dysfunction. Stella Gonet portrays a distant, unflappable Queen. Timothy Spall is equerry Major Alistair Gregory, an enigmatic figure who is creepily omnipresent. He cares, but not about Diana. Sally Hawkins plays Maggie, Diana’s favorite dresser and confidante. She has a big sympathetic heart and a secret which is no surprise. Sean Harris is Royal Chef Darren who has a pivotal role as a sort of guide with a deep understanding of the machine he works within, a solid knowledge of the rules, the caveats and guidance on how to survive. A sign in his kitchen warns ominously “They Can Hear You”. Diana has the hardest struggles and yet the most understanding from those below stairs characters, where real life occurs and the wheels are kept turning to facilitate the upstairs façade and their often cruel “bits of fun”. The elder members of the royal family are directed to rarely break form or show emotion. Most have no lines at all.

Spencer is a beautifully made film. It’s lovely to look at most of the time. The settings and costumes are transcendent and create an unattainable mythic royal world. The magnificent score perfectly illustrates and underscores the anxiety and emotion yet also calls attention to itself.

The Bad

There are several difficult scenes focusing on Diana’s bulimia, her struggle and inability to force herself to do, as Prince Charles says, “things you hate” and a gruesome moment of self harm. For much of the film, Diana is not likable or sympathetic as depicted because of her entitled self absorption and disregard for everyone but her children. There were moments when Diana is outright bratty and rude, dropping a few f-bombs and a coolly delivering a cringe worthy impropriety that sends a newly assigned dresser hurrying out of the room. She can be petulant and frustrating. She robs a scarecrow and talks to a coat, steals out into the dead of night armed with wire cutters and torch, which seem way out of character and pulls you out of the film to wonder why. I understood that it was to illustrate the themes of emptiness and the struggle of going home which runs through the film, but it can be jarring.

The Verdict

Spencer is strange and surreal. Reality ebbs and flows atmospherically. How many films can boast the wise ghost of Anne Bolyen as Deus ex Machina? Who is really going to eat pearls in soup? Suddenly, we have a dance montage. Just go with it. Moments of joy are hard earned. The audience will recognize that Spencer, was made by writer Steven Wright, director Pablo Larrain, and it’s star, Kristen Stewart from a place of real admiration for Diana. But it also takes disturbing liberties of speculation and projection. It is provocative and masterfully plotted out. It is not at all a forgettable film.

As the audience has been warned, this is a fable, and we really don’t know what is going to happen. I wondered if the royal family was actually going to kill Diana during the course of this imaginary Christmas. So, one could safely venture to say that the film is not entirely respectful. Any speculation is also troubling because Diana’s history is recent, and her family are still dealing with the aftermath. These are real people depicted, and for all the disclaimers, some viewers are still going to believe it’s what truly happened. Intentional or not, this will cause pain.

The ending, without spoilers, presents us with a “what if” that was unexpectedly emotional. After the film, a lady in the audience asked if there was going to be a part two, which to me… misses the whole point. We interpreted it very differently.

I’m neither going to encourage or discourage you to see Spencer. It’s not an easy watch. A few audience members left before the end. Others stood and applauded. The suffering and anxiety are palpable. Kristen Stewart understood that you don’t ask the audience what they thought directly after viewing. She said she wouldn’t ask because, “You just saw it”. I am still thinking about certain scenes, working out symbols and discovering meanings. So go see Spencer if you’re intrigued, or give it a miss if you find the whole idea maddening. I’ll understand either way. One thing I do know is that you’ll have an opinion!

Elyse Ashton, the author, is an actress and Los Angeles Press Club Award winning co-host of The Anglophile Channel’s Dish shows. She gives her opinions very decidedly for not so young a person.

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Ten Crazy Reasons Why The Jane Austen Society Should Be Your Summer Comfort Read.

Book cover of The Jane Austen Society

1. Because you might be a mess. I’ll freely admit it. I’m a sad, jittery, absolute mess right now. The world has no compassion on my poor nerves.  I cry at the drop of a hat. But take heart! All the characters in author Natalie Jenner’s book, The Jane Austen Society, are messed up, too. It’s not a depressing book by any means, but the characters are each dealing with their own losses, disappointments, heartbreaks and struggles of some kind. There is a famous quote by Josephine Hart about how damaged people are dangerous because they know they can survive.

Author Natalie Jenner headshot X2 2020

Natalie Jenner, author and Janeite

These characters are all survivors with plenty of heart. The danger lies in letting themselves be vulnerable again. Their tenacity can also gets things done and you cheer for The Jane Austen Society as they do just that. How do messed up people sort themselves out? With the love of their friends, determination…. and lots of Jane Austen!

