Friday, April 19, 2013

'A Very Potter Senior Year'

After many years and much fame, musical nerd parody still makes audiences laugh

By Kelsey Mejlaender, Copy Editor
   
Amid bands and puppet shows, one fan-made tribute to the great “Harry Potter” series stands out as truly exceptional — the StarKid production of the comedic trilogy “A Very Potter Musical” (“AVPM”).
   
It began in July 2009 with “AVPM” premiering on YouTube and continued in May 2010 with the aptly named “A Very Potter Sequel.”
   
Wrapping up the story was “A Very Potter Senior Year” (“AVPSY”), uploaded online in March but originally performed in August 2012.

All of the musicals are available to view on YouTube.
   
The University of Michigan put on the first Harry Potter parody, and participants formed StarKid Productions.
   
The group expanded after “AVPM” went viral and now brings together writers, actors, directors and more to produce quality theatre for the modern age.
   
The hilarious musicals are no cheap backyard productions. The costumes and props are fantastic, the songs are witty, creative and well performed and the sound and camera angles indicate quality.
   
Not to mention, for this final musical, actress Evanna Lynch — who portrays Luna Lovegood in the actual “Harry Potter” films — joined the cast. Actor Darren Criss, now one of the stars of “Glee,” performs the role of Harry Potter in all three musicals.
   
Creating the grand finale of the series proved challenging given Criss’ busy “Glee” schedule as well as other cast members’ commitments.
   
Indeed, the cast was only able to perform a one-night reading of the production, meaning they still had the scripts with them on stage. This, however, did not take away from the fun.
   
The first musical began in Harry’s second year of Hogwarts, and merged plot points and characters from many of the books to create a story in which Harry Potter defeats Lord Voldemort.
   
The sequel begins with Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, pointing out the obvious — Voldemort is dead and there is literally no way to continue the story.
   
Fortunately for both Death Eaters and fans, the villains have gained possession of a Time Turner, and are able to travel back in time.
   
Thus, the sequel follows the events of Harry’s first year — a mish-mash of the books once again — and the Death Eaters' attempts to murder him.
   
Spoiler alert: they don’t succeed.
   
The third installment skips ahead to Harry’s seventh year and borrows many plot points from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
   
In it, Harry Potter is a forgotten hero, no longer seen as important since Voldemort is dead.
   
Parodied as extremely arrogant, Harry is horrified at his drop in popularity and struggles to regain his former fame by uncovering who is unleashing the mysterious monster from the Chamber of Secrets and petrifying students.
   
A major theme of “AVPSY” is that all things must come to an end. The performers are not only referring to the actual plotline of their parody, of course, but to their trilogy as well.

It displayed a great deal of maturity and cognizance, providing a sense of finality for both performers and fans alike.
   
If you do watch, and you should, make sure there are no small children or strict parents in the vicinity.
   
The parodies don’t hold back on swearing and sexual jokes — aspects that can sometimes be overdone, but more often heighten the hilarity.
   
You should also ensure you have plenty of time to devote to these musicals, meaning don't check one out the night before your massive research paper is due. Each is highly addictive, and all — especially the last — are  long.
   
The musicals are also extremely meta and American. The actors regularly make references to classic Disney films.
   
The fourth wall is skillfully tapped, punched, broken and blasted apart in various scenes.
  
Bonnie Gruesen, the actress who played Hermione Granger in the first two musicals, did not reprise her role for the third because she cut ties with StarKid for reasons not disclosed to the public.
   
Regardless, StarKid treated this actress transition as a joke in the musical.
   
When the new Hermione actress, Meredith Stepien, appears on stage for the first time in “AVPSY,” she jokes that even if she looks a little different, everyone — she looks meaningfully at the audience — should accept her just the way she is.
   
Throughout the musical  I cried from laughing so hard.
   
By the end, however, the sheer emotion of this musical trilogy ending sparked my tears. Nothing can top the original, but it sure is fun to watch them try.