This past Saturday at the LeakyCon conference in Chicago, Team StarKid performed ‘A Very Potter 3D: A Very Potter Senior Year’ for the first and probably the last time – and we were there! Some of our predictions came true, and we’re going to give you every possible detail that we can without outright spoiling you.
Firstly, our top five predictions:
1. The plot will draw from the canon of Chamber of Secrets.
No comment. Telling you the plot would be spoiling the whole thing outright! But keep this in mind: the show has been written – changed, but written, for a very long time. There is content in it that was meant to be in the very first show and was cut. Several members of StarKid, especially the Lang brothers, have spoken in interviews about the content of the third Potter show – possibly when they thought that putting it on was not a possibility – and there is definitely some content in there that they have spoken about before. Go find those interviews – they’re on YouTube – and mine them for nuggets of information and you might get an idea of some of the show.
2. Evanna Lynch will cameo as Dobby.
Wrong – but as you may have seen on Twitter, Evanna was in the show. She actually played Luna in all the Hogwarts scenes, which we cannot believe was allowed by Warner Bros, but it was very fun.
3. The Lang brothers will provide running commentary.
Wrong – but close! Team StarKid had professional voice actor Bob Joles, who is the husband of their talent agent Pat Brady, reading the stage directions and scene changes. This proved to be very funny and the cast broke the fourth wall, interacting with him and telling him off at certain points.
4. Meredith Stepien will play Hermione.
Correct. She did. This is a pretty big casting spoiler and we will not be giving any new casting spoilers, but seeing as the original Hermione, Bonnie Gruesen, tweeted about Meredith doing the show, we think we can give you this one. She did a great job and the switchover included a joke very much like the one we predicted.
5. There won’t be any songs.
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, so wrong. We’re so happy to be wrong. The show featured songs written by A.J. Holmes, Clark Baxtresser, Pierce Siebers, Nick and Matt Lang, and Darren Criss. We’ll talk more about the music in a moment.
Here’s what happened…
The format of the show was really much closer to a full production than the reading that was originally promised. It was fully blocked and costumed – Corey Lubowich told us that there were over 75 costumes in the show – and included some basic choreography for some of the cast members who had a little more rehearsal time. Everybody carried scripts, but a lot of the cast were pretty much off-book and only held their scripts as to not make the less-rehearsed cast members stand out. It was the first time the group had been able to actually run the show in full, in order, and considering that it went incredibly smoothly, though of course there were a lot of hiccups that were noticed and laughed at, and probably many more that we didn’t realize were mistakes but that Team StarKid were flailing and cursing at behind the scenes. For example, because the show had not been run before, they did not have cues for the microphones, so all 30+ cast members had live mics the entire show. So we heard some backstage laughing, talking and other sounds that will definitely not make it onto Youtube!
The show was long. Very long – about four and a half hours in total. The first few scenes dragged a little, but as both the audience and the actors settled into the medium, the pace picked up and we were able to become very caught up in the show. What we’re officially allowed to say about the plot is this: that it’s Harry’s final year at Hogwarts, and after defeating Voldemort and all his lingering Death Eaters during the past few years, Harry is trying to find his place in a world that no longer needs him and no longer thinks he’s cool. A new character comes along who really salts the wound for the Boy Who Lived, as does a popularity contest with Draco Malfoy, and Harry tries to create for himself a new image and a fresh start instead of being the same old boring savior of Hogwarts. There’s also an interwoven plot told brilliantly in flashbacks, so you may see some characters that you’ve seen before and didn’t expect to see again. There are a few inconsistencies or forgotten ‘canon’ from the past Potter shows – what springs to mind most clearly is that they really didn’t have any interaction between Draco and Luna despite the fact that they got together at the end of A Very Potter Sequel when Luna was played by Arielle Goldman – but once we started really tuning into the show, not just what was happening onstage and the way it was being performed, but what was being said, what was written – the content is sheer brilliance.
This show was not slapped together for the sake of appeasing the fans – it’s just as funny, just as touching, just as rude, just as wrenching as the other Potter productions. The quality of the content is absolutely up to the standard of all other StarKid shows – they just simply did not have the time to give it the rehearsal it deserved. But what they pulled off in just one weekend simply goes to show how well these people work together, how much they can play off of one another and be in tune with one another in order to put on a show that really blew our expectations out of the water. We expected this to be pretty rough, and to forgive them for that because we all know the circumstances surrounding the limited timing. We were prepared to appreciate whatever they were able to give us and the fact that they were sharing this with us at all. We were not prepared for the near-perfect experience that it was. Yes, it was rough, and there were obvious mistakes or unrehearsed parts, but we were all prepared for that, so those moments became funny and charming, and something that will become a precious memory to everyone who was there, because it was real, and in the moment, and we all knew the deal and we all had their backs. The show that ends up going onto YouTube does have the possibility to run very cleanly – editing out pauses, filming from five cameras means that they have the possibility to cut away from people making mistakes to focus on other things in the scene – but we think the attendees will always cherish the opportunity to have seen the whole live show – warts, f-bombs and all.
