Review: A Very Potter Senior Year – The Harry Potter musical takes it’s final bow

‘You know, Harry Potter… he helped me once. He taught me that it’s alright to let go. To let go of things that hurt us. He taught me to open my heart up to things that are new. Harry Potter gave me a new family. He taught me how to love. And…I guess that’s kind of what Harry Potter is all about.’

Harry Potter. It defined a generation, and it means a lot to its fans. Team Starkid, the theatre troupe from the University Of Michigan shot to internet fame when they posted their musical Harry Potter parody ‘A Very Potter Musical’ on YouTube in 2009. A Very Potter Sequel followed in 2010, and by this time Starkid had gained a cult following. Last year they performed a ‘staged reading’ of the final part of the trilogy, ‘A Very Potter Senior Year’ at HP fan convention Leaky Con, and on Friday night, they finally released it onto YouTube. A lot has changed for Starkid since 2009. They’ve released other musicals, gone on tours and, most notably, AVPM’s Harry Potter himself shot into the spotlight when he landed a role on Glee. But what hasn’t changed? The fact that Team Starkid are insanely talented, and are able to deliver a musical that is both hilarious and full of heart, even while performing it with their scripts still in their hands.

There’s one simple reason why the A Very Potter trilogy works so well: It truly GETS the essence of Harry Potter itself. These musicals don’t just poke fun and parody the famous stories – they posses as much heart and love as the books did, emphasising just what Harry Potter taught us: how important it is to love. And its clear there is a lot of love and friendship amongst the cast members. Starkid doesn’t treat Harry Potter as a joke to be made fun of, they treat it as the special thing it truly is: a story that impacted the lives of millions, that welcomed it’s readers into a magical world and will be carried in their hearts for ever more. As Hagrid says to Harry, ‘You’ve got a greatness in you. Whether you’re flying around on that little broom of yours, or singing a song or two…or maybe reminding us all that we’re not alone, right?’

The story for AVPSY is set after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but draws on storylines from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang are heading back to Hogwarts for their final year. But the wizarding world is starting to tire of HP and his heroics, and with new Defence Against The Dark Arts Gilderoy Lockhart publishing a whole bunch of new Young Adult literature (Twilight and The Hunger Games among them) it seems like Harry might be forgotten. There’s trouble ahead when the Chamber of Secrets is opened, and Harry must help save the day, while learning that all things – even his time at Hogwarts – must come to an end.

The script is smart – the inclusion of Harry’s fame being swallowed up by the newest Young Adult literature heroes that everyone’s talking about is particularly brilliant, as it mirrors the real worlds obsession with ‘What will be the new Harry Potter?!’ This is a staged reading, so it’s not perfect, but to be honest, that only adds to its charm. The goofs and mistakes are endearing , such as Darren Criss struggling with his tie during Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts and interrupting the song to scream ‘F*ck this tie!’. Brant Cox’s wig falling off as Moaning Myrtle is dragged offstage is another highlight.
Starkid pulls out all the stops, bringing back cast members from their past projects, finally including Hagrid, finding a way to work in Snape and Lupin, great songs, and Evanna Lynch reprising her role as Luna Lovegood especially for the musical. There’s even a tragic, dramatic death.

The cast is incredibly talented, but standouts come in the form of AJ Holmes as Gilderoy Lockheart (not only is his singing and piano playing perfection – but his monologues are one of the highlights of the show) and Joey Richter as Ron, who delivers an incredibly emotional performance of the song ‘Sidekick’, almost bringing down the house. He is outstanding during the scene where Ron reminds Harry that ‘Being cool doesn’t come from other people. It comes from you.’ Meredith Stepien, who takes over Bonnie Gruesen’s role as Hermione, is hilarious, particularly in her scenes with Gilderoy. Brant Cox is also insanely funny as both Percy Weasley and Grandpa Riddle, and Brian Holden is hysterical as a very very Scottish Hagrid.

The final scenes are outstanding. ‘Everything Ends’ manages to be both extremely funny, and utterly heartbreaking. When the characters burst into Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts for one, final time, you will DEFINITELY need tissues. It seems even the cast couldn’t keep it together as they emotionally hug Harry goodbye at the end of the play. The thing that makes Starkid so likable is that they truly seem to absolutely love each other, and watching their shows you can see their friendships shine through. Darren Criss breaks character as he looks out into the crowd and chokes out ‘Take it easy, Hogwarts…it’s been…totally awesome.’

Just like the books, the musical finishes with a ‘Nineteen Years Later.’ Harry, seeing his son off onto the train to Hogwarts, beautifully sings ‘Cause now you get to go to Hogwarts, now you get to go to school. Now you get to go to Hogwarts, I hope you find that swimming pool. Off to witches and wizards and magical beasts. To goblins and ghosts and to magical feasts. The things that I love are the things that you’ll see. At Hogwarts, Hogwarts…man I’m glad you get to go ‘. The Harry Potter journey might have come to an end for those of us who have already experienced it, but as AVPSY pointed out, there will be a whole new generation who get to ride the train to Hogwarts for the very first time.

So, the books are over, the movies have long finished, and now the much adored musical has taken its final bow. Everything must come to an end. But as J.K Rowling once said ‘Whether you come back through page or screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’

A Very Potter Musical, just like Harry Potter itself, may be gone, but it will never, ever be forgotten.

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