Last week our correspondent Alyssa was able to attend Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic in New York City. PUFFS takes a second look at everyone’s favorite world of wizards through the eyes of the Puffs, a lovable group of magical misfits. The full company features Langston Belton, Madeleine Bundy, Jessie Cannizzaro, Nick Carrillo, A.J. Ditty, Julie Ann Earls, James Fouhey, Andy Miller, Zac Moon, Eleanor Philips and Stephen Stout.

Warning: some mild spoilers within. Disclaimer: the reviewer is a Hufflepuff herself, and may be liable for some bias.

Since the advent of Pottermore, Hufflepuffs have had a surge in popularity. Originally framed as the ‘leftover’ house by the author and Potter fans alike, Hufflepuffs have recently been recognized and lifted up for their unglamorous but very worthy identifying traits.

Puffs is a comic retelling of Harry’s stretch of time at Hogwarts from the ‘puff perspective. In the course of the show, writer Matt Cox acknowledges both sides of the Hufflepuff coin: the fluffy, “nice” side (that may be a little clueless) as well as the loyal, fair, and hardworking side. Puffs shows us that whatever side you land on, you’ll find a Hufflepuff hero.

This hero is Wayne Hopkins (Zac Moon), an orphan raised in America after his parents died in a freak chocolate frog accident (don’t ask). He’s not particularly good at magic, nor is he bold, nor ruthless. He may not have what it takes to be a Smart, a Brave, or a Snake, but he is fresh-faced and earnest, which lands him square in Puff territory. Wayne assembles a rag-tag trio of his own with fellow American Oliver Rivers (Langston Belton), a bespectacled math savant who’s now “just a beginner level wizard”, and Megan Jones (Julia Ann Earls), a goth girl whose purple streaks and deep identification with the Snakes evoke the notorious Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way of the infamous Harry Potter fanfic My Immortal.

Led by a Tim Curry-esque narrator (A.J. Ditty), we follow Wayne through seven eventful years of dramatic irony–er, magical schooling. Wayne rubs elbows with Harry, Ron, and Hermione; crushes on Ginny; finds a mentor in golden boy, model Puff, and dreamboat Cedric Diggory (James Fouhey); indulges his own fifth-year angst; and eventually pulls it together to realize that heroism is an action, not an identity. Puffs never lets us forget that the smallest decisions–good and bad–can change the course of the future.

Puffs is double-and-triple cast, with the ensemble of eleven playing nearly four times as many characters with skill, enthusiasm, and variety. The group is tightly choreographed regarding their movement, special effects, and costume changes. Particular highlights include Nick Carillo’s interpretation of Zacharias Smith as a fratty dickhead, a sex ed class by a certain greasy-haired professor (Stephen Stout), and Madeleine Bundy’s adorably vacant Harry Potter.

In this telling, the Puffs are the ones who get to be complex and varied and heroic: the other houses are boiled down to their simplest in the way Hufflepuff has often been. Fans of the original series will appreciate jokes about the logic of the books (and sometimes the lack thereof) and the presentation of the movies, including a sudden change of headmaster mid-show. The better you know the source material, the harder you’ll laugh (and aw, and get misty). Be prepared for delightfully 1990s-appropriate clothes, music, and props (as it happens, Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” is an apt Hufflepuff anthem).

Puffs is laugh-out-loud funny and, to this reviewer’s surprise, cry-out-loud heartrending. At the end of the day, being a Puff is not about glory, recognition, or everyone knowing your name. Being a Puff might just mean that those who do know your name will hold it in their hearts forever.

Puffs is playing now through the end of the year at The Elektra Theater (300 W. 43rd Street, second floor); Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30pm. http://www.

Filed Under: Other Potter Related, Review