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'Potted Potter' at Harman Hall

We are big fans of the Harry Potter books at Ionarts Central, where both kids and both parents are devoted to J. K. Rowling (and the movies that came from her work). So I was glad to have the chance to take Miss Ionarts to see a performance of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, presented by the Shakespeare Theater at Sidney Harman Hall on Friday night. The show is a sort of extended vaudeville skit, aimed mostly at kids but partly at the adults who are with them, that attempts to retell the stories of all seven Harry Potter books in the space of seventy minutes.

The creators and the actors are the parody team Dan and Jeff, that is, British actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, who have done a couple other shows in the same style. Do not expect, as we did somewhat, any special effects -- one of the running gags is that Dan blew all of the show's budget on one big effect, and that turns out to be a disappointment, too. What you will get is a lot of banter, some cute audience participation, a little smoke, and a few lights and whistles. It is not at all unlike the one-hour programs aimed at kids in the Kennedy Center, but at much higher prices. Miss Ionarts enjoyed the show in much the same way as one of those kinds of shows, but parents will have to decide if the experience is worth as much as $90 a seat.

Other Reviews:

Stephanie Merry, Preview: ‘Potted Potter’ at Shakespeare Theatre (Washington Post, August 29)

Michael Gioia, Potting Potter: Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner Cast a Spell Off-Broadway (Playbill, July 4, 2012)
Premium seats come with the chance to take part in the "Quidditch game," the big climax of the show, which involves the front section batting a beach ball (quaffle) back and forth, trying to hit an illuminated circle on either side of the house. Two pint-sized volunteers were brought up to the stage to serve as seekers, looking for and ultimately body-tackling a human-sized golden snitch. Here and at other points, improv bits between the two actors, in reaction to unforeseen events, provided some of the biggest laughs. It is likely that anything connected with the Harry Potter books, even in an unauthorized way, will find success among people who love the stories, but as cute as this show is, it may not live up to its big price tag for some viewers.

This production continues at Sidney Harman Hall through September 15, after which it will continue on a U.S. tour of various cities through December.

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