With all the Harry Potter books and movies done, and no new material to pore over, where can a devoted Muggle get a fix? You could fly to Florida, to the Universal Studios Orlando theme park. Or over to Britain, where tours of the films’ sets, at Leavesden Studios outside London, have begun. Online, there’s always J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore Web site.
Or you could make your way to the Little Shubert Theater, where the gloriously goofy “Potted Potter” is being staged. Billed as “the unauthorized Harry experience,” this parody makes the perfect claim for the Twitter age: all seven books — roughly 4,000 pages — in 70 minutes.
Potted Potter is the antic creation of Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, better known in Britain as Dan and Jeff, onetime presenters on CBBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s children’s network. In the best two-man comedy tradition, Jeff, the shorter one, is the straight man, the expert on all things Harry; Dan, the taller one, is the one who’s faking it, confusing the series with The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Using bad wigs and Silly String on a set so cheap it might have been furnished by Craigslist, Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Turner do indeed tell an abbreviated, ridiculous version of the Boy Who Lived. Mr. Turner plays Harry, though when he wears those signature glasses, he looks more like that pinball wizard, Elton John. Mr. Clarkson, channeling a caffeinated Robin Williams, plays everyone else, including, among others, Ron and Hermione; Draco Malfoy; Snape; the Weasleys; Sirius Black; Mad-Eye Moody; Dumbledore; and, of course, He Who Must Not Be Named.
Dobby, the house elf, makes an appearance, as does Nagini, Voldemort’s snake; Death Eaters and — crucial to Mr. Clarkson, at least — the dragon from Book 4. A highlight is the game Quidditch played with audience participation. And a very golden Snitch.
Potted Potter grew from a five-minute street sketch recapping the first five books that the two created in 2005 to entertain Potter fans lined up for the release of the sixth, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. When they expanded it with runs in the West End in London and in Toronto, they no doubt took some cues from the popular Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
The flavor is Monty Python meets vaudeville, ragged and thrown together in a spirit similar to fan-created homages like Potter Puppet Pals and A Very Potter Musical. You don’t need to know all the plot twists and nuances of Hogwarts to enjoy the in-jokes, though clearly most of the delighted crowd does. (On the off chance you’re in the middle of the series, be warned: spoilers lurk throughout, though the original does not include a disco ball.)
Besides, if you miss something, another laugh will be along shortly. Clearly Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Turner attended Professor Flitwick’s charms class, because the duo casts the perfect spell over the audience: Reductio ad absurdum.