By Nick Romano
Updated July 30, 2016 at 08:45 PM EDT
Manuel Harlan

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens to the public this weekend with an opening gala performance, more than a year after the stage production further expanding J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world was announced for London’s Palace Theatre.

Rowling, who worked with writer Jack Thorne on an original story, walked the red carpet and expressed her joy for the occasion to Pottermore.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a Potter premiere and this is quite special.” Rowling added, “What we’d really like most of all is to bring people into the theatre who’ve never been to the theatre before. I will be so proud to think that kids from my kind of background, who didn’t come from particularly theatre-going families, might learn what theatre’s all about through this show. That would be incredible.”

Luca Teuchmann/WireImage

Cursed Child is directed by John Tiffany and features a new crop of actors playing Rowling’s characters, including Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni, and Paul Thornley as Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

Sam Clemmett (playing Harry’s son Albus Potter) and Anthony Boyle (Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius) gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at the production through their “Cursed Child show day diaries” on the Twitter feeds for Pottermore and Harry Potter Play.

“I am so proud of this play,” Rowling said in a red carpet video for Harry Potter Play. “I always try to avoid the world ‘magical’ for obvious reasons, but it has been magical. I’ve loved every moment of it. It’s been a wonderful process.” In a separate video she said, “The reviews have been overwhelming. I don’t think any us expected that. Genuinely shocked, surprised, delighted.”

Harry Potter actress Emma Watson and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill are among those who saw the play in previews. Read some reviews here.

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