If you have a deeply held belief about Dumbledore, smile just thinking about Fred and George Weasley and have — even fleetingly — imagined which house of Hogwarts best suits you, then “Potted Potter” is for you. Especially if you still define yourself by what grade you’re in.
Two actors tackle all seven Harry Potter books in 70 minutes at off-Broadway’s Little Shubert Theatre. Considering it took Hollywood two movies just to try to capture the seventh novel, this is quite an ambitious goal.
And one it doesn’t always reach. The show is a little rough around the edges, which is surprising since the two started working on this seven years ago when they were commissioned to do a five-minute street show for people on line to buy the sixth book. Over the years, they have added on to it and performed it at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London.
June 3 was its opening in New York, and they’re finding small adjustments that may need tinkering (jokes that don’t translate here, chocolate that melts, googly eyeglasses that break). Having some small problems, though, in a quirky little play is charming.
Here the Hogwarts Express is a large scale, primary-colored wooden choo-choo. Hats denote character changes. All of this is clever enough and the two actors change depending on which hat Daniel Clarkson dons. Jefferson Turner plays Harry Potter, and Clarkson plays everyone else. Well, not really everyone else because the books have hundreds of characters and that would be impossible, but they hit many characters.
The actors are likeable enough, but they might do well to learn that repeating a gag that was mildly amusing the first time does not improve with multiple use. As an audience, we need different expectations when we’re seeing a funky off-Broadway show than when going to a full-on Broadway spectacle.
This gets some mileage out of a quidditch match that has a beach ball lobbed at the audience and eats up a few minutes. Kids were pulled onstage for this and a little boy pretty much stole the show.
In this sequence, Turner plays the snitch, the winged gold ball in Harry Potter’s world, which is difficult to catch and doing so wins the quidditch match. As the snitch, he wears yellow rubber gloves and gold lame stretched over several hoops.
Clarkson does a lot of the heavy lifting and is more fun. His Voldemort, played with satin devil horns on a headband and sometimes in a shirt with fake muscles, is great fun. And it is fun when the two sing their finale to the disco anthem, “I Will Survive,” though it would be more fun if the sound system worked better.
Admittedly, I bought into Harry’s world with the first book and was delighted to have kids to read the books to and daydream about the magical world J.K. Rowling created. Of those who saw it with me, only the most diehard Harry Potter fan, rereading the books for the eleventh time (really!), loved this. The crankiest teen, my son, has now sworn off live theater and the rest realized it’s not quite a magical experience but it is a pleasant enough way to introduce the youngest muggles to theater.