MURRAY — I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. I have all six films, multiple copies of each of the seven books, the audio recordings, games, T-shirts, buttons, supplemental literature, and in 2007 I went to Canada for a convention. So when I heard about Desert Star Theater’s Welcome Back Potter, I was weary of the new parody. I took my sister to the production thinking that if it bombed, at least the two of us could laugh at it together. We’re still laughing at it, but for all the right reasons.
Welcome Back Potter is a short but charming (ha ha!) sort-of musical about Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s 10-year Hogwarts reunion. Harry has just emerged from unknown whereabouts, Ron and Hermione are expecting their first child, and Harry’s old nemesis Draco Malcontent is up to no good. The story continues as Harry and Company embark on a quest to retrieve the Funky Hallows in order to defeat the dark disco wizard Voldie Barbarino.
Fear not, muggles! While the whole thing takes place on Hogwarts grounds, even those unfamiliar with J. K. Rowling’s appreciable anthologies will still find Ed Farnsworth’s original musical to be a barrel of laughs. Farnsworth’s dialogue is balanced enough to please walking encyclopedias like me, and magical novices alike. The jokes range from a kooky spin on the Deathly Hallows, to pop culture references, to digs at the BYU football team. My personal favorite was the “ghost” of Michael Jackson (Scott Holman) who has taken up residence in the tallest tower. Holman’s Michael Jackson impression had even the other actors in stitches.
That’s another great thing about Welcome Back Potter: the actors kept each other laughing just as hard as the audience. Besides Holman’s antics, Kerstin Davis’s (Lunar Rover) audience interaction during the scene in the headmaster’s office, and Corey Brandenburger’s (Ron Weasel) and Courtney Gardner Jensen’s (Hermione Weasel) slap sequence in the main hall scene made the other performers crack up and break character. It’s obvious that the material hasn’t gone stale for the players, so it didn’t feel old to the audience. Everyone involved had so much fun.
This production is sublimely silly, however, I must point out that there were a few details that detracted from the hilarity. The lamentable dialect work, for instance. British accents are often used as theatrical devices, either to make a character more diabolical or less… unattractive. In this show, director Scott Holman attempted to use them to remind us that Hogwarts is across the pond. We didn’t need the reminder. The accents were executed poorly and wouldn’t have been missed; sometimes it’s okay to let your American actors be American.
Kerstin Davis (Lunar), Corey Brandenburger (Ron), Courtney Gardner Jensen (Hermione), and Corianne Avair (Romy Vain) were lively enough as actors, but their characters seemed fairly one-note. Ron and Hermione were forever bickering about the same little things. Romy’s “I’m so sexy” attitude was redundant scene after scene. Lunar was especially tiresome, her obsession with Draco and her conspiracy tirades extending well beyond the funny. This was a trend that I noticed throughout Welcome Back Potter: there were so many good jokes, but a few of them lasted too long or were used too many times. Romy only needed to kiss the Sorting Hat once. Lunar and Draco wrestled for a really long time in the first scene. Draco was the victim two too many times. These gags simply got away from Farnsworth and the actors.
The weakest point in the who was the very first scene. Instead of grabbing my attention, in put me to sleep. There was entirely too much blatant exposition, there was almost nothing to laugh about, and the opening number was far from show stopping. Honestly, it left me in a state of dread, having confirmed my aforementioned trepidations.
Despite its shortcomings, Welcome Back Potter was (after the first scene) incredibly entertaining. In the end, I laughed really hard. From Act 1, Scene 2 to the end of the Creature Feature Olio, you’re sure to find “fun at Desert Star!”