When Daniel Clarkson came up with a little show called "Potted Potter," he never imagined it would last 10 years.
"I didn't think it would last 10 minutes," he said.
In fact, that first version of "Potted Potter" only lasted five minutes. Clarkson and his best friend/co-writer Jefferson Turner performed their version of the first five "Harry Potter" books in five minutes in a tiny theater in London.
"I thought that was it," Clarkson said. "And then we took it to the Edinburgh Festival up in Scotland and played to a house of 60 people and I thought that was it. And then we got to the West End and we had ads on the tube and I thought that was it."
Then there was a little tour of England, and another that took them to places like New York and Toronto. Eventually Clarkson realized the little show had some staying power.
Now they're bringing the show to Florida for the first time. It will be at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for five shows beginning Friday.
That five-minute show about five books, which was all that had been published when the show started, has been expanded into a 70-minutes show about all seven books in the "Potter" series.
"Jeff plays Harry Potter," Clarkson said, "and I play all the other 360 characters. When you see a 6-foot-5 guy playing Hermione Granger, that's worth the price in itself."
The show pokes fun at the books, he said, but it's also "a loving homage," because both Clarkson and Turner genuinely love the books.
But you don't have to know anything about Harry Potter to love the show, Clarkson said. He and Turner are constantly editing the piece so they can poke fun at current pop culture. They long ago removed a reference to Rihanna's "Umbrella" and recently added some nods to the film "Whiplash."
The show's been getting rave reviews wherever it goes, and it earned a nomination for an Olivier Award, the British equivalent of a Tony.
Even JK Rowling, the author of the "Potter" books, seems to be a fan of the show, though Clarkson said he and Turner are in frequent contact with her lawyers.
The most ardent "Harry Potter" fans love the show, but Clarkson said he has had some interesting interactions. There were stoner fans in Toronto who though "Potted Potter" was about Harry Potter on cannabis. ("Potted" is a British colloquialism meaning "condensed" or "abridged.") And there are the "Potter" fans who show up in costume and are eager to point out anything they find inaccurate or disrespectful.
"They come with their magic wands," Clarkson said. "And even though their wands can't do magic, if you put a wand somewhere where a wand's not supposed to it can be quite unpleasant."
Details: March 13-15, Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25.50-$79.50 plus service charge and up. Information: 813-229-7827, strazcenter.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.