Potted Potter Review - Seven Harry Potter Books in Seventy Minutes


British writer/performer team Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, better known as Dan and Jeff, bring their hit Harry Potter parody, Potted Potter, back to Chicago for a five-week run at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. This hilarious show condenses all seven Harry Potter books into a seventy-minute performance, complete with a live game of Quidditch.


As a lifelong Harry Potter aficionado, I was eager to see what Dan and Jeff had in store for their audience. A timeline included in the playbill traces the origins of the play back to a five-minute street show summarizing the first five Harry Potter books, performed at a midnight release of the sixth book. The show grew and expanded from there, with the duo eventually branching out to create two additional “potted” shows. Potted Potter has entertained audiences all over the world, and it’s easy to see why. The show is designed to appeal to audiences of all levels of knowledge of Harry Potter, from diehard fans like myself to total newcomers. The show also has a Disney-like capacity to entertain both small children and the adults who accompany them.


Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson in Potted Potter


The performance starts off slow; the audience is asked to accept the premise that while Jeff has been busy reading and re-reading the Harry Potter books to prepare for the show, Dan has been assembling a ramshackle set based on his limited understanding of the books (a flat with a painting of a tropical beach and the words FORBIDDEN FOREST: KEEP OUT spray painted across it, for example). Dan’s incompetence in selecting the production elements is a running theme in the show, which is funny for a bit but loses some of its charm after about the third or fourth pause in the storytelling for Jeff to question, outraged, why this or that cheap prop is standing in for the fabulous effects he envisioned.


Just as sitting through four more books’ worth of repetitive material begins to seem unbearable, the show takes a hard turn for the better with the much-anticipated live game of Quidditch. Audience members are asked to try to get a beach ball through an impossibly high hoop while Dan berates their poor athleticism and two lucky children in the audience play the role of seeker, searching for the golden snitch. The entire experience is a riot and worth the ticket price for the show by itself. This was the first time in the show that I laughed until it hurt, but it was not the last. The second half of the show picks up the pace, with delightful moments like Dumbledore’s sing-song repetition of a simplified version of the famous “neither can live while the other survives” prophecy. The show wraps up with a hilarious sing-off summarizing the final battle between Harry and Voldemort.


Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson in Potted Potter. All photos by Brian Friedman


As is so often the case in live theatre, the best moments of the show are those that are unscripted. At the performance I saw, multiple props broke mid-show, and watching the actors break character in the face of a broomstick half its expected length or bemoan the “eye-rony” of a pair of glasses breaking on press night was a joy. The two actors have such a lovely rapport with the audience, it seems a shame that they will hand over the reins to another pair of performers after December 16. It seems a shame, too, that none of the six actors playing these roles during the run are women; the parts aren’t particularly gendered, and a bit of diversity would only make the show stronger.


Potted Potter is a fun evening of theatre that appeals to Harry Potter fans of all ages, as well as those less familiar with the wizarding world. Hop on a broomstick, a hipogriff, or the Knight Bus and see this show before it's gone.



Tickets for POTTED POTTER at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place are on sale now.  Group tickets for 10 or more are available by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710.


Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at the Broadway in Chicago website.


For a complete performance schedule for Potted PotterThe Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, please visit the Broadway in Chicago website.

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