'Potted Potter' puts madcap spin on J.K. Rowling saga

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It's by lovely coincidence that the term "potted" can refer to a simplified version of literature, as well as slang for "drunken."

After a madcap 70 minutes of puppets, Silly String, disco, googly eyes and many, many hats, "Potted Potter" was both, and more, at the Byham Theater Wednesday night.

Let's hope the stage can hold up for six more shows through Sunday, what with all the sprays of water, melting chocolate cake, skateboarding warthogs and such. "Potted Potter" tells the "unauthorized" tale of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series by way of Monty Python, with the two-man Brit cast of James Percy and Delme Thomas portraying dozens of characters from its seven very large books.

As Mr. Thomas often reminded the delighted crowd, "There is no CGI in this show, thank you!" Indeed, special effects were unmagically bare bones, but the actors made do. Cheerfully flinging around a smallish dragon puppet, Mr. Thomas declared " 'War Horse' has nothing on this!"

There even was, to great buildup, a game of Quidditch, played against a backdrop of cheering spectators. Spoiler: no one flew around on brooms.

Mr. Percy, as Harry, was straight man for most of the performance This left Mr. Thomas free to plunge headfirst into a realm of silliness, playing all the other characters, including dopey ginger Ron Weasley and a buff Lord Voldemort. "Potted Potter" is a loving tribute to both the books and the films, but did not hesitate to poke fun at the mythology.

Informed that Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the world, it is noted "yet he has chosen, of his own free will, to go into teaching."

There were, of course, inside jokes: a suggestion that maybe the seventh book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" should be TWO movies (it was), what with all the camping and death. Another jab: it is noted that "Potted Potter" has to work with the cast at hand because "we couldn't get Darren Criss," a reference to the "Glee" star who got his big break on YouTube after writing and starring in his college's musical version of the Harry Potter saga.

"Potted Potter, The Unauthorized Harry Experience" was created by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner in 2006 and toured the United Kingdom before heading out to Australia, New Zealand, and finally, North America. Fans of the books -- and there were quite a few youngins' in the audience -- will "get" it. As for those who don't, well, Muggles will be Muggles.

"Potted Potter" is at the Byham Theater Thursday at 7:30; Friday at 8; Saturday at 2, 5 and 8 and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets: www.trustarts.org or 412-456-6666.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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