It’s been a few weeks since Team Starkid premiered A Very Potter Senior Year on March 15th and if you’re like me, you’re still in denial. Harry Potter will always be the totally awesome boy who lived (not died, duh!) But AVPSY marks an end to the super-mega-foxy-awesome-hot musical adaptations done by a group of Harry Potter fans. I laughed, I cried, I giggled in delight, I gasped in surprise and now I am dealing with an end of an era along with many other Starkid Potter fans.
I first got into A Very Potter Musical with my friends in the summer of 2009. I had just finished my freshman year of college and I was back home again. My friends and I watched AVPM a couple weekends in a row and we even made up a drinking game to go along with it. When I went back to school, I found new friends who had loved AVPM as well. Somewhere along the line, the Very Potter Musicals began to mean friendship to me. Although I watched AVPSY alone (which was for the best given my crazy reactions,) it still felt as if I was saying goodbye to a group of old friends. But it was definitely the most enjoyable goodbye I’ve ever had to say.
The great thing about the Very Potter Musicals isn’t just that they’re fun and silly, it’s that they’re entirely human. Sure, the shows are about a young wizard named Harry Potter and how he saves the world from the Dark Lord in the annual battle between good and evil. But they’re also about friendship and community, growing up and becoming the person you want to be, and of course the fear of death and the fear of being forgotten. The Starkid Potter musicals don’t just celebrate the character of Harry Potter; they celebrate everyone who ever—and will ever—love Harry Potter as much as they do. While the fans of AVPSY are dealing with the end of an era, so too are the writers, producers, actors, musicians, and everyone else involved in creating the musicals.
In an effort to deal with my endless fangirl emotions, here is a list of my favorite things about AVPSY. (Spoiler alert: everything about the show was my favorite thing.)
Harry Freaking Potter, One Last Time
“We’re going back to Hogwarts for the very last time/the final year, at last it’s here, time to start our lives.”
It’s been a good run. There have been a total of three Starkid Potter shows: A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel, and A Very Potter Senior Year. The fact that we got so many Potter musicals is actually amazing considering Darren Criss hit it big with his role as Blaine Anderson on Glee. I thought we’d seen the last of him as the boy who lived. Even though there was a script for the third show, no one knew whether it would actually come to fruition until LeakyCon 2012 where there was a one-time only performance of AVPSY. Then eight months later, the show was put online for those of us who couldn’t attend LeakyCon, and all us Starkid fans finally had the closure we needed.
Toward the end of AVPSY, Darren Criss as Harry Potter is left on stage alone after he defeats the Dark Lord (for the final time!) but before the last scene. Darren turns to the crowd and says goodbye in the only way his incarnation of Harry Potter could:
“Well Hogwarts, it’s been totally awesome.”
When I first watched Darren say those words with the true and heartfelt emotion in his voice, I started to cry. Even thinking about it weeks later, I still get chills. As much as these shows have been part of the fans’ lives, they have been just as much—if not more—a part of the lives of those who had a hand in creating them. So of course, Darren and the rest of the cast would get choked up by reprising their roles for the very last time. Although fans can re-watch the shows to their hearts’ content, Darren, Joey Richter (Ron,) Lauren Lopez (Draco,) and Jamie Lyn Beatty (Ginny) won’t get to play their characters again anytime soon. Which is the saddest thing I’ve thought in a long time.
This conclusion of the Very Potter Musicals reminded me what I loved about these shows and brought back a lot of my favorite characters such as Drunk Uncle Lupin (which is not actually his name but if you crossed Saturday Night Live’s Drunk Uncle with Remus Lupin from J.K. Rowling’s series, you’d have Brian Holden’s incarnation of the character.) The writers—Matt Lang, Nick Lang, and Brian Holden—also even managed to bring Dylan Saunders back as Dumbledore with a song of his own no less: “Always Dance.” Joe Walker also returned to portray a young Lord Voldemort when he was just Tom Riddle, a boy who loved to dance.
Beyond bringing back so many beloved characters and the actors who portray them, AVPSY also introduced some new-to-Starkid characters and faces. Brian Holden was fantastic as Hagrid in a giant beard and Bermuda shorts and A.J. Holmes played Gilderoy Lockhart as a great villain. Meredith Stepien was the new face of Hermione and the writers worked the casting change into the script hilariously. There was a very meta treat for fans since Evanna Lynch, who portrayed Luna Lovegood in the movie versions of J.K. Rowling’s story, also played Luna in AVPSY. Those who have seen other Starkid productions might have recognized some familiar faces as well. Jeff Blim and Chris Allen debuted in Holy Musical B@man! while Brant Cox and Denise Donovan first appeared in Starship. It all made the show into a perfect mix of old and new characters and actors.
Sure, the guy who plays Harry Potter is now some big-shot actor on Glee, but Starkid will still be the group of people who poked fun at their friend’s success by naming the evil organization in Starship the Galactic League of Extraterrestrial Exploration (G.L.E.E.)
Although their shows have gotten much better in terms of the production, of course things are going to go wrong. Aside from Darren Criss’s mic not working properly, most of the goofs were hilarious and added character to the show. Many of the cast members carried scripts throughout the show because they didn’t have enough time to rehearse, but there were times when the scripts became props as well, like the wheel of Ron’s flying car. There is also a moment in the second act where Joe Walker as Lord Voldemort forgets to be holding a certain prop and Darren Criss has to deviate from the script in order to get the show back on track. Although these moments are probably cringe-worthy for Darren, Joe, and the producers, but they’re treasures to the fans. It’s similar to when the actors on SNL break character and have to hide their smiles and guffaws behind their hands.
As I and many other fans watched the final scene of AVPSY and listened to what Harry told his son, Albus Scarfy Potter, there was an amazing mixture of joy and sadness along with a feeling of finality, which is the only way to end the Very Potter Musical series. Then as Voldemort tells Quirrell what Harry Potter taught him, it was hard not to reflect on what the boy who lived—and his musical counterpart—taught all of us. My friend Carrie explained it best on her blog:
“Easily the best thing about Starkid productions is the grasp that the script writers have on the balance between silly parody and sincere heart. At the core of all of their shows are messages that are so distinctly human—in the case of Very Potter Senior Year, the fear of dying and being forgotten, or dying without leaving a proper legacy behind. And specifically to the Harry Potter fandom, the fear that the story we love—the story that’s held us together for so long—will disappear, and we’ll lose that magic. The Starkids managed to pull together a commentary that’s both realistic and comforting, which is usually a paradoxical combination; but in this case is a poetic, bittersweet acceptance of the end of a story, without it meaning the end of a legacy.”
Although AVPSY might mean the end of Starkid’s musicals about Harry Potter, it doesn’t mean they’re done for good. They created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their new show, Twisted, a Wicked-style parody of Jafar, the Royal Vizier from Disney’s Aladdin.