By Phil Kinen, guest reviewer
Fifty points awarded to the Coterie! The current production, “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic” casts its own spell of wonder and enchantment.
This high energy, fast-paced parody by Matt Cox, based on the seven books and eight movies of the Harry Potter series, leaves no Sorcerer’s Stone unturned. It is well known that the young wizard, Harry Potter, went to Hogwarts School of Magic; occupied the House of Gryffindor; and, over a span of seven years, learned how to battle and conquer evil. But forget him because this story features a bunch of Hogwarts misfits assigned to the House of Hufflepuff.
Coterie patrons get an entirely different perspective of the seven years of schooling through the eyes of a young, normal wizard named Wayne. After joining forces with fellow underdog school mates, Oliver and Megan, they go on their own epic – and epically hilarious – journey wherein they discover being different is okay. Everyone is important and each has his or her own important story. Despite whatever shortfalls one possesses, he or she can always become something bigger.
The Coterie’s Education Director, Amanda Kibler’s masterful direction crafted a captivating roller coaster experience that could only be matched by Hagrid’s wild motorcycle rides. The story runs rampant at a clipped, carefully fashioned pace. (Afterall we have only 70 minutes to cram in 7 books and 8 movies) In addition, she skillfully navigates us through some misty waters as a surprise twist occurs in Wayne’s story.
Darrington Clark charms as an affable and lovable Wayne Hopkins. J. Will Fritz portrays a wonderfully, good guy-sidekick wizard, Oliver Rivers; and then does an about-face as he lisps through the evil, hissy, slithery Mr. Voldy. Jazlyn Epps is delightful as Megan Jones, the somewhat brooding wizard and girlfriend to Oliver. Robert John Sudhoff as Cedric has great fun parodying the smoky good-looking actor, Rob Pattison of the Potter films. Kimberly Horner amuses as the perky Leanne, and Bree Patterson scares as a menacing and wicked Xavia Jones.
Other wonderfully talented actors are Zachery Garner as J. Finch Fletchley and Saland, Kimberly Girkin as Susie Bones and Ric Gryff, Jackie Price as Sally Perks and Rowena, and Joshua Twitchell as Ernie Mac and Uncle Dave.
Finally, R.H. Wilhoit, starts off as the Narrator, then proceeds to astound by portraying elven more roles that only the Sorting Hat could keep track of. With bits of costuming, props, and voices he conjures up succinct supporting characters especially nailing Professors Snape, Trelawney and Mad Eye Mooney.
Upon arriving in the theatre, the set unfolds onto the stage as if it were a Hogwarts castle playset. Elegantly designed by Kelli Harrod and decorated by prop masters Joyce Merrill & Eric Palmquist, its nooks and crannies await with the promises of unsuspected surprises. The added touch of dozens of floating candles twinkling overhead finishes off the set. In addition, Merrill & Palmquist outdo themselves with many specialty props like glowing wands and a big fuchsia dragon.
Costumer Georgianna Londré Buchanan had her hands full working her magic with the multitude of costumes she provided for each character. She even designed an ingenious multi-pocket lined vest for Wilhoite in order to keep all of his character props and trinkets with him at all times. And rounding out the wonderful lighting effects are Jarrett Bertoncin, and terrific magic sound effects by David Kiehl
The technical director is Scott Hobart and the production stage manager is Hilary Surface with Taylor Jene Sullivan, production assistant.
The cast and production team are Directed by Amanda Kibler. The cast of PUFFS is: Darrington Clark (as Wayne Hopkins), Jazlyn Epps (as Megan Jones), J. Will Fritz (as Oliver Rivers, Mr. Voldy), Zachery Garner (as J. Finch Fletchley, Sal, et al.), Kimberly Girkin (as Susie Bones, Ric Gryff), Kimberly Horner (as Leanne, Anthony Goldstein, et al.), Bree Patterson (as Xavia Jones, Seamus, et al.), Jackie Price (as Sally Perks, Rowena, et al.), Robert John Sudhoff (as Cedric, Very Tall Man, et al.), Joshua Twitchell (as Ernie Mac, Uncle Dave, et al.), R.H. Wilhoit (as Narrator, Certain Potions Teacher, et al.). The artistic and production company includes Hilary Surface (production stage manager), Scott Hobart (technical director), Kelli Harrod (set designer), Jarrett Bertoncin (lighting designer), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (costume designer), David Kiehl (sound designer), Joyce Merrill & Eric Palmquist (properties/set dressing), and Taylor Jene Sullivan (production assistant).
The Coterie’s enchanting production of ‘Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic” can be appreciated by families with ages between eight and eighty, whether they are Harry Potter fans or not. The show continues to run March 3 – 22. Tickets, Spotlight Passes, and Group Reservations for The Coterie’s 2019/2020 mainstage season are on sale now through The Coterie’s box office at 816.474.6552.
Tags: The Coterie Theatre, “Puffs” review, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment