Stupefy! The 90 Minute Harry Potter | Magic Smoking Monkey

stupefy 75Much of the fun in a Monkey show has to do with comments and asides that have nothing to do with the source material—or at least not much.

 

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Some shows don’t need reviews at all. Magic Smoking Monkey’s Stupefy! The 90 Minute Harry Potter is one of them. It played a few months ago to a couple of weekends of sold-out houses, and it started on another run last night. There are two shows each Friday and Saturday night (7:30 and 10:30 p.m.) and a Thursday performance at 7:30 p.m. has been added. We saw the earlier one, but I understand the later version is more, shall we say, “adult-themed.” It is, however, a helluva funny show, no matter what time you go.

The Monkeys are known for squeezing volumes of material into a lightning-fast production that includes all the major points of the stories, a lá The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, abridged. That makes sense, considering the Monkey is the id of St. Louis Shakespeare, which devotes most of its season to the Bard and usually one other classic. The subversive Monkey players go in a completely different direction with productions of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and more. This incarnation was adapted by Jaysen Cryer (who also plays Ron Weasley) and directed by Suki Peters. These (mostly) young performers move at a breakneck pace, hitting the high points of the eight Potter movies. Their sweat pours and the audience roars at the antics at Hogwarts and elsewhere. I do think this is a situation where you need to be familiar with the films (or the books) to be amused—but then, who doesn’t know this material? [Ed. note: Me.]

Suki Peters, assistant director Brian Peters, and stage manager Liz Henning have their hands full with this one. There is a prologue by Amy Kelly (unbilled) as the woman who lives in the painting projected on the wall. She entertains actors in brief appearances, including John Foughty, another Monkey regular, also absent from this one. Part I zips through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I think lasts the longest because it’s the setup. We’ve been primed by preshow music like “Witchy Woman” and “Magic Bus” before Hagrid (Andrew Kuhlman) shows up at the Dursley’s house, the nasty aunt and uncle of “The Boy Who Lived,” to whisk him away to his destiny. Ninety minutes (well, really more like 105 minutes, but you won’t notice) later, he has slain Voldemort (John Wolbers) and reestablished order in the realm, just like a good tragic hero should, and we depart to the strains of “That Old Black Magic.”

Much of the fun in a Monkey show has to do with comments and asides that have nothing to do with the source material—or at least not much. In the very beginning, a second prologue explains the origins of the evil that is Voldemort. Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) is projected, and the character Thomas is pulled out. Chris Brown is referenced; so is Robert Pattinson who played Cedric Diggory in the Potterverse before he became a glittering vampire, and much is made of there being no sparkles here. Lamb Chop (Shari Lewis’s iconic hand puppet) makes random appearances. The whole cast gets in a chorus line to dance to “Thriller” at one point—well, you get the idea.

The actors all play multiple parts except Michael Pierce as Harry, Betsy Bowman as Hermione, and the aforementioned Cryer. The sound design (and that was a big job in this show) is by Jeff Roberts, and the projections that keep us oriented to what book we’re in, among other aspects of the story, are the work of set designer Juan Schwartz. Suki Peters also handled props and the outrageous wigs. And there is candy. And silly string. And more laughs than you’ve probably had to date this year.

I understand the shows are mostly sold out, but there are some tickets remaining for the 10:30 p.m. performances. You may visit www.stlouisshakespeare.org/magicsmokingmonkey. Motto: “Making audiences LOL since 1996.” I hope you’ll try to see Stupefy!, and you know you want to. Yeah, you really do. | Andrea Braun

 

Additional cast: Chris LaBanca, Robert Ashton, James Enstall, Roger Erb, Max Knocke, Carl Overly, Jamie Pitt, Sarah Porter, Ben Ritchie, Tasha Zebrowski, Morgan Hatfield, and Jaiymz Hawkins.

Additional crew: Technical Director: Linda Lawson Mixon; Costumes: Katie Donovan; Assistant to the Tech Director: Dan Moessner

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