By Rae Votta
Glee might have been Darren Criss’ national introduction as a song-and-dance man, but his legions of Internet fans already knew him as a singing Harry Potter for Team StarKid, the musical-theater social-media phenomenon. Between shooting Glee and debuting on Broadway in How to Succeed, Criss joined the rest of Team StarKid for part of their first national tour last fall, and he stopped by VH1 earlier this month with some of his co-founders to share some exclusive footage from the tour. They also told us about a possible West Coast and U.K. leg of their jaunt, as they hope bring StarKid beyond the confines of the Net.
“StarKid is an Internet musical theater production group we started in college together and have been doing our best to run since we’ve been out of college,” co-founder Brian Holden explained for the uninformed.
The group initially put videos of their University of Michigan-produced Harry Potter musical, A Very Potter Musical, on YouTube to send to friends and family, but once the extensive Potter fandom caught a whiff of their existence, view counts multiplied, and they transitioned from in-joke to mainstream viral success. To date the group has surpassed 100 million views on their videos.
“When we graduated YouTube became this mainstream avenue to get a lot of videos out there, we happened to be on that train right when it started,” explained Criss. “We had no idea people would respond to it the way they have. We continue to do it because we have such a supportive fanbase.”
The group went on to film A Very Potter Sequel and two original works — Me and My Dick and Starship, both of which were the first student musicals to make the Billboard cast recording chart when their songs were released.
While StarKid originally produced its shows out of Ann Arbor or Chicago, last November, they took to the road for the first time as a group for a live experience. For the final few shows Criss was even able to get a break from his busy TV schedule to join the performances.
“S.P.A.C.E. Tour was StarKids’ first foray into doing live concerts and events after having shows online,” said Criss. “This was about highlighting those songs and those shows, and about meeting the actors in those shows.”
But S.P.A.C.E. Tour was both an interactive experience for the fans (“The fans sing though every single song, they know the words probably better than we do,” joked Holden) and a chance for them to connect with a community of fellow StarKid lovers offline.
“The cool thing about going on tour is that a lot of the fans that are supportive of us experience StarKid on their own in their room,” explained Criss. “Basically you see this number of views and you feel like you’re a part of something, but it’s still individualized. So when you get to go to a concert, you get to see all these other people who are in on this private joke. It was fun seeing the fans get to know each other.”
The guys said they plan to take the show west and across the Atlantic very soon. But until then, fans will have to settle for YouTube — and, of course, watch the above video for a peek onstage and behind the scenes of that StarKid magic.
Have you seen StarKid live? Talk about the show (and tell us how mad you are that we always mention Darren first) in the comments below!
[Photo courtesy Team StarKid]