Chicago Theater Review: POTTED POTTER (Broadway Playhouse)

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by Dan Zeff on November 19, 2012

in Theater-Chicago


The Harry Potter parody called Potted Potter is the joint creation of a couple of Englishmen named Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner (Dan and Jeff on the stage). The duo once worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s children’s network, which explains a lot. Potted Potter advertises that it will appeal to adults Dan Zeff’s Stage and Cinema review of Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicagoand youngster’s alike, but it’s basically a children’s show. The kids should have a ball, but adults will require a large tolerance for excruciatingly broad comedy to get through the 75-minute show.

Potted Potter claims to deliver compressed presentations of all seven Harry Potter novels within those 75 minutes. Jeff plays Harry and Dan plays a bunch of other Potter characters. It probably helps to have some familiarity with the Potter canon, but who in the Western world doesn’t have at least limited knowledge of the J. K. Rowling epic? In any case, the emphasis is on sight gags and knockabout farce, with any subtleties of the Potter narratives buried beneath all the tumult.

Dan Zeff’s Stage and Cinema review of Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse in ChicagoJeff and Dan attempt to go through all the Potter books in chronological order. That requires the use of countless fright wigs, a bit of audiovisual assistance, and an exceptional amount of mugging and silly, pseudo argumentative backchat between the two performers. Dan has a messy encounter with a piece of gooey chocolate cake, just the kind of gross-out humor that would appeal to a youthful audience.

The audience is drawn into the action, mainly through a game of quidditch that consists of the audience batting a small transparent beach ball around the theater. A couple of youngsters from the audience are brought on stage to do very little except wear wizard hats. Jeff and Dan spare the audience nothing in broad comedy. The two actors rarely speak at a decibel level lower that a shout, making their thick accents sometimes difficult to understand. But this is not a verbal show, for all its literary pretentions.  It’s knockabout, like the audience being squirted with water and Dan coating Jeff’s head with a gusher of silly string.

The show is not entirely devoid of clever satire as when Dan confuses the Potter saga with the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings. There is some witty name-dropping and both men are at ease with improvised quips as the loosy goosy circumstances of the show allow.

Dan Zeff’s Stage and Cinema review of Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago

I felt a little curmudgeonly as I sat stoically observing all the feverish havoc being wrought on stage. The many children in the audience clearly loved every minute of Potted Potter and their adult guardians seemed to be having a good time. Either that Dan Zeff’s Stage and Cinema review of Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicagoor the adults were taking pleasure in watching their young charges enjoying themselves so much. But for me, the show clearly demonstrated the chasm between being funny and trying to be funny.

For the record, Jeff and Dan are credited with writing the show and presumably they were also the directors in the most liberal sense of the term (Hanna Berrigan is credited as associate director, and her other credits include the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the National Theatre. Go figure!). Jeff and Dan strive mightily to give the hour and a quarter a spontaneous “what will we say and do next?” feeling but I suspect that this enterprise is pretty well set in stone, the odd ad lib notwithstanding. The set, credited to Simon Scullion, amounts to a ramshackle collection of props of the sort one might find in a kindergarten classroom. Tim Mascall designed the lighting and Phil Innes the music.

Give Jeff and Dan props for making a profitable venture out of an idea that started as a five minute street show to entertain lines of fans in 2005 waiting for the release of the sixth Potter novel. Since then the show has been expanded, traveled throughout the English-speaking world, and won some awards. Apparently J. K. Rowling approved the show, or at least didn’t disapprove. Children will rejoice. As for their elders, good luck.

Dan Zeff’s Stage and Cinema review of Potted Potter at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago

Potted Potter is playing at the Broadway Playhouse, interrupting the run of I Love Lucy: Live on Stage which returns after the Potter production moves to the Harris Theater.

Potted Potter
Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
scheduled to close on December 23, 2012
then moves to the Harris Theater through January 6, 2013
for tickets, call 800 775 2000 or visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

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