The Evolution of Starkid

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Peyton Ludwig

Starkid has greatly evolved from its origins in 2009 with A Very Potter Musical to its newest 2019 musical Black Friday (Photo courtesy of Peyton Ludwig).

From the goofy parodies of A Very Potter Musical to the heartfelt and emotional Twisted to the horror-comedy of The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals and Black Friday, Starkid is versatile in both style and genre but consistent in its large popularity. It has amassed a huge fanbase, gaining millions of views for the musicals they post on YouTube, which stem from humble beginnings of a couple of college students.

Starkid Productions, also known as Team Starkid, was started in 2009 by a group of four college students. Their first production, A Very Potter Musical, started off as just a parody of Harry Potter. However, with 16 million views on YouTube, it launched Starkid into popularity that no one could’ve seen coming. Written by Darren Criss, Brian Holden, Matt Lang, and Nick Lang, A Very Potter Musical follows Harry’s journey as he comes back to Hogwarts, competes in the House Cup Championship, and faces off against Voldemort. Filled with great humor, fun characters, and all completely free to watch on YouTube, the traction it gained is only fitting. The sheer popularity of this production paved the way for 10 more years of fun musicals. 

“[My favorite Starkid musical is] A Very Potter Musical — I’ve always loved Harry Potter and the twist on this is the most entertaining thing ever. I love it so much!” said sophomore Sadie Phelps. 

In the 10 years since its origin, Starkid has developed greatly in its production, themes, and writing. From its origins of A Very Potter Musical in 2009 to its most recent musical of Black Friday in 2019, Starkid has greatly found their sense of style throughout their years of production. One notable change is the production value. For one, the sets themselves have evolved greatly throughout Starkid’s history. AVPM started with the blank stage at the University of Michigan with a simple backdrop and a few set props. Comparatively, Black Friday has a full stage in the Hudson Mainstage Theatre of Los Angeles, California. 

“I remember watching A Very Potter Musical in middle school…it’s crazy how far [Starkid] has come now,” said junior Olivia Bates.

The filming of the productions has also greatly enhanced in quality. Since they’re meant to all be easily accessible on YouTube, it’s always been important to have quality filming of the productions. The technological advancements have allowed for the transition from decent to movie-esque. To give perspective, the original AVPM has the highest quality setting of 480 p, or pixels, on YouTube. In comparison, Black Friday has the highest quality setting of 2160 p alongside being in 4k quality. 

“What I really love about Starkid is how they’re all so easy to watch. I love seeing [musicals] in person, but it’s really expensive. Being able to watch so many online is really cool,” said sophomore James Anderson. 

Peyton Ludwig
Tumblr user “don’t-offend-the-bees” makes the humorous but insightful contrast between the light-hearted themes of AVPM and the darker themes of Black Friday (Photo courtesy of Tumblr, photo credits to don’t-offend-the-bees).

Another interesting change is the gradual tonal shift throughout time. AVPM was meant to be a goofy parody and isn’t too heavy in emotion or themes. Black Friday’s central theme, however, is a criticism of the corrupted and obsessive consumerism of America. Likewise, The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals, another recent Starkid musical released in 2018, has more cynical and grounded themes. It has political commentary on the police force in the song “Show Me Your Hands” and even has a criticism of Trump’s presidency with the mocking “America is Great Again”.

“[Our theater group is] pretty divided: some say [Starkid has] gotten funnier and better because they’ve gotten more fame and more practice…some say it’s gotten less funny because they may be running out of ideas…but nonetheless both agree that they are very entertaining,” said Phelps.

Overall, Starkid has evolved greatly from its humble beginnings. Its development in production, themes, and writing have led it to be the popular and well-loved musical company that it is today.