BWW Reviews: Only Thing Missing is A Big Glass of Butter Beer in POTTED POTTER: THE UNAUTHORIZED HARRY EXPERIENCE
At this point, Harry Potter is not simply a series of books or films; it's a lifestyle. So many people I know, myself included, call Harry Potter and the wizarding world of Hogwarts and Quidditch integral parts of their adolescence and to this day, people of all ages still get into arguments over which house is best (Team Gryffindor all the way). So it came as no surprise that when it was announced that a show called Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience was coming to the Paramount Center, people freaked out. Last night the show opened and hoards of audience members flocked to the theatre, most of whom knew nothing about the piece they were about to see, other than the fact that it concerned Harry Potter. And that's all they needed to know.
I, too, was part of the flock, but used my Broadway World responsibilities to cover up the real reason I was there and my jacket to cover up my Deathly Hallows bracelet. But as I entered the theatre and was handed a rolled up scroll in lieu of a program (brilliant marketing), I couldn't help but let my inner Harry Potter nerd shine through. The stage was set with bright colors and a cartoonish "Potted Potter" sign displayed high above the audience. One of the cast members, Jeff Turner, sat upon the stage, dutifully reading the seventh novel as the audience milled in, while the second cast member, Daniel Clarkson, made his way through the hoards of HP fans, shaking hands and personally welcoming the entire massive audience of people.
This introduction of the two members pretty much sums up their personalities for the show's entire concept. Jeff loves Harry Potter and wants to provide an entertaining, yet accurate, recap of all seven of the novels. Dan, who is moderately aware that Harry Potter exists at best, just wants to have fun and play Quidditch. As the two bumble their way through the seven books, storytelling through puppetry, audience participation, and outrageous 1970s song, hijinks ensue and lots of trouble is made.
For any diehard Harry Potter fans who are looking to see the series recreated onstage, this is probably not the show for you. Before the show, I questioned how these two do not face legal issues with the Harry Potter franchise. After seeing the show, I now understand why not. This is not the stage version of the books and films we know and love. If anything, it is more a comedy show on the theme of Harry Potter. But if you a HP lover with a sense of humor and an open mind, this is undoubtedly a perfect night out.
As a rule, I do not laugh out loud at theatrical events easily. I am an inward chuckler, much more likely to crack a smile than audibly respond. At Potted Potter, however, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. I am shocked I have a voice the next morning, after guffawing with such gusto. Dan and Jeff have been working on this show together since 2005, expanding it with the release of each new novel, and they clearly work well together, playing off one another's insane energies and making each other laugh. This was the opening performance in Boston and much of the material was improvised. There were jabs at Wicked (which just closed next door), attempts at Boston references (though there are probably less messy ways to do so; HOW can they get away with making such a mess in the Paramount Theatre?), and awkwardly hilarious acknowledgments when the British humor did not carry over. The whole show, I wondered how much was planned out and how much they were making up as they went along, since they often tripped each other up, having to pause because they were laughing so hard. And these parts, of course, were the funniest.
This show is so amazingly clever, albeit very different from the Harry Potter you know. Hermione is a burly, deep voiced man, Hagrid sings Scottish jigs, Lupin is an elephant, and there is a disco ball. And yet, for people familiar with the story, this is the most hilarious parody yet. It is done with such specificity and planning, speedy quick changes, clever remarks, and adorable British stars. And though there is a lot of poking fun throughout the entire piece, it is never laughing at Harry Potter or those who love him, but celebrating the series in a respectful and hysterical way. I imagine this show would be enjoyable even to those unfamiliar with Harry's wizardry world (if those people even exist), but it is undoubtedly geared towards muggles who yearn for Time Turners, Chocolate Frogs, and a night of magical laughter.
Created and Performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner; Directed by Richard Hurst; Associate Direction by Hanna Berrigan; Production Stage Managed by Gild Frost; Lighting Design by Tim Mascall; Scenic Design by Simon Scullion; Music by Phil Innes