2. Because the world right now is pretty bleak. You’d think an escape into post-war England is awfully bleak, too, but it is not the same kind of bleak..so it’s okay to visit 1940’s Chawton. They were slowly recovering from the horrors of WWII, but you know it’s going to be alright in the end. There’s comfort in that. Settle in. Have a cup of tea. Don’t worry about germs.Cup

3. Because Jane Austen didn’t write nearly enough to satisfy our hunger for her work. Author Natalie Jenner loves Jane Austen. She puts in references and parallels that we might not even catch on the first read. She also made me want to go back and reread all of Austen, which her characters do shamelessly. We love them for it. We aren’t going to get any new books from Jane Austen, so indulging in a book about characters who are passionate about Austen by an author who adores Austen is like hanging out with a fabulous new book club, which brings me to number …


Jane’s mother and sister.



4. Because book clubs and socializing are not the same on Zoom. At the end of the night you hit “Leave Meeting” and you’re alone with your empty wine glass. This group of Jane Austen aficionados can be revisited again and again. It’s a pleasure to be in the imaginary room listening to them. These characters talk about their favourites and their annoyances. They make discoveries and come to new understandings. The characters literally surround themselves with PILES of books in a decadent book-lovers fantasy come true. They make you want to reread all of Austen plus everything Austen ever read… and then reread The Jane Austen Society.


Chawton Cottage

5. Because you can leave all your knowledge of or lack of familiarity with Chawton history at the door. Don’t worry about cross checking facts and stopping short with those moments of, “But wait a minute…that’s not how it happened”. The Jane Austen Society is a story. It’s pure invention except for some names, objects and places. We all remember what happened with Kelly Clarkson and Jane Austen’s turquoise ring. Let it go. The author tells us in the afterward that it’s a completely fictional story so history nerds like me who run to fact check specifics can just relax, open the book and enjoy the ride. Maybe that disclaimer should come as a forward and not in the afterward, but I’m telling you now so you won’t be googling.


Fuggedaboutit. Just enjoy the story.

6. Because you had to cancel your trip to the UK this year. Maybe you were just thinking or dreaming about going. Maybe you even had a Jane Austen Festival or Regency ball of some kind on your itinerary. Maybe you just wanted to go SOMEWHERE and now that’s not going to happen. Disappointment seems to be the theme of 2020.


Chawton House

It feels like everything has been canceled. Of course it isn’t like actually traveling to Hampshire but if you’ve already visited or if you’ve only dreamed about going there, it can transport you to a Chawton inhabited by characters who love their village and appreciate their good fortune. Walking up to the big house and going around the back for a cup of tea, the green fields, pathways, the cottage, the kissing gate, the church and the Austen family gravestones..it’s all in there. I could cry. Again.

Chawton Church

7. Because you can’t focus to read right now. Too much swirling around in your brain? No worries! Richard Armitage to the rescue! He reads the audio book version of the Jane Austen Society. I would say he comes riding to our rescue on a white steed, but having seen a photo of his in-home recording studio, it would be a white porcelain steed…and now I can’t get that image out of my head. Never mind!RA studio He does a lovely job reading the book, differentiating characters ably with different accents and tones. His deep voice is soothing and steady. Another confession. I’ve never been able to get through audio books before, but now being stuck indoors cooking and cleaning like a madwoman, I understand their merit. Having the book read out loud to me during my tasks, and by Richard Armitage, no less, feels like a real indulgence. Who doesn’t need a little of that? Also….


Richard Armitage reads! 

8. Because you might need a little sweetness. The Jane Austen Society is a charming story. Austen herself wrote, “Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on” as a subject. Natalie Jenner mixes the classes throughout her story, adds some Hollywood glamour plus London sophistication for delightful additions to the society all bound together by their passion and admiration for Jane Austen. It isn’t cloying. Not everything falls into perfect place. In fact, I yelled at Richard Armitage more than once.Chawton garden 1 I felt ridiculous yelling at a book, so I waited to yell until I was listening to the audio version of the story. Characters don’t heed the warnings. Characters don’t live up to your expectations. Characters don’t follow your best advice. Characters can’t see what is right in front of them on a freaking platter! That’s real life. It’s all mirrored in the story, but it’s told with very little profanity, nothing graphic, and even the most devastating losses are described with delicacy and compassion Who can ask for more than that?

