Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic is now playing off-Broadway.
Puffs is a play that parodies the Harry Potter books by following three of the Hufflepuffs in Harry’s year: Wayne Hopkins (Zac Moon), Megan Jones (Julie Ann Earls), and Oliver Rivers (Langston Belton). The trio forms a strong friendship, and tries to get a magical education (and not last place in the House Cup) as things at Hogwarts get increasingly chaotic. It premiered at the People’s Improv Theater last December, and after extending its run time and time again, it recently transferred to the much bigger Elektra Theatre off-Broadway.
We here at Hypable have been championing Puffs since it premiered at the PIT. Now that the Puffs are a big deal, having opened at off-Broadway’s Elektra Theater on October 20, various theatre outlets are reviewing it, and the praise thus far has been unanimous.
Talkin’ Broadway wrote that “Cox’s treatment is dispensed with respect, admiration, and even love for the originals, which makes the jokes funnier and the production even more endearing.”
Stage Buddy said, “Puffs, so densely packed with Potter references, is a must-see for any fan of the popular wizard series. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, whip-smart, and a lot of fun to watch.”
Even Entertainment Weekly liked it, giving the play a B+ and declaring that “Puffs feels engineered specifically to delight Harry Potter diehards, and for the most part it succeeds.”
We went to see the play again in the new space on October 22, to see whether it holds up in a bigger theater. It’s a relief to say that yes, it’s still as great as it ever was – the draw is Matt Cox’s brilliant script and the cast’s comedic chops, regardless of location. Any Potter fans visiting New York City absolutely must take in this play.
In the bigger theater, one does not feel as immersed in the action, but more like they’re watching a show. That’s made up for with the lobby, which is papered in hilarious posters that will delight fans, and allows you to hang out in Finch’s Corner.
There is plenty in the new production to interest returning fans; most of all, the costumes and sets. The bigger space (and presumably an off-Broadway budget) allowed for an actual set, and costumes that are littered with many meticulous details and jokes for fans to catch. Designers Madeleine Bundy (who also plays Harry) and Liz Blessing outdid themselves. Among our favorites: a beautiful Mirror of Erised set, a giant basilisk prop, and the fact that the Triwizard dragon’s costume actually incorporates the four colors of the dragons.
There was only one cast change: James Fouhey took over the dual roles of Cedric and Lord Voldemort. Those are big shoes to fill; we highlighted Cedric as a standout in our original review. Fouhey never quite achieves Cedric’s effortless charisma from the prior portrayal, but we really liked his version of Voldemort – still somewhat bumbling, but also imposing, and hilarious in an extended bit about Voldemort’s hugs.
The biggest change script-wise is the continually evolving storyline with Megan’s mom, Mrs. Jones (Eleanor Philips), which has improved with every edit and seems to be fully realized now. There are also other minor changes here and there. The lucky few who saw the reading of the Cursed Child parody set in the Puffs universe would do well to pay attention to the narrator (A.J. Ditty) in the bathtub scene; there’s a heart-rending Easter egg there.
The new production makes a recurring motif out of the Puffs’ tendency to say “Hi!” whenever spoken to; it’s only a matter of time before this enters the fanon much like “particularly good finders!” and “good at making sandwiches” have. Expect lots of enthusiastic greetings at future HP events as this becomes a thing. There is even a new online quiz to tell you what House you’re in in the Puffs universe – this writer is a Puff (whew!), but a SmartPuff.
In conclusion, what we wrote last December still applies: Puffs is a must-see for any Harry Potter fans, regardless of House. Come prepared to laugh, but also to cry, as Kristin McCarthy Parker’s direction does not shy away from making the emotional moments really emotional. And those who have seen the show before will enjoy a return visit, as there are always more Easter eggs to discover in the play. This writer has seen it five times, with non-diminishing returns.
Puffs is currently playing Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at the Elektra Theater; they will be adding Sunday performances at the end of November, and are booking through the end of 2016. For more information, visit this link. The performance we attended was sold out, so be sure to get your tickets soon if you plan on going. And check out our interview with the playwright, Matt Cox.