While it’s not necessary to have read every Harry Potter book – or even seen any of the film versions – to enjoy Potted Potter, a so-called “Unauthorized Harry Experience,” an appreciation of old-fashioned two-man comedy teams, slapstick and silly wigs certainly wouldn’t hurt.
For six years, Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner have performed their 70-minute, two-man parody of the Harry Potter series around the world, but their Off-Broadway debut at the Little Shubert Theatre marks their first American engagement. As theater insiders know, the Little Shubert is a commercial Off-Broadway theater on 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue that is usually either vacant or occupied by a complete dud.
The show’s setup is corny but cute. Jeff, who knows Harry Potter inside and out, functions as the straight man. He intends to present a spectacular stage version of the stories with at least 20 famous actors plus fancy special effects.
Dan, the goofball, who apparently hasn’t read any of the books – and frequently confuses Harry Potter with The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia – has apparently wasted all their money, forcing them to portray all the characters on their own with the aid of just some props, puppets, hats and wigs. Ron Weasley, for instance, is represented with a red Little Orphan Annie wig, while Snape gets a Puritan hat.
For the most part, Jeff plays Harry Potter while Dan portrays virtually everyone else. Since they present super simplified versions of the books, those completely unfamiliar with the series can easily follow the show.
About halfway through, a quidditch match is held. Audience members are divided into two teams and attempt to throw an inflated ball into a hoop. Two audience members are also invited onstage to be seekers. In a cute visual gag, Dan comes out costumed as the prized Golden Snitch.
The humor is wholly affectionate and sanitized, so much so that J.K. Rowlings herself would probably approve of it. Still, kids will love it and be drawn in by the team’s enthusiasm, energy, silliness and fast pace.