9. Because you want some heroes. You want a few pleasant surprises. These characters have flaws, like any real people would have weaknesses, but that doesn’t stop you from for cheering for them. When a character doesn’t understand Austen, temper your expectations because they will disappoint you in other ways as well. Yet, sometimes someone does the right thing for exactly the right reasons. One of the main reasons is for the love of Jane Austen. Sign me up for any sequels following the further adventures of Evie Stone…and the t-shirt.JA House Museum

10.Because you’re sick of watching tv. How much can a person binge? Don’t answer. I know. As opposed to many comfort foods, a comfort read is pretty healthy. It felt wonderful to have my steaming cup of tea and a nice book. I really needed to get back to reading in the midst of all the tears and worry. There is something to be said for taking time and doing something good for oneself. It is magical when a book transports the reader so she can envision the characters and the action in the imagination, escaping to another world for a little while with fellow Jane Austen fans. It is working those “little grey cells” to quote Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Book cover of The Jane Austen Society My fellow Anglophiles, in The Jane Austen Society, we have an ideal comfort book for the summer. As Jane Austen herself wrote in Northanger Abbey, “Any person, be it a gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”.  Everyone must choose a book to suit their own taste, of course, but I’d urge Janeites everywhere to give this book a chance. Even those who’ve never read Austen or seen the movies may enjoy the story of a village full of passionate people working towards a goal. But will those who adore Jane Austen enjoy it even more? Oh, yes.Chawton garden 2

Elyse Ashton is an actress, a voracious reader, a sometimes writer, an LA Press Club award-winning co-host of The Anglophile Channel’s Dish shows, a shamelessly enthusiastic historical dancer, an amateur costumier, and a great lover of English literature, her degree in French Literature notwithstanding. She’s a big geeked out fan of Jane Austen and Regency culture.










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Top 25 Reasons Why You MUST See Emma

You Must See Emma If…

1. You understand this is an adaptation of Jane Austen and will take liberties so you are able to relax and enjoy it.


Anya Taylor-Joy plays our spoiled heroine.

2. You need to be transported in a world so beautifully Regency that you could watch this film without sound and still be fully engaged. It’s like time travel.

3. You dearly love to laugh. This adaptation of Emma plays up the comedy for all it’s worth.Emma18

4. You are fully prepared to swoon over the most sumptuous creations that are these Regency costumes. They are magnificent and another star of the film. The details from the stitching on the gloves to the embroidery on the shawls is exquisite. You want a painful case of bonnet envy? See this film.Emma2

5. You are prepared to get frustrated that you cannot freeze frame just to look at the beautiful picture created or take in the colours and detail visible in every frame. Every location is a treasure. This production is just gorgeous. The flowers..the food…a million things to ogle!


Rupert Graves! 

6. You have always thought the older male characters should have it going on. We’re looking at you Mr. Weston and Mr. Woodhouse! Whoohoo!

7. You have always longed to see Mr. Knightley stark naked. Absolutely stark naked. From behind. And then wonder– or worry— every time he tugs at his clothing if he intends to be naked again. Granted, I always think the men look better in their puffy shirts and frock coats. But I’m not everybody.


You can keep your hat on, Johnny Flynn.

8. You want to see Emma hoist her skirts up to toast her own dear buns by the fire, simultaneously reminding everyone that the Regency is a knicker-free zone, and that we should brace ourselves for a very different adaptation of “Emma”.

9. You have always wanted to attend the Weston’s Christmas party. It’s breathtaking,  lovely and the way the scene plays out, they really wouldn’t mind us crashing.emma16

10.You want to witness the most brilliant portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse ever. Bill Nighy makes you laugh even when you glimpse only the top of his head lurking behind a screen. He is the ultimate valetudinarian.Emma4


11. You know it’s a film and understand the point they are trying to make with some steamy flesh on flesh Regency era dirty dancing, but you gasp in horror when the two pillars of Highbury society dance as the only ungloved couple on the floor, then you audibly cry out when Knightley’s bare, possibly sweaty hand is full on pressing the back of Emma’s glorious confection of a ball gown. As fabric authority Mr. Tilney says in Northanger Abbey, “I do not think it will wash well”. I totally needed my smelling salts.


Stop right there. No glove, no love.

12. You think that Jane Fairfax needs to sport a perpetual pout… yet somehow you understand her depression.

13. You are ready to declare Ford’s shop in Highbury, “the very shop that every body attends every day of their lives”, the most delightful corner of Regency England paradise and possibly want to live there. And buy things. Many, many frilly things.

14. You don’t mind that Frank Churchill comes across as that creepy guy who might just drug you and then sell your puppy on Craigslist.


Callum Turner as Frank

15. You want to see a proposal go so distractingly pear-shaped that you miss half the dialogue of the scene. No spoilers, but there will be blood.

16. You want very loud folksy hymns to punch in the soundtrack at certain moments and make you wonder why.

17. You want to cheer on Miranda Hart as she incarnates Miss Bates to perfection with impeccable comic timing and great sympathy.

18. You don’t need to like Emma at all to root for her. Jane Austen did write that she is “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”.Emm17

19. You think that Harriet Smith and Robert Martin have the sweetest romance.

20. You don’t mind that the girls from Mrs. Goddard’s school look like adorable little handmaids.


Mia Goth as Harriet Smith

21. You will vow to see it again and try to understand some of the directorial choices. But you go with it…

22. You are okay with the fact that John and Isabella Knightley are not the contented couple we know from the book, nor their happiness the reason that underscore’s George Knightley will to propose –-because they are hilarious.

23. You need to see moody, lovestruck Mr. Elton, aka actor Josh O’Connor, work the room in the most wonderful billowing vestment sleeves.


Tanya Reynolds is Mrs. E

24. You want to silently resolve to form an itinerary for travel to the UK which will include these opulent locations, ChavanageHouse, KingstonBagpuizeHouse, WiltonHouse, and FirlePlace. Perhaps you are a Poldark fan and want to shout, “Hey, that’s Trenwith”! You may also plan to pack a bonnet just because.

25. You adore Jane Austen’s books and will see any film adaptation of her work, because even when things aren’t the way you’d imagined them, you will still, always, find something to love.Emma8


Elyse Ashton is an actress, a voracious reader, a sometimes writer, an LA Press Club award-winning co-host of The Anglophile Channel’s Dish shows, a shamelessly enthusiastic historical dancer, an amateur costumier, and a great lover of English literature, her degree in French Literature notwithstanding. She’s a big geeked out fan of Jane Austen and Regency culture.

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A Very Downton Abbey Garden Party Comes To The Grove

As Downton Abbey fever sweeps through the United States many exciting events are being held to feed our insatiable need to live like Lord Grantham and the aristocratic Crawly family. On one particularly sunny afternoon in Southern California, Amazon’s Treasure Truck hosted The Grand High Tea Experience on the Lawn at The Grove in Los Angeles.

This exclusive Downton Abbey event, designed especially for Downton fanatics, celebrated the long-awaited release of Focus Features’ motion picture, Downton Abbey in true British style. The Lawn was beautifully transformed into a Downton-themed garden party, reminiscent of a scene from the English countryside in the early 20th century. We could just imagine the Dowager Countess and Lady Cora enjoying tea on the lawn at Downton. 

The Anglophile Channel was on hand to cover all the exciting activities at The Grove. Visit our special Downton Abbey Webpage to see ALL our photos plus our special episode of this very Downton event! It’s Teatime with: A Very Downton Garden Party at The Grove

Downton Abbey is in cinemas now and enjoying great reviews and box office numbers! Don’t miss your opportunity to get reunited with our favorite British aristocrats and their loyal servants. You will not be disappointed!

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Pinkies Up! It’s Teatime in Hollywood at BAFTA LA TV TEA

Pinkie’s Up! It’s Teatime For The Emmy Nominees at the BAFTA LA TV Tea

September 21, 2019 – Beverly Hills

It’s award season in Hollywood and every year the most talked about pre-Emmy award celebration is the BAFTA Los Angeles TV TEA. Easily the most glamorous tea party you’re likely to see stateside as Emmy nominees from the UK and US alike join A-listers and studio execs for the best of English traditions…afternoon tea – complete with scones and lashings of clotted cream!

Held poolside at the Beverly Hilton with the gorgeous LA sun shining down, Emmy nominees caught a bit of respite just ahead of the 2019 awards ceremony.  Hosted by BAFTA Los Angeles and BBC America, Hollywood’s most brilliant stars graced the red carpet including Killing Eve stars, the double-nominated Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s marvelous Emmy-winning Rachel Brosnahan, and Chernobyl’s Jared Harris, gorgeous Rufus Sewell (ITV’s Victoria and Man In The High Castle) and many more!

Sandra Oh (L) and Jodie Comer brighten up the BAFTA Los Angeles + BBC America TV Tea Party red carpet. (Photo: Amy Sussman / Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

Image result for bafta la tv tea rachel brosnahan

The Marvelous Rachel Brosnahan, an Emmy front runner for Best Actress in a Comedy.

But the voltage really amped up with the arrival of Hollywood Royalty, Michael Douglas (nominated for The Kominsky Method) and wife, Catherine Zeta Jones (Queen America, Chicago) looking every bit the glamorous movie stars. 

Hollywood royalty, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones lend extra glamour to the red carpet. (Photo: The Anglophile Channel)

The Anglophile Channel spoke to Douglas about his nomination, acting class and The Kominksy Method and…what exactly is a fascinator? Fascinating that he didn’t have a clue especially given that he’s married to the most fashionably chic British woman.

CHECK OUT our chat with Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and ALL our BAFTA LA TV TEA interviews and photos here: BAFTA LA TV TEA PHOTOS and INTERVIEWS



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Come Home To Downton Abbey

Downton-Abbey-Movie-PostersThe long awaited Downton Abbey movie may add a new catch phrase to the English language: the Molesley Moment. Many of us have experienced a Molesley Moment, when we are so overtaken by emotion that our words or actions supersede all good sense, any restraint, thus leaving us with no shred of dignity.


