Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

October 30, 2013 at 10:55am

"Potted Potter" Review: In the chamber of secret dialogue

It got a little Harry at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma.

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It's hard for me to believe, but it's been 15 years since the U.S. was introduced to one Harry James Potter, aka The Boy Who Lived. Since then, an entire generation has grown to young adulthood, and the Wizarding World has achieved the literary stature of Narnia, Middle-earth and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. That's why I assumed the touring parody version, Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, would be pitched toward both children and adults. Not so much. I found, in fact, that I'm about 40 years too old for it. This is a show that doesn't benefit from mature consideration.

Promotional materials assure us its game performers, James Percy and Delme Thomas, take on all 300-plus characters from Rowling's seven massive novels. That's not even vaguely true. The actors don't do impressions, and they leave out such choice characters as Professors McGonagall, Lockhart and Umbridge. We were promised a fire-breathing dragon, "live" on stage. Don't get your hopes up. The most spectacular theatrical coup afforded by your ticket - which costs at least $38, by the way - is a disco ball. Luckily, if your kids are anything like the adorable tots in the Rialto Tuesday night, they won't give a chocolate frog about any of that. Most were clearly in rugrat heaven. Keep in mind, though, your kids have extremely unsophisticated taste in comedy.

The similarities between Potted Potter and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), very recently staged and restaged at a theater near you, are too many and apparent to overlook or chalk up to coincidence. From the actor who claims not to have studied the material to the water-in-the-face gag to the audience-participation game, let's just say The Complete Works's lucrative template has been carefully considered. Less successful were the five parodies the Reduced Shakespeare Company wrote after Complete Works, none of which contained inspired enough jokes to make a lasting impression. Near as I could tell, the jokes in Potted Potter are equally lame, pitched mostly at audience members who'll be amused by falsetto voices and water guns.

I say "near as I could tell" because by far the biggest problem with this show was its sound quality. The Rialto is a beautiful space, but the acoustics within didn't help this material in the slightest. Without reading lips, I couldn't have understood half the lines in the show, a problem exacerbated by pitched-up U.K. accents. The show's finale is a musical synopsis of The Deathly Hallows, I think, to the tune of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" (and gosh, what kindergartener doesn't know and love that 1978 anthem). After the first two lines, neither my wife nor I could make out a single word.

But hey, you do get a free pair of cardboard Harry Potter glasses. Bloody hell!

POTTED POTTER: THE UNAUTHORIZED HARRY EXPERIENCE, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 30-Nov. 2, also 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and 3 p.m. Nov. 2-3, Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma, $38-$59, 253.591.2013

Filed under: Tacoma, Theater,
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