Harry Potter Fans Need to Go See Puffs, a Hilarious and Touching Ode to the Under-Appreciated Hogwarts House
Last week Kaila (a badge-carrying Slytherin) and I (a proud Hufflepuff) went to the Elecktra Theatre to see the Off-Broadway show Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic. “Some people are born to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to beat back the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds,” writes the description, “This is the story of the people who sit next to those people in class.”
Led by a charismatic narrator, the story follows Wayne, Oliver, and Megan, a trio of Puffs at a Wizarding school in the same year as Potter and his much more famous group of friends. Wayne is a nerd who, upon discovering his wizard heritage, believes he may be destined for great things. Oliver is a Muggle-born mathematician who finds himself struggling with magic despite his smartness. Megan is a Puff who doesn’t want to be a Puff because of her Dark Lord serving mother, who’s currently in wizard prison. Puffs is a tribute to Harry Potter (the ways they avoid copyright infringement are hilarious and clever) and the under-appreciated badgers that weren’t chosen for greatness, but did the right thing regardless without any of the glory. Here are our spoiler-free thoughts!
Charline: The show reminded me a bit of A Very Potter Musical (I think I caught a few references to that as well?) and all of its sequels, though there’s no singing in it. Puffs goes through every single Harry Potter book from the perspective of the Puff house, kind of like a magical Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and the way they make fun of Harry and the gang (both the movie and book versions) is priceless. If you’ve ever wondered why the Harry Potter gangs steered completely clear of the rich ’90s culture of the time or what Dumbledore’s clear favoritism probably looked like from the perspective of the average student, Puffs absolutely delivers.
Kaila: I’m still not over how clever this show was, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much or for so long. As Charline mentioned, what’s especially great is that Puffs draws from both the books and the HP movie verse—the greasy, mumbling depiction of Snape is a sendup of Alan Rickman’s portrayal, for example, but then the sheer physical weight of Order of the Phoenix is mocked after characters have trouble lifting the book. So much of the humor is contextual that if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, this will probably seem like 90 minutes of madness. But even casual book-readers or viewers of the movie will find plenty to laugh about, and there are truly extraordinary music samples from the ’90s that remind you of when Harry Potter is actually set, like Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” playing as the students partake of off-brand Butterbeer.
All of the actors play several roles, and they’re extremely game and quick on their feet. Their wry, winking line deliveries are everything. At one point Snape—though I don’t think he’s ever named (copyright!) is teaching a magical sex-ed class, the most awkward thing you’ve ever witnessed. It devolves into him yelling “Lily!!!!!!!” And, scene.
THE UNEXPECTED EMOTION GUT PUNCH
Charline: Hufflepuffs have been the joke of Hogwarts since Draco Malfoy said he’d rather leave than be a badger, which is understandable (they’re a wide range of people), but they’re also the loyal, good, and earnest house that gave us people like Cedric and Tonks. Also, they’re built on the idea that everyone deserves an education and the chance to grow! Seeing Cedric and the Battle of Hogwarts through the eyes of the Puffs gave us a lot of really touching moments between laughs. Like Rowling says, “the Gryffindors comprise a lot of foolhardy and show-offy people, that’s just the way it is, I’m a Gryffindor, I’m allowed to say it. You know, there’s bravery, and there’s also showboating, and sometimes the two go together. The Hufflepuffs stayed for a different reason; they weren’t trying to show off, they weren’t being reckless, that’s the essence of Hufflepuff House.”
Kaila: I always thought I was a Hufflepuff before I got sorted into Slytherin multiple times and have now embraced my snake-like nature. As Charline says, this show really brings home how Puffs are the heart of the narrative and of Hogwarts. Towards the end of the play, we get a story of how the Houses were formed, with Helga saying that her House will be the place for everyone who doesn’t quite fit into a personality box to flourish. (That Puffs calls the other Houses the Snakes, Smarts, and Braves is both hilarious, and shows how Harry Potter tried to neatly sort its students by type—literally). Only the less-easy-to-define Hufflepuffs encompassed a wide range of people, who were all accepted by their fellows for being different and united by loyalty. It makes you wish there was a Hufflepuff group in every high school.
Also, Cedric is a standout character, played as a sort of fabulous air-headed hero. Knowing what would happen to him had Charline and I exclaiming, “Oh noooooo!” for most of the play. I don’t want to ruin it, but let’s just say that after Cedric’s death the actor gets an even meatier and comedic part to play.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING IN
Charline: As this is a comedic play about teenage children away from home, the show has some cursing and references that are not for the little ones. As much as your kid loves Harry Potter, maybe think about whether or not it’ll be appropriate for them.
Kaila: This is not a show to see with your friend who doesn’t like Harry Potter. But your better, kinder, smarter, and braver friends, who like Harry Potter, will love it as much as we did. Apparate, don’t walk, to Puffs.
The show was recently extended through July 30, 2017 at the Elektra Theatre in New York City. We definitely recommend it for Harry Potter fans, you can grab tickets here.
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