Oh, Molesley. We feel you.

Few of us, however, live those awkward moments with such impeccable comic timing as scene stealing Kevin Doyle while embodying the character of Mr. Molesley. As Joanne Froggatt’s Anna Bates exhorts Molesley , “Breathe”. We all must remember to breathe before the spectacle of splendour that is the Downton Abbey movie. What a gift!




From the first swells of the sublime theme music and the luscious images that fill the screen, Downton Abbey fans will jump headlong into a familiar world enhanced exponentially by the cinematic experience. The emotional excitement of Downton’s return is absolutely tear-inducing, but never fear, this is a joy filled Downton Abbey episode on steroids which will not disappoint.


Beloved characters

I shall offer no spoilers, but be assured the Royal visit to Downton Abbey brings conflict, danger, deception, petty crime, suspense, a deadly plot, romance, arrests, plenty of Crawley family drama, new faces as well as  beloved familiar faces splashed on to a screen so large we are able savour every detail and nuance of expression. This is a film Downton Abbey fans will want to see more than once.

Julian Fellowe’s story is perfection and the entire cast inhabits their familiar roles beautifully. These are the characters we’ve grown to love. They have evolved, but there is not one false note.


Finally, Thomas!

The scope is very grand. Images are breathtaking, stakes are high, laugh out loud moments abound, and some even seem like particular winks to Downton’s loyal fans. The upstairs world looks even more luxurious than on television.


Impossibly elegant Lady Mary

The exquisite 1920’s costumes by Anna Robbins are, as Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary once put it, “yummy”! I shamelessly ogled the replica royal jewels and countless tiaras. It’s a feast for the eyes.



Even hard work below stairs or in the pelting rain has a romantic glow and there is a charm to the bustling, busy backstage of the stately home. Everyone associated with Downton has purpose, even us, the audience. Once swept in to the Crawley universe, we won’t want to leave. We’re a part of the magic.



New faces

Change of heart. I will offer one spoiler which will address a fear that made me hesitate to watch the film.


Old favourites

Although you should be sure to take your lacy handkerchief (or a more practical wad of Kleenex), no one dies. No one. Even everyone riding in a car arrives safely at their destination! There are sober, moving reflections in the light of revelations about the past, health and wealth, but your heart won’t be broken. Not yet. You will left with hope for the future of Downton Abbey.






Something is afoot in the wine cellar!

The only complaint heard from those who’ve seen the film is that they wanted more of this particular character or that fabulous story line. A couple of hours return to  Downton would never be long enough. We want to live there!


Might they be plotting revenge?

In a world filled with anxiety, the Downton Abbey movie proves a gloriously decadent escape. You find yourself safely back in a place where, for two hours, you can forget your troubles and  trust that everything will turn out as it should


Welcome back, Mr. Carson!




There is a peculiar feeling when the movie is over. A resplendent  ball near the end of the film is the wave we ride back to the shore of reality, checking in with our favourite characters as we bid them adieu once again. We’ve waited so long, wished so hard for this film, then reveled in every enchanting second of the Downton Abbey movie, that there is a sense of loss when the end credits roll. We long for more. Much more.

In the face of the excellent production team, led by Gareth Neame with direction by Michael Engler, writer and creator Julian Fellowes who brought us this magnificent film or the flawless cast, I, too, might have my own awed Molesley Moment, stammering out my compliments, gratitude, weeping with excitement and abjectly begging for a sequel. Farewell, dignity! Hello Downton Abbey!DA8
Review written by Elyse Ashton
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Downton Abbey Stars Shine at World Premiere in London [PHOTOS]

It’s been nearly four agonizing years since we last saw our favorite British aristocratic family, whose members became so dear to us over the six seasons that Downton Abbey aired on ITV and PBS Masterpiece that when we said our final goodbyes to our beloved Crawlys and their loyal servants on Christmas Day 2015 it was like losing a family member. To help ease our pain, talk almost immediately began of a hoped-for feature film. Fast forward to tonight, Leicester Square London – where most of our favorite faces came out to celebrate the long awaited premiere of Downton Abbey – The Movie!


It was hard to beat the glamour and overall gorgeousness of the Crawly ladies as Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora) and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) dazzled the fans that had gathered in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite Downton stars.


The gorgeous Crawly women: (L-R) Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith)

Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 2.13.39 PM

Golden Goddess! Dockery wears a gown by Galvan of London.


Absolutely stunning! Carmichael rocks this Monse Resort 2020 gown! We loved the white gloved hand brooch!


Laura Carmichael shows some leg!

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As elegant and regal as the lady herself, Elizabeth McGovern.

