Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Potted Potter

Potted Potter at the Prince Music Theater, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield, created by Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, featuring James Percy, Delme Thomas and Gary Trainor.

Review: Potted Potter


By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

What's a poor Muggle to do? It's been a few years since J.K. Rowling published the final installation of her Harry Potter series. Since then, we've had Hunger Games and Hobbit films, but we seemed to be tapped out on boy wizardry.

Enter Potted Potter's young Brits, James and Del, a comic duo charged with keeping the magic coming for a little while longer.

A whirlwind romp through all seven books (they claim 70 minutes, or 10 apiece, though the show probably runs closer to 90), Potted Potter was devised as entertainment for fans waiting in line to get a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As the series expanded, so did the show, and its creators, Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, followed their success with a mini-Potted empire, with sub-franchises of Potted Pirates and Potted Pantos. James and Del (James Percy and Delme Thomas) also perform with a third actor, Gary Trainor, subbing in along the U.S. tour.

Though "potted" is British slang for loaded or intoxicated (or, more to the point, briefly simplified), this potting leans toward the zany and earns a solid G rating. As straight man, James is tasked with taming Del's antics and educating him on the finer points of Potter. With hand puppets, a PowerPoint presentation, and a game of quidditch that includes a couple of volunteers, the entire audience, a beach ball, and a larger-than-life golden snitch, young readers and those to whom parents still read hardly have a moment to fidget.

The jokes are aimed squarely at those not tall enough for certain rides (a play on the "Deathly Hallows" becomes a silly riff on "hellos"), but bits such as Del's confusion about the contents of Rowling's oeuvre - he has provided a wardrobe for the set because, he says, "How else can you get to Narnia?" - at the very least nod at a wider demographic.

Plenty of British accents (Dickensian, Shakespearean) and musicals vie on Philly stages for family entertainment dollars this time of year; only one offers a duet of Voldemort and Harry singing "I Will Survive."

It's not for everyone, but then again, neither is Hogwarts.

Through Jan. 4 at the Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. Tickets: $35-$85. Information: 215-972-1000,

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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