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Harry Potter play works magic at Olivier stage awards

Writer J.K. Rowling poses for photographers upon arrival at gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at the Palace Theatre in central London, Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" cast its spell on British theater's Olivier Awards Sunday, winning eight prizes in the first half of the ceremony, including best new play.

It could add to the tally later in the evening.

"Cursed Child," which opens 19 years after the finale of J.K. Rowling's wizarding novels, depicts Harry and his friends as adults and follows the adventures of their offspring at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Written by Jack Thorne from a story co-written by Rowling, it has been both a popular and critical hit since opening in July at London's Palace Theatre, and plans are afoot to send it to Broadway next year.

The show scooped prizes for sets, lighting, sound, costumes and three acting awards, as well as best play.

Jamie Parker was named best actor for his performance as the adult Harry, beating rivals including Ian McKellen and Ed Harris.

Noma Dumezweni took the supporting-actress prize for playing the grown-up Hermione Granger, and Anthony Boyle was named best supporting actor as Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry's childhood enemy Draco Malfoy.

"I'm just so pleased and proud that the entire team is being celebrated," Parker said backstage during the ceremony at London's Royal Albert Hall.

He said "there was so much potential for cynicism and skepticism" when it came to adapting Rowling's blockbuster book series for the stage — but that talent and magic had prevailed.

In other categories, Billie Piper was named best actress for playing a woman whose desire for a baby leads to tragedy in "Yerma" at the tiny Young Vic. The play, adapted by Simon Stone from a Federico Garcia Lorca drama, was named best revival.

Piper beat nominees including Glenda Jackson for "King Lear" and Ruth Wilson for "Hedda Gabler."

The movie-inspired comedy "Groundhog Day," which recently opened on Broadway, has eight nominations, including best new musical, at Britain's equivalent of Broadway's Tony Awards.

Composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber is nominated for three musicals; "Sunset Boulevard," ''Jesus Christ Superstar" and "School Of Rock The Musical."

Kenneth Branagh will receive a special award for his contribution to theatre during Sunday's black-tie ceremony.

Named for the late actor Laurence Olivier, the prizes honor achievements in London theater, musicals, dance and opera. Winners in most categories are chosen by a panel of stage professionals and theatergoers.

The Olivier Awards have become an increasingly glitzy affair in recent years, awarded at a ceremony studded with musical numbers, modeled on Broadway's Tony's.

Celebrities handing out trophies at Sunday's televised ceremony include "Star Wars" actor John Boyega, Oscar winner Mark Rylance, "The Good Wife" star Cush Jumbo and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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