Hogwarts returns to the University with StarKid's 'A Very Potter Sequel'

Courtesy of Chris Dzombak
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BY ADDIE SHRODES
Daily Arts Writer
Published May 9, 2010

Correction Appended: "A Very Potter Sequel" will show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m.

"A Very Potter Sequel"


Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m.
Studio One, Walgreen Drama Center
Free, standby only

Even as its members chat while lounging on apartment couches, the creative chemistry of Team StarKid pops. The group of past and present University students who run this theatrical production company fused together during their early moments in college, and their long shared history shows. As the StarKids discuss their highly anticipated “A Very Potter Sequel,” the jokes never cease to spark.

The idea for the original “A Very Potter Musical” ("AVPM") arose after years of the same sort of joking about the Harry Potter book series, but friends of brothers and writers Nick and Matt Lang never thought the parody musical would materialize.

After Matt Lang, a 2009 LSA graduate, spontaneously put up a poster for auditions last year, Basement Arts picked up the show, and the play was born.

Even though fans flooded Studio One to see the original Potter show, when the team uploaded the video to YouTube months later it was still shocked by the rapid fervid response.

“Without us even noticing, thousands and thousands of people started to watch this thing,” said Nick Lang, a 2008 graduate from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Act One, Part One of the original musical now has over 1.5 million YouTube hits, capturing fans from across the globe. The team was amazed because it didn’t intend for such a wide audience.

“So many of the things that are funny in the play are because they’re inside jokes,” said Bonnie Gruesen (Hermione), a 2010 School of Music, Theatre & Dance graduate and the producer of "AVPM." “There is so much to enjoy about the musical, obviously … but it was funny to be like, ‘Wow, these people are in on our inside jokes now.’ ”

In retrospect, the group members agrees the musical has drawn so much attention because it’s fresh and one-of-a-kind. It has a fully original script, score and take on Harry Potter characters. The musical follows Harry and his wizard friends’ journey through Hogwarts while twisting the novel's plot points for comedic effect.

The popularity of the musical quickly led Infinitus, a four-day Harry Potter fan and scholar conference to be held in Orlando this July, to invite the group to perform. The team decided the best thing to bring to Orlando would be a full-length sequel filmed at the University’s own Studio One. After embarking on another four-hour play, Team StarKid began to feel the pressure.

“Whenever you do something like this that is a cult hit, the tiniest cult hit that it is, you have to live up to not only what it actually was, but what people think that it is,” Nick said. “You remember it better than it was.”

The brothers adopted tactics so they would not fall into the conventional potholes that plague sequels. The jokes had to be completely different, and the story needed larger stakes and twistier turns.

“You have to come up with something that (the viewers) are not going to expect and that immediately throws off their guard so they’ll go, ‘All right, I don’t know where its going so let’s watch where it goes,’ ” Nick said.

But the team wanted to live up to the fans’ expectations while providing a whole new story to celebrate the books.

“We don’t want to let down those 20,000 people,” Nick said in reference to the core fan base. “And the thing is that those 20,000 people have been extremely nice to us, but they could be very mean.”

The Lang brothers, as well as fellow writer of both Potter musicals Brian Holden (a 2008 School of Music, Theatre & Dance graduate), are thoroughly satisfied with the final script. Without giving the plot away, they said the sequel adds new characters and draws heavily from the first, third and fifth books.

“It’s better than anything I thought we could have done,” Matt said.

Although the six-month writing process was taxing throughout, the team hopes the shows will be the opposite.

“It’s really the first time all of us will be in a room together since this thing has taken off, and I think it will be less stressful and more of just, ‘This is awesome,’ ” said Joey Richter (Ron Weasley), a senior in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

The main purpose of the live shows is to film the YouTube video to be launched in July. All of the free tickets for the 100-person theater have been reserved, but there will be a standby line.

While many of the friends have dispersed since "AVPM" last year, the original cast and crew gave themselves the name Team StarKid after their YouTube success so they could accept donations. The StarKid brand also produced the Basement Arts musical “Me and My Dick” last fall and the Web series “Little White Lie.” “A Very Potter Sequel” is another incarnation of their “last project together,” Matt said.

“When I did the original musical, I said, ‘This the last show I’ll ever do,’ and then I did two more, so it could very well change,” Matt explained.

While members will most likely move on from StarKid to individual careers, prospects look hopeful due to the success of their productions.

“We’ve got industry people paying attention, and really that’s how you start out,” Nick Lang said. “It’s helped our reputation; it’s technically hurt our careers, because we’ve spent all of our money. But your reputation is gold.”

The team consistently hears from admirers that it makes theater for its generation.

“Although our teachers don’t know how to do it, they know we know how to do it,” Gruesen explained. “It’s exciting that we get to make theater for our friends and our friends’ friends.”

Jamie Lyn Beatty (Ginny Weasley), who graduated from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance this spring, agrees that StarKid takes theater in a modern direction.

“It is a new form of theater because it’s so self-conscious,” Beatty said. “So many of the scenes in the musical make fun of the fact that there is an audience or that the props are made of cardboard, and there’s something really charming about that for an audience to witness.”

No matter what StarKid members pursue, they will bring with them the optimism and positivity that has surrounded their productions thus far.

“It’s easy to be pessimistic because it’s easy to find ways the world sucks — the world kind of does suck,” Matt said. “But it’s hard to find truthful reasons to think about something in an optimistic way.”

After all of the Potter shows’ parodic plot spirals, Matt hopes the show will coax smiles from viewers in the end.

“We always want to end up with something that makes you feel good."