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23rd March 2022

A Very Potter Musical: Review and interview with the director (UMMTS)

Harriet McDonald reviews UMMTS’ A Very Potter Musical at the Students Union and interviews the musical’s director, Sophie Beake
A Very Potter Musical: Review and interview with the director (UMMTS)
Photo: Maya Blandy.

Interview of A Very Potter Musical

The UMMTS has really cast a spell on its audience with its creative, crude and out-right hilarious take on StarKid’s ‘A Very Potter Musical.’

Based on the 2009 StarKid production of the same name, A Very Potter Musical is a witty and clever parody based on several of the Harry Potter novels. It tells the story of the eponymous protagonist and his friends’ return to Hogwarts, his participation in the House Cup Championship, and the return of the Dark Lord (he-who-must-not-be-named), all whilst dealing with the trials and tribulations of adolescent life.

Walking to the SU theatre in Storm Franklin was in itself like a Defence Against the Dark Arts, but this certainly not deter the lively, eagerly awaiting Potterheads, with the second of four sold-out audiences filling the auditorium and nostalgically marvelling at the inventive and hysterical set design. The backdrop of bookshelves really epitomised the somewhat dark and brilliant humour of the play with hand-painted book titles reading things like “Transphobia 101 by J.K Rowling” and “50 shades of Harry by Albus Dumbledore”.

The play opened up with an obligatory Nancy Rothwell and J.K Rowling joke before breaking almost straight into the first song, ‘Goin back to Hogwarts.’ The energy accumulated throughout the first half with a surprise, yet fabulous, ‘WAP’ performance from Albus Dumbledore himself, and coming to its climax with an amazing tap number – this cast really are the definition of a ‘triple threat.’

The casting for the musical as a whole was nothing short of perfection, with each character being a perfect balance of true to film whilst also dramatised for the purposes of the parody. The guitar-playing, ‘too-cool-for-school’ take on Harry, played by Xavier Moras Spencer, was refreshing and ingenious, whilst the snack-loving, sister-hating personality of Ron, played by Charlie Steggall, was hilarious.

The spirit only strengthened in Act two and got even more laughs and interaction from the audience. With awesome one liners and funny in-jokes, it is a musical for huge fans and muggles a like. Perhaps some of the most surprising things to come from the play is how you cannot avoid falling in love with the charming, codependent (literally) friendship between Voldemort and Quirrel and to find out that, much like myself, Dumbledore has an aggressive crush on long-hair-era Harry Styles.

Photo: Maya Blandy.

Interview with Sophie Beake

After the show, I sat down with debut Director of UMMTS’ A Very Potter Musical Sophie Beake, for an exclusive interview on the BTS scoop and feelings ahead of another sold-out night.

When asked how Sophie had found directing the show, and debut directing at that, she said, “it has been really good. A good challenge and I have loved every minute. Working with the cast especially, everyone is really lovely, and we all get on really well.” This is certainly apparent to the audience during the performance, with the abundant on-stage chemistry really helping to add to the energy of the show.

I was also interested to know how the team had found operating and organising such a show during the resurgence of COVID and limbo of restrictions.

“It has definitely been difficult. We were hit with the plague about two weeks ago so there were a lot of frantic, last-minute rehearsals, making sure everybody is healthy but fortunately everybody is okay for show week, and we are all back together again, which is amazing.”

Aware of the buzz surrounding the show, I encouraged Sophie to revel in her glory: “Yes, it has been a sell-out every single night, and we actually have a waiting list to get tickets, which is pretty exciting. 120 seats a night!”

I was intrigued to hear about how Sophie and UMMTS were planning on riding on the back of this success.

“The next production is ‘Company’, and then the one after that is ‘A New Brain. ‘Company’ is currently being rehearsed, and that will be on at the end of March; things move very fast.” Sophie confessed that she “isn’t actually involved in ‘Company’”, but she assured me that the production is in safe hands and will be another hit for UMMTS.

To round off the interview, I asked the clichéd question, “What was your highlight of working on AVPM?”. Sophie responded, “I think all the very intense rehearsals. Although they may sound very contradictory, rehearsals mean that everybody gets to know each other quicker and it is just so fun to work under pressure and create a show. Especially because it is a show that had to be written, we partly wrote the script, and it has been orchestrated by an amazing orchestrator. So, I think that seeing everyone’s work come together has just been the greatest part of it all.”

Head to UMMTS’ linktree to find out more!

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