In the daffy Off Broadway comedy Potted Potter, two young Brits attempt to re-tell all seven books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in (roughly) 70 minutes. The unauthorized parody, written and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, skips goofily along the surface of its beloved source material in a production that draws heavily on the British tradition of family-friendly theater known as pantomime.
As it happens, Clarkson and Turner are old hands at panto – and more than capable of drawing shouts and chants and giggles from the audience. In one memorable improv-heavy sequence, they lure two kid volunteers to help enact a game of quidditch (at the performance I attended, one boy was on such a hilarious sugar high that he delivered a performance deserving its own curtain call). Turner is the shorter, rounder straight man of the duo, the supposed Potter expert who portrays boy wizard Harry for much of the evening. Tall and wide-eyed, Clarkson is the one who supposedly has never read the books and who has misspent the production’s budget on some very cheap sets and props.
The show takes a little while to find its rhythm – early jokes can be rather broad, as when Turner unveils two stuffed warthogs in a confusion over the name of Harry’s wizarding school. But as the evening progresses, the duo offer occasional cracks about Potter lore that older fans can appreciate. Why is it, Clarkson notes, that ”Dumbledore is the greatest wizard who’s ever lived yet he’s chosen of his own free will to go into teaching?” And why does Harry in the later books never behave like an actual British adolescent and announce, ”I’m going to go sulk in my room and listen to Radiohead”?
Unfortunately, the finale is a bit of an anticlimax: The theater’s sound system muffles Clarkson and Turner’s lyrics during a duet between Harry and arch-enemy Voldemort to the tune of ”I Will Survive.” By that time, though, Potted Potter has cast its wig-changing, silly-stringed spell. Pint-size Muggles are unlikely to resist. B+
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)