‘Potted Potter’ tour casts a spell at Shakespeare Theatre Company

The touring show makes a stop at Sidney Harman Hall to brew up a cauldron of family-friendly magic through July 17.

Being a perfectly respectable Harry Potter Adult™, I went in to Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience expecting the production to be geared more towards grown-ups. But I was predictably and thankfully wrong. Not that there weren’t adults at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, enjoying every moment along with the young ones. But the 18-and-ups have to leave any age-induced stodginess at the door. This touring show, somehow also magically playing in Las Vegas right now, demands that you absorb and reflect the childlike enthusiasm of the performers…so prepare yourself.

Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley in ‘Potted Potter.’ Photo courtesy of ‘Potted Potter.’

The credit for this small-cast ‘condensed comedy’ goes to ‘Dan and Jeff,’ AKA Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, the writer/actors who created and starred in this gem, along with Potted Sherlock, Potted Pirates, and Potted Panto since then. They’ve also cast several more talented actors to fulfill demand for productions in D.C. and Las Vegas, plus another leg in Ireland in the second half of this summer. The D.C. production is a 70-minute whirlwind of details from the Harry Potter books, with actors Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley touching on most of the plot points, characters, and settings in the series.

The creators were improv performers – Daniel trained with the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and Jefferson studied with The Second City in London, and it’s far from a surprise, looking at the structure and execution of this show. It’s got ‘improv’ written all over it. As with an improvised comedy show, which is usually performed without official props or costumes, Potted Potter‘s Scott and Joe ‘make do’ with props, wigs, costumes, and set pieces that have little to do (sometimes hilariously so) with anything in the Wizarding World. What’s the excuse for the show’s ‘poor planning?’ Joe’s bad with money.

Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley in ‘Potted Potter.’ Photo courtesy of ‘Potted Potter.’

As a fan of classic duo comedy, it’s evident right away that Scott (Scott Hoatson) is the ‘straight man,’ and Joe (Joseph Maudsley) is the ‘wise guy.’ They’re also successfully mirroring the parent/child dynamic, which is super fun for the families in the house. Naturally Joe spent the budget on other things — no one needs CGI in the show anyway, as he points out repeatedly. He’s a wild card to the extreme — bringing a chocolate cake onstage, inserting his own cartoonified slide presentation, and performing bad illusion/card magic, much to Scott’s chagrin. And he hasn’t really read any of the Harry Potter books(!).

No offense to the creators or other alternates, but I’m partial to the two actors from the D.C. production. They have an absolutely electric rapport, and stand up well to the intense physicality of this show. Joe seems like the kind of showoff I would love to hang out with — charming, devil-may-care, and endlessly goofy. And, apologies to Scott, because I know I’m not the first one to make this comparison, but YOU LOOK JUST LIKE BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH and I am here for it. (I mean, you’re funny, too. You’re really funny. And good. So good! You carry the piece, basically.)

Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley in ‘Potted Potter.’ Photo courtesy of ‘Potted Potter.’

There’s some improvesque crowd participation, including setting up individual audience members to do certain things — which gets big laughs from the adults. There’s also a quidditch lesson that requires everyone to stand up and wiggle around for a bit, but nothing stressful. In addition, there are plenty of pop culture references and nods to current events in Potted Potter. They even mention “Hermione speaking about women at the U.N.”

However, being that this is a kids show — and for Potter fans — I detected no hint of a reference to the recent controversy around J.K. Rowling’s views on the Trans community. There is a part in the beginning where Scott mentions he’s “close personal friends with the author” and I could sense some internal head-shaking from the progressive adults in the house like, “don’t be too proud of that.” But, to be fair, I’m sure the creators and actors never expected Rowling to come out with that view, or to have conflicting feelings about the author that created the world on which they base their livelihood. So I can’t blame them for staying away from the subject.

Overall, Potted Potter is a great short jaunt for families and Harry Potter Adults™. We loved the energy of the show, and had a blast watching the kids run around in wizard gear. STC has Butterbeer at the snack stand, and DIY magic potion bottles for sale. It’s the perfect break from yet another rewatch of the film series at home. And the audience gets to see just how hard stage actors work in a two-person show — it’s ridiculously impressive!

Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.

Writers and Creators – Daniel Clarkson & Jefferson Turner
Performers – Scott Hoatson & Joseph Maudsley
Director and Additional Material – Richard Hurst
Associate Directors – Hanna Berrigan & Daniel Clarkson
Set Design – Simon Scullion
Lighting Design – Tim Mascall
Music – Phil Innes
Video – Tom Hillenbrand
Production Manager – Leanne Rich
Company Stage Manager – Jenn Hewitt Touring
Lighting Director – Adam Foley
UK General Management – Seabright Productions, Ltd.
General Management – Jessica Johnston for Starvox Entertainment

Potted Potter runs though July 17th at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall at 610 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004. Times vary. Tickets are between $49.75 and $69.75, and can be purchased online or by calling 202-547-1122. The playbill for Potted Potter is online here.

Covid Safety: Masks are required for all guests inside, except while eating or drinking in designated locations. STC’s Health and Safety Policies are here.

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