By Jade Goodes
You may be familiar with a story about a young orphan boy who discovered he was a wizard and was swept away to a school where he learned all about magic and friendship. Well, that is not this story. Not exactly, anyway. Pittsburgh CLO’s Kara Cabaret series opens with Puffs, a play set within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter but told through the eyes of unfamiliar and unexpected protagonists: the Puffs. Puffs is as funny as it is charming and reminds us all that we don’t need to be the main character to have an impact on this world.
Puffs is a play set during the Harry Potter saga but told from the perspective of a different set of best friends. Wayne, a young orphan boy who grew up among “mugborns,” finds out he is a wizard and is sent to a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry. There he is sorted into the Puffs’ house, where he meets and befriends Megan and Oliver. The play follows the trio and the Puffs as they navigate their seven years of school while on the sidelines during the major events of the Harry Potter series. The play follows the three potential heroes as they try and navigate a school that is surprisingly dangerous for children and how they deal with being outsiders in a story about “the chosen one.”
While Puffs feels low-budget, there’s a lot of work being put into it behind the scenes. I was surprised by how intricate the set was and the effort put into making the magic work and look realistic. I appreciate from a technical standpoint how difficult this show is to work because many moving parts would take a great team to make it look as effortless as it did.
The cast of Puffs takes on many roles within this show, so it’s hard to choose certain performances because they all were working incredibly hard and wearing many hats (literally and metaphorically). So while I’m going to mention my favorites, I think the entire cast should be commended for making this show work so seamlessly. Charlie Thompson is so unbelievably funny as J. Finch (among other characters) and was the audience favorite of the night. He elevated every scene with his over-the-top physicality and his spot-on comedic timing. Michael Greer plays Cedric and, in Act 2, takes on the role of Voldemort. He plays the golden retriever-like Puff boy perfectly. Then in his transition to Voldemort, you see Greer take on a more comedic role, which he absolutely nails. While Puffs is an ensemble show at its core, Thompson and Greer’s performances gave the show that extra touch of magic.
Since this show is not an officially authorized Harry Potter play, I would highly recommend it to those who want more Potter content in their life but don’t want to support J.K. Rowling directly. This show is reminiscent of A Very Potter Musical in that it simultaneously pokes fun at and celebrates the Potter series while adding its own heart and message to the story. I think this show would still work even if it wasn’t connected to Harry Potter because they manage to create likable, charming, and relatable characters. So whether audiences are familiar with the Potter series or not, I think they will be able to enjoy this production just fine.
Hufflepuffs have famously been considered the least favorite house among Potter fans. While this show plays into that and pokes fun at the house, they also celebrate it. The other houses are known for housing brave, smart, and ambitious people, and Hufflepuff is known for housing “everyone else.” Instead of seeing the negative there, they question, “why be one thing when you can be everything?” In a world that shames people for not being the main character, this show celebrates it. This show reminds us that even though you may not be the hero of the story, you still have an impact on it. They turn being a Puff into a positive. The show does not hold back in making fun of the Puffs, but they also highlight their loyalty, kindness, selflessness, and bravery. So by the end, you feel proud of the Puffs and maybe even walk away embracing your inner Puff.
So grab your Floo Powder, transport yourself to The Greer Cabaret Theater, and check out Pittsburgh CLO’s Puffs.
Puffs runs through July 31. Tickets can be bought at: https://www.pittsburghclo.org/shows/puffs