A few MVPs: Chris Allen, who played three very different roles absolutely hysterically. Joe Walker, who brought his usual intense character work and strange vulnerability, as well as some killer dance moves. Joe Moses had a monologue that made us cry. Dylan Saunders had a monologue that made us cry. A.J. Holmes was flawless – running between playing his role, which was not minor, and playing in the band, and he had a speech which was possibly the funniest thing ever put into a StarKid show. He did it off-book and his delivery was just something we cannot wait for you to see – this scene has apparently existed for years, it was cut from both the first show and the sequel, so it was very polished. Lauren Lopez’s Draco was as brilliant as ever. Joey Richter had a solo number which nearly tore a hole in the roof of the Hilton, the crowd went absolutely wild – he is a true star.
And of course we cannot pass over Darren Criss, who took a red-eye into Chicago, arrived at about 6am, and apparently went straight into rehearsal in order to play Harry for us one last time. He was certainly more unprepared than some of the others, but he made up for it in the strength of his acting on the fly and the sheer emotion he brought to the role. The show is fairly light up until the end of the first act, and honestly not that Harry-centric: there are many scenes he’s not in at all, including the flashbacks, and we were thinking he simply may not have had enough time to even do a solo song and that they’d restructured the show around that unfortunate fact – but towards the end of the first act, he has a emotional song, also featuring Joe Walker in which we realised that this is still Harry’s show, this is still Harry’s story, and that we were not going to make it through the show without full-on ugly crying. We can’t post lyrics as it may spoil plot, but things go from funny to poignant pretty quickly. On the Q and A panel the day after the show, the Lang brothers mentioned that a lot of the show is meant to be autobiographical and representative and a lot of what was being said in this song was incredibly heart-wrenching when applied to Darren’s position with StarKid, StarKid’s position with Harry Potter, and the Harry Potter fandom’s position in the world in general. This vibe continued heavily through the second act – while the first act was mostly light, the second act was quite heavy and had an enormous sense of finality and closure in both the script and the songs, which we were told by composer Clark Baxtresser was completely intentional. We (and by we I mean I, you all probably know who is writing this) were crying pretty much all the way through the second act. The writers chose to combine two of the most emotional scenes from the books into one giant mess of sadness.
At the end, yes, Harry finds his place in the world, finds peace with himself, and saves the day while using a reprise of an old favorite song – but it wasn’t really the happiest ending. The characters end up graduating and leaving Hogwarts, and when Harry hugs all the other students goodbye and then goes off separately to speak alone on the stage to ‘Hogwarts’ – to the audience. Our clearest memory of the show, we think, will be when Darren broke character a tiny bit, for a moment alone on that stage, saying thank you and goodbye, and that it had been “totally awesome.” Just those two words, he looked the audience in the eye and used his natural voice. That was for us and I don’t think that anyone there will ever forget it, because Darren will always be in StarKid, but things are changing from here on out and he will never be our Harry again. A chapter is very much closed, for him, for Team StarKid, and even for the StarKid and Harry Potter fandom at large, because we’ve dealt with the last book and the last movie, but we still had this, until now. By the end of the show, either in their last scenes or curtain call, nearly the whole cast was crying, as was most of the audience.
Being at the show was a brilliant and magical experience and we can’t wait for the show to be released on YouTube so that you all can see it and we can review it in more detail. Writers Matt Lang, Nick Lang and Brian Holden do an amazing job of taking parts of canon and mixing them up in ways that you’d never think of and yet suddenly make perfect sense, and, while changing it all around, making fun of it, making it dirty, making it ridiculous, they have always treated this book series with the utmost respect for its true heart and soul and tapped into the emotional core of what Harry Potter is all about. Team StarKid’s time with Harry Potter is over, and maybe someone else will pick up the mantle and make something else that appeals just as much. But there is a reason Team StarKid are what they are, and that they became successful when fandom was dying down, that they became more successful than most wizard rock, parody videos, even other musicals. They are something special, and everyone who drinks their Kool-Aid sees it instantly. Their success will continue – Team StarKid is not going anywhere – but Harry Potter brought them to us and we offer them congratulations and the greatest thanks for doing right by us and sharing with us the final chapter in what is sure to be the just the first book in a long series.
We really loved the first book, though. It might always be our favorite, in a way.
Parks and Recreation