Everyone cheered when Dame Maggie Smith appeared! Not one to normally frequent red carpets or awards events, it was a special treat to see our favorite sassy one-liner spewing Crawly, The Dowager Countess of Grantham herself!


We can’t get enough of Dame Maggie Smith!


Sophie McShera was quite the stunner in this gorgeous black velvet gown with fuschia rosettes.


Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson, surprised everyone with the wonderful announcement that he and his wife, actress and producer Jessica Blair Herman, are expecting!


Mrs. Hughes was never this glam or sexy! Phyllis Logan rocking the red carpet!


Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) and wife, the inimitable Imelda Staunton who also appears in the film!


Lord Grantham has arrived! Hugh Bonneville with his lovely wife, Lulu Williams.

It was a beautiful reunion for the Downton Abbey cast. You could see the excitement on their faces. Sadly, Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates) had Tweeted earlier that she was in Australia filming and could not make it. Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates) also Tweeted good luck wishes to the cast, which indicated he would also be missing the festivities.



We would not be here without the master creator/writer himself, Julian Fellowes!

Downton Abbey arrives in cinemas on September 13th in the UK and September 20th in the US. Get your tickets now, polish up your favorite tiara and see you at the movies!






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REVIEW: An Enchanting Journey Into The Woods at The Hollywood Bowl by Juliette Boland

An Enchanting Journey “Into the Woods” at the Hollywood Bowl

by Juliette Boland

Each summer The Hollywood Bowl presents a fully staged Broadway musical, featuring an impressive combination of Broadway and Hollywood’s finest musical theater talent. This past weekend, I was excited to attend this year’s offering, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, a clever mash-up of beloved fairy tale characters, the exploration of wishes and consequences and the examination of the age-old adage…Be careful what you wish for.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Into The Woods at The Hollywood Bowl | Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Skillfully directed and choreographed by Tony nominee Robert Longbottom (Flower Drum Song, Side Show, Pageant) and starring Broadway favorites Sutton Foster as The Baker’s Wife, Patina Miller as The Witch, and Sierra Boggess as Cinderella as well as Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin as The Baker and Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo as Jack, Into The Woods provided a magically enchanting night of theater under the stars.

Sondheim is easily one of my all-time favorite Broadway composers, known for his intricate, quick-paced scores with musical numbers that are challenging even for the most seasoned of performers. The casts of these summer musicals at the Bowl are famously only given a few weeks to learn the material, and to learn Sondheim at that is a feat which I applaud them for. Well, this incredible group of performers not only learned this music, they conquered it! Skillfully performing such Sondheim favorites as: “Children Will Listen” and “No One Is Alone.”

As a musical theater student, I have always been fascinated by Sondheim’s work and this show in particular. The original Broadway production starring Joanna Gleason as The Baker’s Wife and Bernadette Peters as The Witch has always been my favorite and I’ve been hard pressed to find any production that has even come close.

Image result for into the woods original broadway cast

Chip Zien, Joanna Gleason, and Bernadette Peters Martha Swope/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

 Into The Woods at the Hollywood Bowl set a new bar for me, exceeding ALL my expectations!

This cast was sheer perfection. Each character beamed with their own indelible magic and creativity. I could instantly feel their energy and excitement extend past my seat and all the way back to the nosebleed sections. If you’ve been to the Hollywood Bowl, you know that’s pretty far.

One of the most vibrant, lovable characters has always been the Baker’s Wife, who I consider to be the heart of the story, played brilliantly by the inimitable Sutton Foster. The Baker, played perfectly by Skylar Astin, and his wife have been cursed childless by the Witch. They must journey into the woods on a scavenger hunt of magical items that will reverse the spell. Foster and Astin’s chemistry was my favorite. I just loved them together! Foster’s expert comedic timing, sharp line delivery, and her show-stopping rendition of, “Moments In The Woods”, easily proved why she is a multiple Tony award winner, while Astin provided some of the most poignant moments of the night. 

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

IT TAKES TWO! Skylar Astin as The Baker and Sutton Foster as The Baker’s Wife make the perfect pair. |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging 

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Another character equally as affable was Little Red Riding Hood, played by Shanice Williams. If you remember Williams as Dorothy in The Wiz Live, then you know she has the vocal chops, but little did we know how funny she could be! She was simply delightful in this role, bouncing across the stage, consuming all the sweets within reach; all while bringing a sass to her character that made the audience fall in love with her.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Shanice Williams delights as Little Red! Seen here with Cheyenne Jackson as The Wolf. | Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging 

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Matarazzo as Jack and Wililams as Little Red.

The real surprise of the night was Gaten Matarazzo, the most enjoyable, heartfelt Jack I have ever seen. Famous for his role as Dustin on the Netflix hit series, Stranger Things, it is not widely known that Matarazzo has roots in musical theater having appeared on Broadway as Gavroche in Les Miserables and Benjamin in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.


