It’s hard to believe the Harry Potter franchise is two decades old. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday that fans were lining up outside bookstores for a new release, trying not to spoil the next book for those of us who couldn’t read 500 pages in one sitting. Now Potter fans have a theme park, 10 movies (with three more slated for release), a play, and endless merchandise for all four Hogwarts houses to choose from. So in the midst of waiting for new content to be released on Pottermore, what’s a wizard to do to keep the magic alive?
The answer is quite simple: a parody show.
Potted Potter is a two-man show created by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. Starting off in 2005 as a summary of the first five books to keep fans waiting for the release of the sixth entertained as they waited in line, the show grew from there, eventually covering all seven books and premiering on stage in Edinburgh in 2007. Since then, it’s played in several countries around the world and made its North American debut in Toronto in 2012. James Percy and Joseph Maudsley have taken up the mantle from Clarkson and Turner in the performance currently playing at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis, where they play friends James and Joe, who have to work together on a shoestring budget to recap all seven books in a little over an hour. There’s one minor hitch, though: James is a Potter fanatic, and Joe is . . . well, not. What follows is a fast-paced journey into the world of Harry Potter, complete with fun hats, silly voices, and a wooden wardrobe. (“How else can we get to Narnia?” Joe asks a baffled James.)
I’ve always found that the beauty of live theater is that anything can happen, and there were several times throughout the show that both actors had to be quick on their feet. At one point, James started calling the first book by its British title, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone—most of us here in America know it as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, something Joe pointed out right away through a huge grin. James went right along with it, poking fun at the fact that Americans “don’t know what a philosopher is,” alluding to why the title was changed, and the audience loved it. The live Quidditch match that took place also brought surprises: the front half of the theater, split into two teams, failed to score even a single point with the quaffle, something Joe scolded them for. At the end of the game, James, dressed as the coveted golden snitch, was brought down very easily by the Gryffindor Seeker (a little girl grabbing his arm and gently bringing him to the ground). Getting the audience involved like this was probably my favorite part of the show, especially since all I saw around me were smiling faces as the audience hit the inflated beach ball back and forth around the theater.
While a lot of the jokes are much funnier if you’re familiar with the source material, being a fan is not required to enjoy Potted Potter. Percy and Maudsley play off of each other very well, with Joe’s cluelessness and optimism making James’s exasperation all the more hilarious. They engage the audience by breaking the fourth wall constantly, resulting in almost every spare second being filled with laughter or applause. There are plenty of references to the books, but it’s not polarizing, and it allows the audience to get the basic gist of the series and also have a laugh at some of the sillier antics James and Joe get up to. (A large animatronic dragon with googly eyes may or may not be involved in the Goblet of Fire retelling.)
As a longtime Potter fan and proud Hufflepuff, I certainly enjoyed myself quite a bit. I like being able to laugh at the things I love, and there’s honestly something about a man pulling a stuffed snake on a leash saying “Come, Nagini” in a deep baritone voice that can make even the most cynical person crack a smile. Potted Potter brings a lot of comedy, but it also doubles as a tribute to JK Rowling’s beloved series. It’s a parody, but an affectionate one, and it’s clear to see creators Clarkson and Turner have created something truly special—something that everyone, young and old, fan and newcomer, can enjoy together.
Potted Potter runs at the Pantages Theatre now through March 10, 2019. Click here for performance times and tickets.