Edinburgh Fringe 2018
“Before Voldemort was He Who Must Not Be Named, he was just Tom Riddle, another moody teen at Hogwarts. Join Tom and his best friend/snake Nagini on a hilarious musical adventure packed with magic, hormones, and more than a few murders. From two co-creators of Thrones! The Musical and fresh from sold-out performances at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles comes a Harry Potter musical parody that is sure to leave you spellbound!”
This is a difficult show to review because, because describing it in any detail will spoil your fun at beholding an hour loaded with sharply written Potter-parody, gags every few seconds, stellar singing and comedy acting via an ensemble cast that is breath-takingly talented. I mean it. During one part of the show the singing was so good and together that my sigh of enjoyment turned into a cheeky, sneaky trouser cough of delight.
Funny one-liners, knockabout dialogue, dark comedy, all based on a preposterous plot that is anchored enough into the original books, yet unhinged enough from them to be a thing-in-itself, a musical covered in Harry Potter badges, poo innuendo and cock jokes to keep both adult Rowling fans, and wizarding-world-addicted teens more than satisfied, and also to be a show you could enjoy if you had no idea what Quidditch was.
Note: Don’t sneak your ten-year-olds in, with painted on teen stubble if you don’t want them to experience fairly adult humour. It really is brash, smutty and near-the-knuckle enough in places to badly shock a Dursley or two.
The production is full of excellent music, well-penned pastiche songs with clever lyrics, ample variety in the chosen styles, rooted in a decent narrative that finds the right balance between a gagfest and a followable storyline. You’ll miss half the jokes the first-time around and need to see it again to catch it all. We went twice.
Most of your favourite characters appear in the show, and impersonations are more than acceptable. We are generously given a tale that is set in the history of the Wizarding World we’d all rather be living in than boring Brexit Britain. That’s clever writing and design because it becomes far, far more than a tribute show. How smart and also nifty to offer us a show-in-itself, an hour of delightful escapism. The audience loved it, savouring the energy of the cast, their skills as comedy performers, top drawer singers, clownish set pieces, tight dance, delivered by accomplished character actors and consumate wand-bearing stage fighters.
In places a core theme that ran through the show (I will not reveal it) feels a bit tangential to the rest of the show. It might work better in the United States. (Ok, ok, it’s about muffins). That said, it added a bit of seasoning to what otherwise might have been too predictably a literal homage.
Stagecraft is of high quality, with a decent, well used set along with well placed and used props. The musical score could (and I hope will) grace a West End stage and this company (hailing from the legendary improv wizards and witches of Baby Wants Candy) are both highly charged and capable individuals as well as a single ensemble beast called “Excellent”. Yes, Hermione, this is an excellent show, it gets top grades in its Fringe OWLS. The show mines the original books successfully for parody. Yet somehow the whole production offers those bestselling books some necessary respect as well, appreciating that this show could never exist without their rich material, well drawn characters, and epic story.
On the way out we asked our fourteen year-old son if he had any criticisms of the show. “Yeah.” he answered. “It should have been longer.”
High praise indeed from a phone-addicted muggle. An Excellent Show. Blimey!