Matarrazo as the Demogorgon chasing Dustin in Netflix’s Stranger Things


Matarazzo made an adorable Gavroche in Broadway’s Les Miserables

While, most of his fans – and there were many in attendance at the Bowl – are used to seeing Matarazzo fighting off gory Demogorgons, it was a treat to see him in a whole new genre. 

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Matarrazo as Jack and his pet Milky White |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

His solo “Giants in the Sky” was full of the magic that is needed for this show. His curiosity of the world that lies above the clouds and his earnest love for his pet cow, Milky White, captured everyone’s hearts. He got the best response from the audience, and I thought how proud his family must be of him. His performance was utterly enchanting, and I think it’s time for him to go back to Broadway!

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

A giant talent sings “Giants In The Sky” | Matarazzo as Jack

Sierra Boggess, best known for her unforgettable portrayal of Christine in both Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies, was captivatingly beautiful as Cinderella.


Boggess as Christine with Ramin Karimloo in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies.

Her vocal performance was like taking a Masterclass in control and execution. Every musical theater actress wants her voice (me included) as Boggess can seamlessly shift from belt to mix to head with such finesse and ease. Her voice is so magical, like a real Disney princess. Well, she was, after all, the original Ariel in The Little Mermaid on Broadway!

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Boggess the most enchanting Cinderella! |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Bringing the house down with her exciting performance as the Witch was Patina Miller (Sister Act, Pippin). The Witch is essentially the lead of the show, bringing all of these fairy tale characters together, teaching them that sometimes the things you most wish for are not to be touched! She was so powerful in her performance as the Witch that I actually believed she had magical powers! Her voice had the strength and precision of a Bernadette Peters, but Miller made each song uniquely hers, especially with the climactic, “Last Midnight”, where her character realizes that she doesn’t want to live her life anymore and disappears into nothingness. It was an electric farewell number, the entire Bowl erupted in applause and cheers.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Standing ovation for this tour de force, Patina Miller as The Witch |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Costumes! I am so glad that costume designer Ann Hould-Ward drew inspiration from the original Broadway production. I instantly recognized the some of the costumes in the first scene and couldn’t contain my excitement! I’m such a geek. The costumes were enchanting and brought each character to life through vibrant colors and elaborate designs that looked as if they leapt off the pages of my childhood fairytale books.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Costumes were everything I hoped for! |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Cinderella’s gown, in particular, was gorgeous. Just like in the original production, the gown had the perfect Princess elements while still allowing the actress to move, often running across the stage and taking a comedic tumble onto the ground.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

A gown fit for a Princess on the run! |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Longbottom’s fantastic direction perfectly conveyed the mystical wonder of this story. I absolutely loved how he chose to stage The Witch’s climactic song, “Last Midnight”. Throughout the number, the Witch is casting a spell over the other characters, controlling them like puppets. It almost brought an eerie tone to the number, providing multiple layers to the scene. I also loved the direction in the numbers, “No More” and “No One is Alone”. Longbottom was able to produce great intimacy in these scenes, creating the motif of parental guidance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during these two numbers. They were exceptionally acted and directed.

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Miller as The Witch, Astin as The Baker and Foster as The Baker’s Wife

Rounding out this exceptional cast was Chris Carmack as Rapunzel’s Prince, Tony winner Anthony Crivello as The Mysterious Man, Edward Hibbert as The Narrator, Cheyenne Jackson as Cinderella’s Prince/The Wolf, Hailey Kilgore as Rapunzel, Rebecca Spencer as Jack’s Mother, Tamyra Gray as Granny/Cinderella’s Mother, Stella Kim as Lucinda, Daniel López as Prince’s Steward, Gregory North as Cinderella’s Father, Edelyn Okano as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Grace Yoo as Florinda,  Claire Adams as Snow White, Monica Ricketts as Sleeping Beauty, and Richard Biglia, Devinn Harris, Rees James and Karl Warden as the Woodsmen. Talk-show host, Whoopi Goldberg lent her voice to the production as “The Giant.”

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

Chris Carmack as Rapunzel’s Prince and Cheyenne Jackson as Cinderella’s Prince provide comic relief in the always crowd-pleasing, “Agony”. |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging 

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to journey into the woods as much as when I was leaving the Hollywood Bowl that night, and I’m not a nature person. This was such a great production of Into the Woods, flawlessly capturing the dreaminess and nostalgia of the classic fairytales we know and love, while teaching us all to be careful what you wish for. I wish there were more performances of Into The Woods. I wish!

Thank you to the Hollywood Bowl for inviting me to this unforgettable night!

