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REVIEW: "Puffs" by Villanova Players Theatre

Villanova Players Theatre transported us on a hilarious journey through seven magical years at a certain school of wizardry, where magical kids are sorted into groups - a bit like horoscopes for wizards. At this school you can find  'the braves', 'the smarts', 'the snakes', and 'everyone else with no discernible personality’. 

We meet Wayne, an Aussie bloke from Beenleigh, who finds himself sorted into the Puffs house in the same year that a certain "boy who lived" is sorted into the Braves. This show is a must-see for Harry Potter fans as it's packed with references that only faithful fans would fully appreciate. As a millennial fangirl of the Wizarding World I found myself in stitches for most of the show, often shedding tears of laughter; as if it were one big inside joke between the cast and the audience. 

The show delves into the untold tales of students trying to survive amidst the backdrop of the school's more renowned heroes. Wayne forges bonds with a quirky bunch of misfits in the Puffs house. Among them, the charismatic Cedric portrayed wonderfully by Sam Connolly, who also delivers a surprising turn as Voldemort in Act 2. Jackson Paul’s portrayal of Wayne from age 11 to 17 is a delightful journey, capturing the character's struggles with learning magic, adolescent angst, and his quest to forge lasting friendships. His comedic timing and natural acting ability imbue Wayne with authenticity, complemented well by Jeremy Hales' portrayal of the nerdy and nervous Oliver.

The cast's ability to ad-lib lines added an extra layer of humour, showcasing their quick wit and comedic talent. Their physicality, prop work, and skill in embodying multiple characters with distinct accents and traits were truly impressive. While each member shone in their respective roles, certain actors stood out to me. Dominic Bradley, as J. Finch/Zach Smith (and many small character appearances), had the audience in stitches with every line. His seamless transformation from timid and sweet Justin Finch to the rough-and-ready Zach Smith was pure comedic gold, highlighting his remarkable versatility with character work. These quick-change transformations never failed to delight. Even "Harry Potter" disappearing for a mere five seconds and returning as Susan Bones sans wig left us all cracking up. Hannah Martin's portrayal of Susan Bones/Harry Potter was particularly impressive, with sassy Harry's chaotic appearances eliciting much laughter. Priya Shah, as the narrator, engaged with the audience effortlessly, adding to the show's intimate atmosphere by connecting with the audience to make me feel as if I were listening to a friend.

Despite the lack of microphones, the cast did a commendable job projecting their voices to ensure we caught all the hilarious dialogue. A friendly reminder to some actors: facing the front or corners instead of the sides helps with audibility, ensuring we don't miss a single joke. While not every joke landed, which may be attributed to the script or direction, the show's parody nature invites you to cringe and laugh at its witty absurdity. One drawback was the show's length, which stretched beyond comfort. The tongue-in-cheek joke about a five-hour journey through seven years at Hogwarts wasn't far off the mark. Despite this, my smile lasted for the entire play!


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