Review by Alyssa Rose, Mercy McAuley Critic Team
Filled with wizards, monsters, unlikely heroes, and plenty of magic; Saint Ursula Academy's production of Matt Cox's, Puffs: or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic, was a great way to escape to a different world.
The Harry Potter parody, Puffs, is a cooky depiction of the events at Hogwarts through the lens of the often-forgotten Hufflepuffs, or Puffs. Following the characters Wayne Hopkins, Oliver Rivers, and Megan Jones, who are all but excited to be dubbed puffs, we discover that sometimes being brave or smart is not the most important thing.
Saint Ursula Academy's production was centered by world-building lighting design, detail-oriented props, and the casts' dedication to their characters. All these elements combined allowed for a completely immersive experience that drew the audience in the moment they sat down.
Each character was brought to life by incredibly versatile students. One of which being Lily Anderson, who displayed character growth over a seven-year period as Wayne Hopkins seemingly with ease. Paired with Brady Rodgers' lovable Oliver Rivers, and Emily Lamping's angsty Megan Jones, these three made an unstoppable friendship trio. Guiding us through their antics as the Narrator, Anya Sperber's ability to transition between different comedic lenses made her performance all the more interesting. Many impressive students, such as Molly Fisher, who embodied multiple roles including Xavia Jones and the second headmaster, were able to bring personality to each character they played, simplifying the task of differentiating between them.
The moment the audience arrived, they were greeted by a very festive lobby including Puffs merchandise, "butter beverages", and plant-themed decorations. Saint Ursula Academy's Publicity Crew did a fantastic job of drawing the audience in, even before the show began. When it began, the lighting crew, consisting of Kamaria Black, Julia Koch, and Moira Seger; created an obvious mood with each scene through their use of the cyclorama. Sound technicians Cate Bethel and Valentine Molloy added to this immersive experience with magical sound effects. Paired with detailed props and costumes, the technological elements of this show made for a captivating experience.
From the energetic ensemble, dedicated actors, to the detailed and thoughtful technological aspects, Saint Ursula Academy's production of Puffs brought their audience into a separate world. Whether the audience had knowledge of Harry Potter before this performance or not, anyone could feel the magic in this production.
Review by Sophia Rooksberry, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
With a dramatic flick of the wrist, St. Ursula Academy's rendition of "Puffs" transported an audience full of Muggles into a world of mates, magic, and mischief. Inspired by the acclaimed Harry Potter series, Puffs tells the story of The Boy Who Lived from the perspective of those in the background, the unfalteringly positive and often overlooked house of the Puffs. Through a thoughtful interpretation of Matt Cox's fast-paced script and the artful cohesion of performers and designers, St. Ursula Academy's production bolstered the value of undying loyalty and friendship above all else.
The leading trio of Wayne Hopkins, Oliver Rivers, and Megan Jones, portrayed by Lily Anderson, Brady Rodgers, and Emily Lamping respectively, paid a satisfying homage to the original Harry Potter trio while bringing their own flair to the dynamic. Anderson gave a convincingly naïve performance as the unnoticed boy who wants nothing more than to bring glory to the Puffs. Supporting him through his journey were Rodgers and Lamping, as the supportive sidekick and as a tough love enthusiast. Despite the multiple dynamics of the group, these three always brought out the best in each other and electrified the stage as they braved the difficulties of sorcerous teenagerdom together.
Lending another facet to the show was Lucinda Hittle as Cedric and Mr. Voldy. The juxtaposition of Hittle's performance as the charismatic head of the Puffs to her portrayal of the Dark Lord caricature demonstrated her versatility. Hittle tuned in to the fundamental traits of each of these characters while adding her own definitive touch, making her performance one of the most memorable of the show. Another character contrast was the performance of Momo Greenwell as Xavia Jones, Megan's wicked mother. Her seamless transitions between pure evil and powerful remorse allowed the audience to sympathize with the brainwashed servants of Mr. Voldy (something few Harry Potter fans have ever considered).
The lighting crew of St. Ursula bathed the stage in various hues that suited pivotal moments, demonstrating a level of professionalism that greatly enhanced the production. In addition, the deliberately consistent use of the four Hogwarts house colors proved a thorough understanding of the script. Some of the show's best moments were the references to 90s pop culture, examples of which can be found in the sound design. By setting the main battle scene to the score of a 90s coming-of-age film and following every deduction of points with video game sound effects, the sound cues amplified some of the more hilarious tropes of the show.
The story of Puffs is peppered with life lessons, all of which were eloquently exemplified by the company at St. Ursula Academy. Of all the lessons, the most resonant, and by far the best illustrated, is to never underestimate those that are kind.