Hollywood Bowl Presents Into The Woods 2019

A well deserved standing ovation for the cast of Into The Woods! |Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

P.S. Once the Bowl announces next summer’s musical, I highly recommend getting your tickets early! Summer musical theater at The Hollywood Bowl is evening you must experience at least once in your life.  Visit them here: The Hollywood Bowl

Once upon a time…I played Cinderella in YADA’s Production of Into The Woods in Los Angeles! Not quite The Hollywood Bowl, but a girl has got to start somewhere….


Juliette Boland as Cinderella in “Into The Woods” YADA, Third Street Theatre, Los Angeles


Juliette Boland is Harvard Prize recipient, a four-time National Arts & Entertainment Journalism and Southern California Journalism Award winner and a proud member of Los Angeles Press Club. She is a SENIOR at Orange County School of the Arts, Musical Theatre Conservatory. Her work can also be seen on Los Angeles Times High School Insider. 





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Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: The Most Magical Place To Be For The Holidays| VIDEO SNEAK PEEK

It’s Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – The Most Magical Place To Be For The Holidays

By Juliette Boland

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood where I was invited to a special sneak peek of  “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle”, a holiday must-see for every Potterhead!

The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle – Universal Studios Hollywood

Who doesn’t want to spend their Christmas drinking hot butterbeer, shopping for Hogwarts house stockings, and listening to the entertaining a cappella Frog Choir, comprised of Hogwarts students and their giant throaty toads, harmonizing to our favorite holiday tunes? This Potterhead was in Hogwarts heaven checking out all the festive activities The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer this holiday season.

The Frog Choir entertain us with a selection of holiday tunes.

The highlight of the night was an astonishing, luminous light spectacular that has to be seen in person to be believed. It was truly magical and made me feel like I was smack-dab in the middle of a Harry Potter movie!

A captivating light projection show at Hogwarts sure to please any Potterhead!

As night fell on Hogsmeade village, “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” illuminated Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the most beautiful colorful images and impressive animations, including familiar Potter characters, that danced across Hogwarts castle in tandem with a musical arrangement from the Harry Potter films. It brought chills hearing those familiar tunes I grew up listening to. It truly was a sight to behold as magical, echoing ghosts whispering “Merry Christmas” glided across the castle grounds and then a gleaming, decorated tree emerged from the magic of Christmas ending in an explosion of fireworks. Hogwarts illuminated in a way that Dumbledore, most definitely, would have approved. 

 Along with these festive experiences, you and your family can enjoy the thrill of eating delicious holiday treats, along with Harry Potter snacks we all know and love (cough, chocolate frogs, cough).

No trip to Honeydukes is complete without picking up a chocolate frog and box of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans!

What magical treats await you at Honeydukes this holiday season?

You can also take pleasure in a delightful stroll down the snowy streets of Hogsmeade village, passing by décor uniquely themed to each of the individual storefronts. We all love a good shopping spree! You could buy your loved ones Harry Potter themed gifts, because this year, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a wide selection of collectibles, such as custom-made Christmas ornaments, decorative Hogwarts castle snow globes, and unique holiday tree toppers.

You mustn’t leave until you’ve experienced the beautiful glistening snowfall in the middle of Hogsmead Village. It was so real, I was sure I’d see Harry, Hermione and Ron coming out of The Three Broomsticks, butterbeer in hand.

Speaking of butterbeer, enjoy a delectable holiday menu at Three Broomsticks™, with seasonal food and beverage offerings including a Holiday Dinner and hot Butterbeer™. I enjoyed an early Thanksgiving turkey dinner there and it was delicious! 

The Three Broomsticks is a perfect place to relax over a Potter-esque dinner and hot butterbeer!

 Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the perfect holiday activity Wizards and Muggles can enjoy together. Personally, I found this experience completely magical and memorable.  You can definitely feel the Christmas spirit – from the welcoming Universal staff to the Harry Potter-loving customers. Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins all come together to enjoy the great festive atmosphere created by Universal Studios Hollywood.

 Thank you to Universal Studios Hollywood, for inviting us to cover Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Check out our sneak peek coverage of “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle” including my chat with Stephen Siercks, Director of Entertainment of Universal Studios Hollywood, who gave us some great insight on how The Magic of Christmas is created for Hogwarts™ Castle. Expecto Patronum!

The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle  happens daily through January 6, 2019. Don’t be a Voldemort…buy your tickets NOW! For more information visit:  http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com

Happy Hogwarts Holidays!

Juliette Boland is a Senior at Orange County School of the Arts in the Musical Theatre conservatory where she is a member of the Journalism staff. Juliette is a four-time National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award winner, Harvard Prize recipient of achievement in arts and entertainment and a member of Los Angeles Press Club.

Visit Juliette’s page: The Timey Wimey Fandom Show

Follow Juliette on Twitter: @JulietteBoland

And Instagram: @Juliette_Boland

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