Take two actors with charming British accents, have them act out scenes from the Harry Potter books and movies (because they are different), with one actor playing Harry and the other playing everyone else, and put them on stage. Those are the ingredients for “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff.”
Of course nothing out of England can be succinct. Even the title of the play is cumbersome. But the show is a riot. It is a perfect blend of comedy, music, improvisation and sketch. The set design and costumes leave plenty to be desired, but that is another charming element to the performance.
Dan and Jeff are Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, a couple of BBC veterans who wrote and star in the play, if you can call it that. It is more Monty Python meets Harry Potter than anything else, with rapid dialogue and witty banter between the two actors.
They condense all seven books into a 70-minute show, complete with a game of Quidditch, an interactive experience for the audience, and a rousing rendition of the song “I Will Survive” rewritten to fit the plot of the Harry Potter books. There were plenty of kids in the audience on opening night. Two were invited to play Quidditch on stage with the actors.
Jeff is the serious Potter fan with a deep appreciation for “The Deathly Hallows.” Dan has a more liberal interpretation of the Harry Potter books. No one is sacred in Dan’s eyes. Even the characters in The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia and Frozen are fair game for Dan.
As someone who helped run the Harry Potter blog for the Los Angeles Daily News and read “The Deathly Hallows” in one night, I consider myself a Harry Potter expert. “Potted Potter” hits all the relevant points of the stories. Is Snape good or bad? Is “The Deathly Hallows” more about camping than horcruxes? Does JK Rowling use a bit of a literary formula to write her stories? Is Harry Potter perhaps the most boring protagonist in the history of literature?
“Potter Potter” asks all these questions. But good luck finding an answer to any of them. Dan and Jeff do an incredible job of making fun of Harry Potter fans for even considering such nonsense, but still treat the books with the respect of being a part of the literary lexicon.
If anything, “Potted Potter” should remind fans of Harry Potter why the books were so popular in the first place. They were fun. They weren’t some psychological dissection of society and the division of classes in modern times. It was a bunch of kids who were learning how to be wizards and witches. How cool was that? It had dragons and elves and goblins. Even cooler. Dan and Jeff make it OK to laugh at the stories and still love them.
“Potted Potter” was hilarious. Every grown-up Harry Potter fan should see this. The improvisations were better than the script, which makes each show unique, and howling (which doesn’t rhyme with Rowling) funny throughout.
“Potted Potter” is making a limited, 10-show run at the Willis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills from Feb. 25 to March 1. Tickets are from $30 to $79. To buy tickets, call (310) 746-4000 or visit the website at www.thewallis.org.