Review by Michelle Nie, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
What is the best part about being a Puff? Besides being close to the kitchens, it is the passion of performance put forth by Saint Ursula Academy's production of Puffs, Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.
Puffs follows the story of Wayne Hopkins, an American student who finds himself in the magical land of England at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. A spoof of Harry Potter, there are four houses, and Puffs showcases the misfits and outcasts in the Puffs house. Lo and behold, Wayne is sorted into The Puffs. Throughout his seven years at school, Wayne makes friends with the other outcasts and always finds himself at odds with a certain boy who lived.
The role of Wayne Hopkins was wonderfully played by sophomore Lily Anderson, who perfectly captured the changing attitudes of the character throughout the show. The supporting roles of Oliver Rivers and Megan Jones were played by senior Brady Rodgers and junior Emily Lamping. These two offered very different performances with Rodgers encapsulating the awkwardness of a young teenager at a new school and Lamping perfectly executing an emotionally deep character with a troubled past. Other standouts were senior Lucinda Hittle as Cedric/Mr. Voldy and Katy Kendall as J Finch and others. Both actresses served as fantastic comic relief and seamlessly became their respective characters.
The technical team of Puffs is to be commended for an outstanding show and the lighting design was nothing short of a spectacle. With constant lighting changes and quick flashes, this was a challenging task that the crew executed beautifully. The publicity and marketing crew created an outstanding lobby display resulting in a multi-dimensional audience experience. Walking into the auditorium lobby felt like walking into an extension of the show.
The cast and crew of Puffs put on a phenomenal show and truly showed the audience what it means to be a Puff. Puffs aren't afraid to take on a challenge; their philosophy of "third or nothing" is worthy of a promotion to "first or nothing."
Excerpts From Top Reviews
"Emily Lamping brought doubt to the infallibility of the Sorting Hat with her angsty portrayal of outsider Megan Jones. Comedic timing was also not lost on Katy Kendall's hilarious J Finch, who's entrance always seemed to be filled with a colorful personality that was sure to get a chuckle."
Jackie Nichols, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"Saint Ursula's specific rendition illuminated the show's witty outgoing and outstanding details with care and passion. If this performance was to be described in one word, it would easily be, "energy". Every single member of this cast and crew infected their audience with attentiveness for each scene, character, and ad-lib. The heightened effort and energy of these actors, notably the unity in the Magical Ensemble, captivated the audience without offering a single dull moment. "
Avery Frank, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"The technical elements and precise timing that Saint Ursula's crew members carried out provided high production value that bolstered the cast. Lighting designers and operators Kamaria Black, Julia Koch, and Moira Seger perfectly matched the lighting cue to the actors' lines. The lighting wonderfully supplemented the demands of the scenes, such as the wand spells and stormy ambiance. Additionally, stage crew members Emma Thomas and Natalie Hein's efficient scene changes left no time to lose interest and maintained the pace of the show."
Piper Chatman, Taylor High School Critic Team
"Technical elements for this show were wonderful. Julia Beirnat, Gabrielle Plummer, Adrianna Luttmer, and Geraldina Jeronimo Simon transformed the lobby into a magical space with twinkling lights, black and yellow streamers, and adorable Puff-themed merchandise and concessions. Lights and sound were well designed, and cues were on time. A moment when light and sound really added to the show was when the Soul Sucking Security Guards entered, and creepy music played, and the lights turned red. It created suspense and an appropriately creepy mood."
Catherine Foster, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"The costume department of Kali Boeing, Meghan Donovan, Emma Handorf, and Mia Martinez, was also skilled and had costumes that made the quick changes, well, quick. The number of quick changes alone was impressive, and the costume crew did a fine job in designing them."
Clare Bohman, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"Though the majority of Puffs is very light-hearted, the character of Xavia Jones needs to be genuinely intimidating, which Momo Greenwell exceled at. She quickly raised the stakes, making it easy to believe she may actually do what she's threatening to. Lucinda Hittle, who played Cedric and Mr. Voldy, had great stage presence, and easily made Cedric a charismatic group leader, while also bringing great vocal work to Mr. Voldy. The Magic Ensemble also brought amazing energy to their performances, playing different characters, puppets, or magic object in almost every scene."
Lily Canter, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"Notably, the props design by Nora Bower, Sam DeKors, Avery Reid and Avery Somerville felt like wizardry unto itself, as broomsticks and textbooks (as well as several birds) seemed to be conjured out of thin air."
Owen Cummings, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team