On Tuesday Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lion’s Pause, the Myswyken Salad Theatre Company will remind us of what we need to do before finals: get back to Hogwarts and dance again! For one night only, the student theatre company will perform “A Very Potter Musical” (AVPM), a fan-made comedy musical created by a theater group from the University of Michigan called “StarKid.”
StarKid first performed AVPM in 2009 and uploaded the entire show in 23 segments to YouTube so that it could reach beyond their university’s audience. The original songs were written by A.J Holmes and Darren Criss (yes, the Darren Criss from Broadway and “Glee”). It quickly went viral, beloved by fans and often ranked in comparison with “Potter Puppet Pals: the Mysterious Ticking Noise” in terms of the most popular Harry Potter fan-made material. Act 1, Scene 1 of AVPM has 13,055,421 views.
The show combines key plot points of the seven Harry Potter books, weaving them together with poignant songs that speak to the deeper ways in which the stories resonate with viewers, and wild comedy that continually shocks and endears the audience to characters that perhaps have been deemed less lovable in the novels and movies. Harry and his friends must navigate their time at Hogwarts while confronting caricatures of characters and circumstances that can pop up from any of the seven books in the series.
AVPM spins well-known characters into new relationships and personalities. One of the most notable additions is the chemistry between a Jane Austen-loving and flower-planting Professor Quirrell and a shirtless Lord Voldemort who enjoys tap dancing in a sparkly cape. The actors playing these rolls are tied together back-to-back and proceed through the acrobatics of the show together with plenty of scenes for bonding.
“I think Quirrell and Voldemort have the best plot of anyone because they’ve got this great romantic subplot that goes through every single romantic comedy trope, and it’s the funniest part of the show,” Bjorn Long ’19, who plays Professor Quirrell, said.
Josh Horst ’19, who plays Lord Voldemort, agrees.
“The relationship between Voldemort and Quirrel is, I think, the hidden gem of the show. People don’t expect to see it, but they always end up enjoying it. I think that Bjorn Long and I are going to take it to the next level,” he said.
Another fun spin on characters is the development of Ginny Weasley, as many readers of the original Harry Potter series objected to her portrayal in the films.
“My favorite thing about playing Ginny Weasley is that she’s kind of shy and awkward and quirky, but gets to sing these really powerful belting songs and it’s different from what I’ve done in the past,” Annika Isbell ’19, who plays Ginny, said.
The student directors, Avery Evangeline Baker ’19 and Katie Howrey ’19, chose the show to liven things up after the group’s heavier show last spring, “Middletown.” They explained that Myswyken will be expanding on the changes to the Harry Potter world that the original production made.
“We’re just adding our own touches to it. I think we’re making a lot of the jokes – when Katie and I went through the script last spring, we found places that we thought were improvised by the original cast anyway and we said ‘Go for it,’ and you improvise. Our blocking is different, our character interpretation is different – we really wanted to make this show our own. Our interpretation of Cedric is very different, our interpretation of pretty much all the characters has a different twist, just interpreted by the actor,” Baker said.
“We’re definitely making it our own but everything that everybody loves about the original is in this version,” Isbell said.
As it is a musical, there are songs ranging from the angsty heartache we recognize from the Cho Chang/Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley dynamic, to the contemplation of what it means to be in a community, and even a song to a dragon. Senior dance and theatre major Gabby Dominique ’17 has been helping to choreograph the dance numbers. In a movement rehearsal, she described one of the song’s dancing style as “Pokemon and High School Musical combined.”
“‘A Very Potter Musical’ is like a profane, acapella mashup of the seven books of Harry Potter and the eight movies, with some R-rated humor and contemporary references that are in regards to the college where we are and the life that we are all living right now,” Horst said.
Isbell reached out to potential viewers who may not want to come in the event they are not familiar with the book series or movies.
“Even if you don’t know anything about Harry Potter, it will still be a funny experience. But if you do know things about Harry Potter, be prepared to have the best time of your life,” Isbell said.