Puffs (or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic)

Imagine that Evan Hansen was accepted at Hogwarts as part of the new crop of wizards to be. And somewhere in all the laughs and silliness of this spoof of the Harry Potter series, happening at New World Stages (340 W 50th Street) the underdog triumphs despite low expectations, spells that fall flat, and teachers that come and go. Oh, yes, and every time one turns around the school is in terrible danger, trolls and dragons are running amok, and the mentor to the incoming kids is a wizard named Cedric. Uh, oh, all the Harry Potter fanatics in the crowd know what is to come.

It begins with the narrator, bopping out from behind the curtains, jester-like, heralding the beginning of year 1 for the magicians-in-training. He returns each time a new school year begins in this fast-moving, colorful and very funny one hour and 45 minute show.

Eleanor Philips, A.J. Ditty

We meet Oliver, Wayne, and Susie, and Sally, the well-meaning, shy, and socially awkward tweens ecstatic and scared as they are about to start magic school. As they join their new classmates through the ritual of the Sorting Hat (in this case a folded fortune teller, origami style – remember, this is a spoof), they’re assigned to the Puffs House. No, not the popular Gryffindor or the malevolent Slytherins, but a more goofy, sweet, and magically-challenged collection housed in the school’s basement.

Cedric, played with high energy by James Fouhey, is an idealistic and experienced wizard who takes the Puffs under his wing, and much to their delight takes part in a major contest, to which the Harry Potterites in the crowd are aware that this won’t end well. But as the years roll on, we are delighted to see Fouhey return as the character “which shall not be named,” complete in a skin-colored bodysuit and a bandaged and squished-down nose, meant to remind us that the evil one did not have much of a snout. We see caricatures of Professors Snape, and McGonagall, as well as the guest starring teachers as played by Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh and Ian Hart, among others, in the Potter series.

Stephen Stout, Eleanor Philips, Madeleine Bundy, Andy Miller, Langston Belton, Zac Moon, Julie Ann Earls, Jessie Cannizzaro, Nick Carrillo (L-R)

The jokes are fast-paced, and if you’re not up on your Harry Potter (which means having seen the entire series multiple times), a good portion of the jokes will, like magic, go over your head. For instance, at one point a new actor takes over the Dumbledore role, a nod to the passing of actor Richard Harris during the series, being replaced by Michael Gambon. Only the HP fans caught that. But it doesn’t take anything away from the joy of the story which all boils down to good vs. evil, and the victory by ones least expected to do so.  The actors have a great time playing these wacky students with nods going to Langston Belton as Oliver, Zac Moon as Wayne, Jessie Cannizzaro as Sally, and Madeleine Bundy as Susie.

If we had a wand, and could conjure magic, we’d say in our best Hermione impersonation, “Goeth toeth Puffeths.”

The New World Stages is an immense playhouse featuring five separate performance spaces for every kind of off-Broadway production from kids on up including Avenue Q and the Bubble Show. Situated between Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen, it’s as close to Broadway as you can get.

Photos by Hunter Canning

Top: James Fouhey (center) with (L-R) Julie Ann Earls, Langston Belton, Stephen Stout, Eleanor Philips, Andy Miller, Jessie Cannizzaro, Madeleine Bundy, Nick Carrillo, Zac Moon

Puffs
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street (between Eight and Ninth Avenues)
212-239-6200

About MJ Hanley-Goff (140 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and college essay writing help to students. MJ is thrilled and honored to write for WAT for the amazing adventures it offers, like reviewing concerts, people, authors, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I enjoy drawing attention to the off-the-beaten path kinds of stories,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”