Something going viral has long been a thing, going as far back as when ICanHasCheezburger was still a thing and made the cat the tutelary deity of the internet. Usually it winds up being a stupid, overused meme in a short time, though some persist for a very long time. After all, the icon of 2016 was a dead gorilla. Other times it’s just a short, potato-quality video of something mildly interesting that gets shared over and over again on Facebook. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s something really, really cool. In this case, we need to go back almost eight years, to April 2009. It was then that a small group of students at the University of Michigan wrote a Harry Potter parody. The subsequent performance of the script was recorded in its entirety and put on the internet for all to see (after some editing to make it a bit more kid-friendly). “A Very Potter Musical” became known to the world and quickly established StarKid Productions as one of my favourite community theatres. Which is not saying a lot, because it’s pretty much the only one I know, but hey. They’re good. Shut up.
The StarKids have since then produced several more plays (including two follow-ups to their first Harry Potter musical), each of them in their typical comedic style, as well as publishing all of them on YouTube for free. Which is great for me and all their other fans, since they don’t tour in Europe, or almost anywhere for that matter. Their first few productions were all shown solely at the University of Michigan, while some time later they moved on to the stages of Chicago to show off their skills. It’s a bit of a bummer that the quality (of the video, NOT of the writing itself, which is top-notch) of their Potter musical uploads to YouTube isn’t exactly the greatest, considering it’s their most succesful series, but it sure beats never getting to see it at all. All of their other shows usually have good quality though, both visually and content-wise, though you never really have to worry about the latter when it comes to StarKid.
What StarKid does, is bringing musical comedies. So expect a lot of singing, of course, but also quite a few laughs. They write their own original script and music, parodying pop culture phenomenons like Harry Potter (duh), superheroes and Disney-related material. In addition, they usually produce a CD with the soundtrack for each play, since the songs are obviously a big part of their work. A short overview of their works, in chronological order:
A Very Potter Musical: their first and most famous work. It uses material from many of the books and movies, weaving most of them sorta in one big story line dealing with Harry’s fight against the Dark Lord. It’s chockfull of references to the typicalities, oddities and quirks in the movies and books (it’s a parody after all), while itself also established a huge amount themselves, including ‘Pigfarts’, ‘Granger Danger’ and ‘Zac Efron posters’. Voldemort and his bromance with Quirrel, Draco being… dapper, … it might all feel a bit Tumblresque, but you’ll be in for a good time. I hope, for your sake at least.
Me and my Dick: not exactly a parody, except of maybe puberty itself. The protagonist’s best friend is his dick, represented by a separate actor. It’s kinda weird, kinda cute, but a mostly fun.
A Very Potter Sequel: the follow-up to the first, it uses some of the book-and-movie material they didn’t use in the first, involving time turners, Lucius Malfoy, Lupin and Umbridge. It’s possibly my personal favourite because of how Umbridge is represented. She’s a bit more… buff than what you’re used to. If the first Potter musical didn’t have Voldemort, this would definitely be the winner. Incidentally, both the roles are played by the same actor. Once again, this production provided their own few quotable lines and characters like Scarfy, Draco’s true parentage and one fabulous Firenze.
Starship: as you can imagine, it’s a sci-fi themed play. On an alien planet, a human starship arrives, much to the interest of the giant bug inhabitants’ interest, particularly that of protagonist Bug who wishes to become a Starship Ranger. It’s a bit of an odd one, because it uses a lot of puppets. I’m not a huge fan of such a style, with the ‘invisible’ black-clad actors operating the puppets. I’m not saying that full-sized costumes would’ve been a better idea, I just can’t unsee the puppeteers which detracts me from the actual play. But hey, that’s just a personal opinion. All the rest is, as usual, close to perfection.
Holy Musical B@man!: a parody of the DC Universe. It deals with Batman trying to find a friend, taking in Robin as a sidekick and his beef with Superman. Like Batman v Superman, but actually enjoyable. It includes a lot of the villains of the DC comics, excluding The Joker who has been replaced by an original character named Sweet Tooth. It might help to actually have some good knowledge of DC villains, otherwise some of the jokes might fly straight past you.
A Very Potter Senior Year: the third and final instalment, the recording was done at LeakyCon in 2012. It was a live reading of the script, so you actually see the actors with their papers in hand on stage, which takes some getting used to. There’s a special guest appearance in it which I won’t spoil. Once again, the plot uses elements of the books and movies that weren’t used yet, with the Chamber of Secrets being the most prominent.
Twisted: outside the Potter musicals, my absolute favourite. It tells, like its secondary title, the untold story of a royal vizier. Jafar has always been my favourite Disney villain and this productions brings a sort of origin story on how Jafar became so… twisted, his actions for the city going ignored or ridiculed because the Sultan is inept and Jasmine is a spoiled brat. It makes the villain much more sympathetic, maybe even too much, while Aladdin becomes the utmost of douches. Jafar is no longer just a villain in the story, far from it. It’s a gripe I had with the movie “Maleficent” where she is just not Maleficent at all. Maleficent isn’t supposed to be likeable. “Twisted” is, of course, just a fun stage production and it’s not like I’m bothered by Jafar’s reimagining. A parody is nothing like a revised origin story. There’s also a part where other Disney villains join in song with Jafar, telling their own version on how they became Twisted.
