Theater Review: A “Puff” of Excitement Down Under
By Amanda Walters
It is rare that Potter fans in Melbourne, Australia, are treated to outlets such as the magical experience currently being offered at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda.
Puffs, the Off-Broadway smash hit, has arrived with a brand-new Australian cast. After five sold-out previews, it began its season on May 31 to a packed theater full of theater buffs and Potter die-hards alike. Despite the different backgrounds that brought us there, everyone was in for a wonderful time filled with fun, heartfelt laughter, and emotion.
The show is absolutely electric, filled with quick beats as it works through Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, not from the perspective that we have come to know as featured in the books and films, but from the often teased Puff House. The unassuming stage with four simple doors comes to life with action and sound as we go on a journey with the Puffy trio, Wayne (Ryan Hawke) from Queensland, Oliver (Keith Brockett) from Craigieburn, and Megan (Eva Seymour), who is from England but speaks with a different accent to distinguish herself from other Puffs. They each bring their own personalities and problems to the story, Wayne who just wants to be a hero, Megan who is longing to be connected to her Dark witch mother, and Oliver, a Muggle-born who despairs of a lack of math classes at Hogwarts.
And it is that tongue-in-cheek humor that carries the whole show. It is chock-full of loving jabs at a story that so many people know and love. It is clever about how it does this: Be it with direct humor, often with an oh-so-Australian twist that even the casual fan will understand, to a subtler but direct punch that will leave knowledgeable Potter fans rolling in the aisles.
All this is shared by a stellar cast, whose enjoyment of the story they are sharing is apparent through the entire production. The cast’s background ranges from Robert Mills (Cedric), who is well known in Australian theater, having been a part of the original Australian cast of Wicked as Fiyero, among many other credits, to newcomer Gareth Issac, who makes his debut on the Melbourne stage in Puffs. This range of experience is far from evident and the cast all contributes with equal skill and immersion. They are simply enjoyable to watch, and the quick changes, such as Olivia Charalambous, who plays both Susie and a certain other character we all know, are far from jarring and are pulled off with such simple conviction that even a casual stage fan like myself can keep up with exactly who is who at each moment of the story.
The show is filled with highlights and humor. Moments like the Puffs enjoying a beer-bottle-shaped drink with a Western Star butter label on the side, the infamous “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire,” their treatment of the Battle of Hogwarts, and the wall-breaking improv scene by Zacharias Smith (by the hilarious Daniel Cosgrove), are just a few that I dare touch on. It really is a must-see for all Potter fans to experience the humor themselves.
Puffs has an extended season with dates running through Sunday, July 8, 2018. Family-friendly matinees will commence on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays 1 at p.m., designed for wizards age 8 and older (evening performances are best recommended for those over 15).
Book soon to avoid missing out on this magical delight!