Potted Palmer: The Unauthorized Harry Experience is an energetic parody of all the Harry Potter books, presented in less than an hour and a half. The show is just right for kids who are Potter fans and lots of fun for parents and everyone who knows the stories from the novels or films. Serious readers who are deeply invested in the epic adventures should be prepared for them to be reduced to three or four sentences – and those get mangled in the telling. An awful lot has to be left out to fit the breakneck speed of the timeframe.
Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, both from England, wrote and are the cast of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, now being presented by Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Potted Potter began as a five-minute street show, performed to fans waiting for the midnight release of the sixth book. After expanding to include the seventh and last book, the show grew to its present length (about 70 minutes, give or take a few minutes) and has played to audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, London’s West End, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and now the U.S.
Jeff Turner scolds Dan Clarkson as Clarkson, who says he has not read any of the books, shows off the inappropriate props he collected and the costumes he will use to play Hagrid, Hermione, the Weasley family, Professor Snape, Dumbledore, and ‘he who must not be named’. Clarkson excuses his work by saying all the money that was supposed to be spent on other actors and scenery went for an amazing dragon that will, he says, appear sometime later in the show.
Potted Palmer starts a little slowly, but by book four the audience is totally hooked as it plays an interactive game of Quidditch - Gryffindor vs. Slytherin – according to Clarkson and Turner’s unique set of rules. Dan Clarkson plays and mocks many of the characters as Jeff Turner (who plays a very funny and very golden Snitch and Harry Potter himself) does his best to control Clarkson's mayhem while telling the audience the stories of the last books. The dragon makes its appearance, and everything is wrapped up with a wild light show and a final duet of the song “I Will Survive,” sung by Harry Potter (Turner) and Voldemort (Clarkson).
The show is a pleasant holiday outing, full of references to the books but not so tightly connected to the stories that a viewer feels he’s missing something by not having read them. The jokes are silly yet often clever, the energy on stage is amazing, and, at Potted Palmer: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, a good laugh is had by all.
Potted Palmer: The Unauthorized Harry Experience is appearing now until Dec. 23 at Broadway Playhouse (175 E. Chestnut St); on Dec. 26 it moves to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E Randolph), where it will appear until Jan. 6.
Tickets range from $39.75 to $69.75. Tickets are available at 800-775-2000 and at broadwayinchicago.com.
Photos: Potted Palmer: The Unauthorized Harry Experience