‘Potted Potter,’ Grown From Street but Needs Potion, Fertilizer for Stage

In the third Harry Potter book, author J.K. Rowling introduced the faceless soul-sucking fiends known as Dementors. By the end of the stage show Potted Potter, you’ll feel like a gang of Dementors sucked out 70 minutes of your life, unless you are 11, or a Potter zealot.

Stripped down props, lead-foot repartee, and corny gags in Potted Potter are clear reminders of its busker-fringe lineage. The vignettes that parodied all seven Harry Potter books burst and faded like cheap pop rock candies in Potted Potter’s San Diego debut on Wednesday night at the Balboa Theatre.

Jeff Turner, in glasses, and Daniel Clarkson, in devil horns, in "Potted Potter."

Jeff Turner, in glasses, and Daniel Clarkson, in devil horns, in “Potted Potter.”

Dan Clarkson and Jefferson Turner created the show in 2005 as a five-minute street show to entertain book fans waiting for the midnight release of the sixth book. Over the years, the show and its title got longer, and they took it on tour. Potted Potter, The Unauthorized Harry Experience s Parody by Dan and Jeff, has played fringe and comedy festivals, and aired on TV  – for kids.

In the San Diego production, Dan and Jeff argued about who should read excerpts from the books and who should portray the characters.  Tall Dan portrayed all of the characters in a screaming falsetto and swapped out wigs and hats. “I’m a Ginger Ninja,” said his Ron Weasley in neon orange curls, and he rattled off little rants for every other Weasley, Hermione, and Voldemort.  Flabbergasted Jeff responded by dropping the books and losing his temper.

They asked the crowd if they wanted to play Quidditch, the flying wizard game on broomsticks. The joke was not having any broomsticks, then presenting a vacuum cleaner labeled Nimbus 2000 instead.  They divided the crowd into Hufflepuff and Slytherin, and tossed out a beach ball to get everyone lathered up.  The competition sucked up several precious minutes and was about as much fun as your worst day in junior high school.

The climax was watching two children push Jeff to the ground.  He was dressed as a giant Golden Snitch, the important and elusive winged ball in the game.  His pal Dan commented that his golden orb costume made him look more like “Bob the Builder on a night out in Hillcrest.”

There were a few more adult zingers thrown in, just to wake up the sleepy muggles. If Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, is so smart, why did he choose to be a teacher? While prancing about as Hagrid the giant, Dan’s accent sounded like a Scottish Mike Myers in Shrek.  There was also the slight nod to Mary Poppins.

And they didn’t hesitate to make fun of the book or blurt out updates from book seven.  It’s all about camping and death, and Harry is so boring, they whined. The two men were remarkable in delivering their lines at warp speed. Diction was crisp and we heard every screaming word.  And they jammed seven books into 70 minutes. Lighting was exceptionally vivid. Brilliant spotlights shone down in crayon shades, and for the final song, a disco ball projected a tornado of shapes onto the theater walls.

Be warned though. When the disco tune “I will survive” starts to play, prepare for intense beams of light to shoot into your eyeballs and hit the back of your brain.  Another snippet from the Harry Potter film, to be sure. But in the pithy words of Professor Severus Snape,  “Potted Potter” was short on magic and needed a more dynamic potion, one that fun-loving muggles could stomach beyond a few minutes.

“Potted Potter” runs Nov. 6-10, 2013, at the Balboa Theatre. 868 4th Ave., Downtown.


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