The Trail to Oregon: the only production I haven’t seen yet, so I can’t tell much about it. I’m not even sure what’s it about, but my guess would be it parodies the game “Oregon Trail”. Just a wild guess though.
Ani: a parody of Star Wars (Ani being short for Anakin) where Darth Vader is a little less intimidating than his movie counterpart. It’s mostly about the early doings of the Empire, including Tarkin (pre-Grand Moff) and the Emperor. It also includes Mara Jade and Jar Jar Binks (evil or not, I won’t tell). There’s also a pod-racing sequence which is a must-see.
Firebringer: Ok, I lied. There’s two plays of StarKid Productions I haven’t seen yet. Firebringer is the most recent musical of the StarKids, being released on YouTube on December 31 of 2016, only a few days before I am writing this. It’s a female-fronted play in a prehistoric setting. Like the title suggests, the story is about the discovery of fire as well as other inventions. Or so Wikipedia tells me. There were a few teasers and interviews before the release as well, which provided me with some background as what to expect, I just can’t confirm anything until I’ve actually watched it. Which will happen, after I’m done with Westworld.
The cast of Team StarKid has its comings and goings, old members leaving, new members coming in and some just in it for a one time gig. But there’s a central core of regulars and a few prominent figures I’ll briefly talk about. If there is something as ‘brief’ when it comes to me talking about something.
First of all, I’ve mentioned a few times how the writing is nothing short of excellent. We have a few people to thank for that, but mostly Matt Lang, Nick Lang and Brian Holden. Matt Lang has also been the director of most of the plays. Nick Lang had some small roles in some of the plays, including Arthur Weasley, Peter Pettigrew, Robin and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Brian Holden had some more prominent roles: Lupin, Hagrid, Superman and Jar Jar Binks. Nick, Matt and Brian are the actual founders of StarKid productions, together with a fourth person, who became even more famous outside the world of StarKid. I am talking about Darren Criss who you might know as ‘that guy from Glee’. It was also Criss who was responsible for most of the songs and music in the first few StarKid productions. Harry Potter was the only role he played during his time at StarKid.
Joey Richter is another actor who found some success outside of StarKid. He is best known for playing Ron Weasley in the Potter musicals, but can also be seen in “School of Thrones” as Theon Greyjoy and “Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party“, two other internet series, and voiced Hong Li in Legend of Korra, a character nobody remembers, but hey, it’s Legend of Korra, so I have to mention it.
Dylan Saunders plays Jafar. And Dumbledore. That alone is enough to warrant a place on this list of mine. Because his Jafar is just… excellent.
Meredith Stepien is someone who started out as more of a background character in StarKid’s plays, but got the role of Hermione in the third Potter musical after the original actress left. She also played Sherrezade, the main narrator in Twisted and is one of writers for “Firebringer” as well as having a leading role in it.
Jim Povolo is most literally the biggest star of StarKid, standing a head taller than most of his fellow actors. He also has a deep voice, making him an excellent choice for more intimidating roles like Gregory Goyle, Firenze and Mr. Freeze. He’ll be someone you’ll remember if you watch him play, I’m sure.
Lauren Lopez. Aaaaah, Lauren… If you somehow get to read this, call me <3. Her best known role is Draco Malfoy, if you’ve seen even but a little bit of Draco in any of the Potter musicals, you’ll know why I’m a huge fan of her. Tumbling, dancing and the way she delivers Draco’s lines is just marvelous. It’s no wonder that many of the quotes linked to the Potter musicals come from either her, or the next person.
Joe motherfucking Walker. I’ll be honest, I don’t think the StarKid musicals wouldn’t be nearly as good if it wasn’t for him. He played Voldemort. He played Umbridge. He played Batman, the Dick, Prince Achmed and Tarkin, all of them easily among the best parts in their respective musicals. You can’t forget about any of the characters he played even if you tried. He. Is. Awesome. Every role he plays, he nails it. Seriously, give that man an Oscar. I’ll steal one if I have to. Inappropriately sexy Voldemort. Need I say more?
Writing the script is one thing, and an important one, of course, but it all falls flat when they aren’t delivered like they should. That’s where Lauren Lopez and Joe Walker come in. They can both hook me up, really. Not that it’ll be a good conversation, probably. I’ll just be too star(kid)struck to say anything. I’m getting flustered just by thinking about it. Oh god, Tumblr might be getting to me.
Besides their work for Team StarKid, many of the prominent names have other projects going on. Other kinds of stage work, directing their own projects, … Jim Povolo even has his own band, with some of the StarKid cast as other members. The music group is called Jim and the Povolos which is the best. name. ever.
This blog was brought to you by: Team StarKid – Twisted