“I’m Harry Frikkin’ Potter!” A Very Potter Sequel Review

Don’t quote me when I say that any guy that admits to liking musicals is also more than likely the first person you’d ask if your outfit “works” or not; I just feel like in general, most musicals out there are aimed at one of three people: 1) old ladies that enjoy spending summer afternoons reading some Shakespeare and thoroughly enjoying their retirement, 2) teenage girls that don’t really fit in anywhere else and use it as an escape, 3) tween girls that don’t know that they’re watching Disney at one of its lowest points in its life—all of whom fall underneath the umbrella of having two X-chromosomes.

So explain to me why while watching A Very Potter Sequel, I didn’t feel any bit of my masculinity being drained like I did when my family dragged me to watch Cats oh so long ago.

When I was first introduced to A Very Potter Musical, the subject of today’s blog’s predecessor, I was intrigued that someone would go as far as to put on an entire musical to the seven book Harry Potter series, yet was turned off at the same time, knowing that the girl introducing the series to me has also been known for playing her ukulele into the wee hours of the night, to her roomie’s displeasure and my later amusement when I hear about the gripings. Also keeping in mind that the run time for the musical was pretty much on par with that of any other standard musical and yet you have to watch it in the ten minute time-chunks that is YouTube and you’ve got something that I’d much rather read a synopsis about and maybe a clip or two at most. Long story short, though, I spent a dull Friday afternoon marathoning through the thing and thought that as a whole, it had some alright songs blended together with some alright references and parody material.

So when I heard that the musical was to have a sequel, I wasn’t exactly the most ecstatic, but was still curious as to what else could be done, considering that the first musical worked well as a stand-alone, condensing the entire Harry Potter series into a manageable afternoon watch.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and any time not working is time best spent, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed this much more than the previous work.

The musical opens where the last one left off, right after Lord Voldemort’s defeat. His followers, the Death Eaters are anxious about what the future hold for them when Lucius Malfoy tells them that the past is what they should be more concerned with. Having somehow gotten his hands on a Time-Turner, the ragtag team of Death Eaters travels not to when Harry was a baby, but to Harry’s first year at Hogwarts in order to kill him off—a minor nitpick I’m more than willing to glaze over considering how the rest of the musical plays out.

What results is basically a play parodying the third and fifth entries of the series and having them take place in the first book’s timeline, similar to what the last musical did with the second, fourth, sixth and seventh books taking place in Harry’s second year. In a nutshell, the first and third books were like the black sheep of the series—the third with its use of time-travel and the fifth with it acting as one long filler—so it makes sense for these parts of the story to be skipped in the first musical.

To my enjoyment, the cast from the previous play (minus characters that haven’t shown up yet and plus characters that do) return in all their glory. And since this is the main cast’s first year at Hogwarts, it acts as an origin story of sorts, with the play giving its own humorous take on how the main trio and the rest of the cast came to be introduced to the series. The friendship formed between Harry and Ron, as inaccurate is it is at times, rings true on a different level that all inaccuracies can be glossed over. And the fact that Hermione serves only as the two’s tag-along friend when convenient is like a pie to the face to works out there similarly build around the trio of friends going through school life. In that sense, the friendships portrayed here are more real than those shown in other works because it pokes fun at the hardships as well as achievements the trio goes through. Parodies are fun that way.

Also following the apparent positive feedback from the first musical was that of the gender-bending. When I first saw that Malfoy was played by a woman, I was more entertained than disgusted, though, especially since practically every line s/he spoke was downright hilarious. The same holds here, as the spoiled female Draco is back with an even bigger role than I could have expected. Not only is the actress easy on the eyes (admittedly the one reason why I didn’t mind all the Draco/Hermione shipping moments) but the way she portrays Draco as a sort of to-be man-child, with her constant gripes about toilet training and insecurities with his father work completely for the character.

But when I first saw that book five’s baddie, Dolores Umbridge was portrayed by a man, I had some mixed feelings. In general, I can’t say I like the Order of the Phoenix in either book or movie form since it shoves Voldemort over to the backseat to the mini-boss that is Umbridge. And while she’s built up as a horrible person, that’s not the same as saying that she’s a force to be reckoned with, especially when we already know that the series’ main antagonist has already been resurrected and is making plans for evil whatevers in the future.

Thankfully, the liberties taken with her character, as well as shifting her in the timeline to before Voldemort’s resurrection boost up her evil-ness significantly. As for the gender-bending, Umbridge bears a striking backstory to Heavyweights Uncle Tony (as played by Ben Stiller) in that she directs all her anger on the students because she sees the failure that was her former self in every one of them, the insecure Hermione especially. And seriously, when you take a page from Heavyweights, that’s like an automatic grade-booster in my book.

Characters Lupin and Sirius also add to the mix, adding yet another bromance to deal with alongside Harry and Ron’s. Other character, however, Rita Skeeter’s especially just seem to be there, adding little to nothing to the table. Her old-time reporter shtick was entertaining for a full two seconds before I started to multi-task during her appearances.

The rest of the musical plays out swimmingly, with minor gripes I had with the first one taken care of and polished to perfection. The first time around, I’m sure having the musical put onto YouTube was a sort of post-production afterthought, since a majority of lines and the like were garbled out by music. This time, not only is the audio much clearer, but things like sound effects and varied camera angles are also used—minor things that you kinda miss when they’re taken away. The qualities of the songs themselves also seem to have been boosted up significantly. Perhaps it was the fact that I was watching the first musical during the school year, but half of the time whenever a character broke out into song, I found myself getting bored before the song was even finished. The sequel antes up (yeah, can you tell I’m running out of trite phrases?) making not only quality songs that fit each character perfectly, but also some alright choreography to accompany them—also a welcome addition to the only handful of dances in the first musical.

My only minor gripe with A Very Potter Sequel is its portrayal of (le gasp!) minorities. Yaxley and Dean Thomas, admittedly probably more than half of the black cast in the actual series, came off like how you’d expect any black person in a nineties sitcom—there to hive high fives, snide remarks, and swagger. Considering how they mocked series author J.K. Rowling’s depiction of Cho Chang (honestly, was that the best Asian name she could think up?) you’d think they’d come up with a similarly clever way to deal with Yaxley and Dean’s character. Second up are the homosexuals in the form of Dumbledore and quasi sidekick the Scarf of Sexual Preference. Coming from an all-boys’ high school, the casual use of sexuality jokes is nothing foreign to me, but it seemed like a good number of the time, the live audience watching during the musical’s filming just didn’t seem to get it. Diff’rent strokes all around, I guess.

As a whole, A Very Potter Sequel was something unexpectedly entertaining that definitely came during a time when abridged parodies, or at least good ones, were in dire need. The fact that everything was put to some jolly snarky music only made things that much better.

External Reference:
– StarKidPotter’s YouTube Channel (youtube.com)
– Very Potter Sequel Music List on StarKidPotter’s Live Journal (community.livejournal.com)

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