Harry Potter and the Fallow Follow: Potted Potter Review

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in 2001, above, and as Allen Ginsberg in 2013.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in 2001, above, and as Allen Ginsberg in 2013.

Daniel Radcliffe, a 23- year-old man with a net worth of $50 million, has been working hard to “escape” Harry Potter, as he puts it. He’s danced on Broadway, performed in the nude  on “almost every job” since Potter, and in his next movie, “Kill Your Darlings,” is portraying gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

J.K. Rowling, the billionaire author of the Harry Potter books, has completed the cycle and moved on. She wrote her first adult novel, “The Casual Vacancy,” published last year.

Yet Harry Potter lives on.  Published between 1997 and 2007, translated into 73 languages, the seven Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies – so far. The eight movies, which are based on the books and were released between 2001 and 2011, have grossed a total of close to eight billion dollars — so far.

So much love, so much money inevitably leads to a show like “Potted Potter,” which is subtitled “The Unauthorized Harry Experience: A Parody by Dan and Jeff” and promises to present all seven books in 70 minutes. Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson have been performing some version of this show since 2005, when they were hired by a British bookshop to entertain customers who were there to buy the then-new “Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince,” the sixth book in the series.

Debuting last summer at The Little Shubert Theater in New York to mixed reviews, the comic duo have returned this summer to the same theater, before going on tour.

Although clearly playing to Potter fans, most of whom are children, the Dan and Jeff act does not require much knowledge of the series; all that’s necessary is an appreciation of silly antic British humor. One running joke is how cheap the show is. Jeff, the short, studious half of the duo, had planned to hire “20 of the finest actors that Broadway has to offer” to assay some of the 300 characters in the books, but PottedPotter1Dan, the tall goofy half, spent all the money, so there’s just Jeff as Harry Potter and Dan as everybody else. For Harry’s red-haired friend Ron Weasley, Dan puts on a bright orange moptop wig; for Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, he sticks on a blond moptop wig; for Harry’s friend Hermione Granger, Dan dons a hat with blonde pigtails.

Another running joke is how ignorant Dan is of the series; he might not have read any of it; he gets it mixed up with “Lord of the Rings.” He brings a vacuum cleaner onstage instead of a broom.

A highlight for Potter fans is a Quidditch match that involves audience participation. The non-fans in the audience might be baffled that Quidditch seems to be a game that consists entirely of half of the audience bouncing a beach ball to the other half.

It is not clear how “Potted Potter” is a “parody” of Harry Potter; what exactly are the two performers satirizing? Maybe they are alluding to the lesser dictionary definition of the word: “a poor or feeble imitation or semblance; travesty: His acting is a parody of his past greatness.” But that’s too harsh. It would also be unfair to assert that all the enchantment is drained from the tales, replaced by manic jokiness. Think instead of “Potted Potter” as a class reunion. Hanging out with these characters may not even remotely resemble the original experience, but it can be nice to be reminded of magical times.

 Potted Potter

Little Shubert Theater

Written and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner

Directed by Richard Hurst

Set design by Simon Scullion, lighting design by Tim Mascall, music by Phil Innes,

Running time: About 75 minutes, with no intermission

Potted Potter is scheduled to run through September 1

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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