A magic-infused comedy coming to the Missoula Community Theatre stage is sure to be entertaining to fans and non-fans of a well-known wizarding world.
The play was originally performed off-Broadway and is called, “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.” But the show is most commonly referred to as “Puffs.”
The show follows the story, written by Matt Cox, of a handful of magical students, or “Puffs,” through seven years of their magical education. While other magical students are going above and beyond, the Puffs are just trying to get through school and keep their grades up. There is also a subplot related to a particular dark lord.
“It really ends up just being a heartwarming story about friendship,” said Jasmine Sherman, the director of the play. “And about how not everyone has to accomplish these grand things in life to have a meaningful life.”
This is Sherman’s debut as a director for the Missoula Community Theatre, but she is no stranger to directing and theater. She is also the founder of MissCast Productions, which is a local nonprofit aimed at creating space for a more diverse community of artists in the Missoula area. Sherman has directed a number of plays for MissCast as well as performed and directed for other venues around Missoula.
“Puffs” is very obviously a knock-off of a beloved classic, but due to copyright laws, mentions of the famous book series are often tangential and “The Boy Who Lived” is never referred to by his full name.
Beating around the bush however, adds to the comedic effect and indeed, the play is a fully-fledged and fast-paced comedy. The set, props and costumes enhance the comedy as well and were designed to look like they were somewhat hodgepodged together, Sherman said. The costumes were designed in-house and will be vaguely reminiscent of standard wizarding school attire.
“They [the costumes] are incredibly unique,” Sherman said. “Every character has a lot of really cool items that definitely aren’t something you may have seen before.”
It is also not for kids, Sherman said. It was given a PG-13 rating due to an ample amount of cursing and sexual innuendos. Although it is a story about teenagers coming of age in a strange and magical world, it is written by adults for adults.
The cast is made up of 15 Missoula locals, a few of which have been part of Missoula Community Theatre shows in the past. But this month’s show will also be a debut for a handful of the actors and actresses as well.
“It’s kind of an eclectic group of people,” Sherman said. “A bit of a melting pot of all the different performers around town here.”
But the play was written to include 50 different characters, which means that a single cast member might be playing anywhere between two and 10 characters. The show’s script is also not set in stone and leaves room for plenty of improvisation as well. One entire monologue gets improvised every performance so each audience will be getting a unique version of the play.
The original book series, while a timeless and cherished children’s classic, has been met with controversy in the past few years following transphobic comments made by the series’ author.
But the cast is diverse and non-traditional.
“I love the fact that we are getting to reclaim the story from our childhoods and make it more up-to-date,” Sherman said. “The fact that we are able to relive the nostalgia and tell a new story that does not financially benefit that author is, I think, a great thing.”