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'Potted Potter' sorely lacking in magic

Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner in "Potted Potter,"

Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner in "Potted Potter," a Harry Potter parody at the Little Schubert Theatre in Manhattan, May 9 through August 12, 2012. Credit: Geraint Lewis

Remember how amazed people were in the late '90s when children, who weren't supposed to like to read anymore, were suddenly hugging enormous hardcover tomes to their little chests and devouring the story of a young wizard-in-training named Harry Potter?

Remember how counterintuitive it seemed that, instead of waiting for the next new videogame, young people were breathlessly awaiting the next volume, and the next, and the next in what turned into a seven-book, eight-movie, coming-of-age franchise from the imagination of an English woman named J. K. Rowling?

Remember how she never talked down to her readers, who seemed to define childlike curiosity in a remarkably grown-up way?

Forget all that if you are duped into seeking out "Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience." This parody by two self-amused Brits advertises "all seven Harry Potter books in 70 hilarious minutes!" Dwarfed onstage at Off-Broadway's large Little Shubert Theatre, however, the overpriced sketch has almost nothing to do with the books and less about hilarity.

The nicest thing I can say about the infantilizing import is that, just maybe, it could be useful at a birthday party for 6-year-olds on a sugar high. Anyone smart enough to have read the books is already too smart for this.

Co-authors Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson skip around the stage wearing T-shirts and old jeans and a variety of dime-store wigs. Turner, allegedly the Potter expert, puts on black spectacles. Clarkson, who supposedly never read the books but pretends he did, has come up with a few pieces of scenery -- including a wardrobe from somebody else's epic and a sunny picture of a beach with "forbidden forest" scrawled across it.

Instead of Hogwarts, we get toy warthogs. Clarkson, who supposedly portrays bits of other characters, puts on an Annie wig to be Hermione and a long black beard to be, for no reason at all, Judi Dench. Games of Quidditch are played by tossing a beach ball around the audience. String and water are squirted.

The skit, which has toured the U.K. and Canada, began as street theater performed for fans lined up at midnight for the 2005 release of the sixth book. Clarkson and Turner have indeed been nominated for an Olivier, just not for this show.

WHAT "Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience"

WHERE Little Shubert Theatre 422 W. 42nd St., Manhattan

INFO $39.75-$69.75; 212-239-6 200;

BOTTOM LINE Birthday-party entertainment for maybe 6-year-olds

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