OGDEN — A Ziegfeld Theater holiday tradition has returned: A Fairly Potter Christmas Carol. Written by Rick Rea, this show is a parody of all things Harry Potter and all things Christmas. Rea has taken the idea behind the stories of everyone’s favorite wizard boy, combined them with everyone’s favorite gift-giving jolly man, and thrown in a bit of Dickens and Dr. Seuss for good measure.
Fairly Potter has been slightly altered since the first version I saw a few years ago, and many of the changes were quite beneficial to the overall humor and plot. This is parody at its finest, but should be attended and seen as pure comedy. The cast was quite exceptional at quick banter and even some improv, especially the role of You-Know-Who, played by Ed Madson, who was so quick on the humorous reactions that several times I could see fellow cast members working to contain their laughter and maintain character.
Director Caleb Parry has accomplished assembling and directing an ensemble that is able to provide enough entertainment and depth to the parody to keep it interesting throughout the production. An excellent example is a scene near the beginning where an attempt to summarize about 4 years’ worth of adventure and story into the span of a few minutes, the genius writing of Rea along with the superb staging and direction by Parry made for a humorous and accurate summation. Productions like this provide a fabulous canvas for character actors to shine, and Fairly Potter was no exception. The character of Germtail, played by Timothy Behunin, who also played Bagrid, was a perfect example of ideal humor for this genre of play. His reactions to Madson while plotting the evil deeds villains are supposed to commit were fresh, amusing, and pleasantly unexpected.
Part of what made this production work was that it was not only focused on the wizard series, but it was a perfectly blended parody of all things pop culture. At one point, there is a song about the challenges of being an orphan, and from Annie to Batman, there are cameos from some of the most recognized stories of orphans that permeate much of modern storytelling. The humor portrayed in this song was heightened by the fun costumes by Dee Tua’one, whose work was a mix of excellent design and understanding of the comedic value that costumes can provide. Another stellar moment in the show was a play on the now classic Coke commercials with the polar bears. I have to admit that the two gentlemen, who also played several other roles in the show, Behunin and Cole, were hilarious and absolutely fit what a humanization of a polar bear would embody.
The evening that I attended did have a few hiccups, including some definite challenges with the management and balancing of sound. I was saddened to miss several of the lines and therefore was puzzled by the reactions that those seated a bit closer were having. In a show that focuses everything from the movements on stage to the lyrics in a song on the basis of humor, balance of sound is essential. Several times during the evening the music was far louder than the microphones of the cast, leaving the audience wondering what was being said.
There were many jokes about working to avoid copyright infringement, jokes that showed an understanding of local humor and culture, and jokes about the way we tell stories and develop plays. Of course, being a Christmas story, there is also a surprising change of heart at the end and a reflection on the true meaning of the holidays. The tendency to lean toward sappy with this is thankfully held at bay by the nature of the humor. While this production does not have the lessons found in other popular productions going on during the holiday season, it does provide a very important opportunity for patrons to just forget about the hustle and bustle of the current time, and find a reason to laugh. The references to pop culture, local culture, theatre, and more were plentiful, and I doubt that I was able to understand or catch them all. Sometimes an evening of laughter is exactly what we need, and I am glad to see that this Christmas tradition is still going strong at the Ziegfeld.