By Dana Casadei
I discovered the “Harry Potter” series when I was in the fourth grade. It was an instant obsession that would follow my friends and I not only through the rest of elementary school but into a midnight showing the summer before our last year of college. I spent hours watching and reading J.K Rowling’s masterpiece series. This weekend, “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff” at Detroit’s City Theatre takes those eight films and seven novels and turns them into 70 minutes of the funniest theater I’ve seen this year.
Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner, who both wrote the show, take viewers inside the world of Hogwarts and Quidditch with the help of fantastic props and a little magic.
Turner plays the title role, he is the Harry Potter expert of the duo, and Clarkson plays everyone else, ranging from “ninja-ginger” Ron Weasley to a very Scottish Hagrid.
The characters have simple differences, such as hats, wigs and voices. Even with the simple touches each is unique in its own way, with Turner’s Albus Dumbledore being my favorite of the evening. Oh, and his Hermione Granger, who sounds slightly different than Emma Watson, is little more drag queen than 11-year-old.
While some hardcore fans may be wondering how in the world do you take seven novels and turn them into a 70-minute show, the answer is simple. You keep it quick, constantly going between characters and describing only the major plotlines in each book, and have the jokes constantly flowing like a just-opened bottle of champagne.
It’s an extremely smart and witty show too, one that knows its audience well. Clarkson and Turner make a few cracks at Detroit, and Michigan, but never get too far away from “the boy who lived.” The constant audience interaction doesn’t hurt either.
The duet that’s used to tell the story of the last novel, set to the music of “I Will Survive” with Harry Potter-themed lyrics, is one of the many gems of the evening. I won’t give away any of the lyrics; I was laughing too hard to write any down.
Clarkson and Turner have created 70 minutes of non-stop laughs that you can tell they enjoy every single moment of, especially when they have to stop to laugh at each other, and the audience. It doesn’t hurt that they both have British accents. Swoon.
Now there’s no comparing this to theater “classics” like “Death of a Salesman” or “Company,” because that wouldn’t be fair; this is a totally different type of show. It’s one that, if kept this fresh and lively, will start a whole new definition of “classic” theater, one that I hope stays around for some time.
‘Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff’
Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. March 3, 6-10 & 15-17. $35-75. 313-471-6611. http://www.olympiaentertainment.com