For pint-sized Potter fans, an air-conditioned trip to Potted Potter, a two-man theatrical celebration of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding kingdom Hogwarts, may seem like the perfect escape on a summer’s eve — a chance to brush up on one’s Rowling, if you will. To be sure, there are chuckles to be had throughout, but youngsters are likely to be the only ones thoroughly amused by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner’s silly duologue (the two performers also wrote the show), which frantically races through the plots of all seven Potter books, touching on only the bare essentials of the plot as set-ups for gags and audience participation routines.
Much light is made of the show’s set, which features a few ragtag items — a cutout of a scribbled beach scene, a train engine car, a wardrobe, and a painted door. Clarkson and Turner, who go by “Dan” and “Jeff” respectively, banter over the show’s budget, which they report has been shaved away in the hopes of delivering a truly spectacular dragon effect (which — spoiler alert — never comes to fruition).
Though it’s hardly essential to have massive special effects, elaborate costumes, or sets to make an impression in the theatre, what Potted Potter lacks in scale it also lacks in talent and timing. Though Dan and Jeff are amiable (and often quite funny) guys, neither has the panache necessary to truly command the stage (Dan’s zany, nerdy antics make him the more effective of the two). They’re hampered as well by the slack pacing of the show as a whole, which promises to whiz us effortlessly through the Potter books but ends up stopping and starting sluggishly.
Perhaps most egregious of all its deficiencies, Potted Potter‘s worst offense is its lowest-common-denominator approach to Rowling’s books as an oeuvre. I can’t imagine that anyone — adult or child — in the audience doesn’t have an extensive Potter knowledge, yet the show touches only on the faintest outlines of the books’ plots. Time is, of course, of the essence, but those looking for a dose of Potter-afficianado pats on the back will be sorely disappointed that Potted Potter instead wants to play to the masses with even the most passing Potter knowledge, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the show’s ticket-buyers are far from casual about their love for these books.
For all my griping, Potted Potter has its charms — and had me in stitches on several occasions. The kids surrounding me seemed delighted as well (as were some of the parents). It just didn’t hold the same charm as the show’s source material for me — highlighting the absolute impossibility of any theatrical production (or movie even) to compare with a series of books as beloved as Rowling’s.
Toward the end of the show, our two players sing a revamped Potter-themed version of “I Will Survive,” and, though the show had started briskly enough and held my attention, I couldn’t help but relate increasingly to the song as it overstayed its welcome. I survived, as did a bunch of giddy youngsters. I just can’t help feeling that alongside me were at least a handful of other parents (and perhaps even kids) who shared my frustrations, even despite the laughs.