2 In 1: A Very Potter Musical And A Very Potter Sequel.

A little over a year ago, a college-based production company called Team Starkid produced what is now a well-known stage play called A Very Potter Musical, a musical production of Harry Potter. It was performed in front of a live audience and recorded and put online. And it became an instant hit. Now, as of yesterday, there is another. Team Starkid has produced, recorded, and placed online A Very Potter Sequel, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Now that I've just finished watching this sequel (though it's actually more like a prequel), I've decided to comment on both.

A Very Potter Musical.

The story takes elements from Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows and mixes them together in extreme comedic fashion. The basic story is that it's Harry's second year at Hogwarts, and Professor Quirrel, sharing a body with Voldemort, has plans on using Harry to come back to power using the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Harry tries to win over Cho Chang (who herself is with Cedric Diggory) while completely ignoring Ginny, who obviously has a crush on him. Meanwhile, Ron starts realizing his feelings for Hermione, but he's not alone. No... Draco Malfoy also realizes his affections for the frumpy Hermione.

There's a whole lot more to it, of course. The whole show is about three and a half hours long, and it incorporates pretty much 5 of the 7 books (with its own mix, obviously). Its biggest focus is on Sorcerer's Stone (with Quirrelmort) and Goblet of Fire. Though in the latter half of the play, it does switch gears to the last couple books (but not so much Deathly Hallows, from what I can remember... it's been a while). These guys were quite ingenious in how they were able to get all the stories mixed down into one show.

They also found the right tone. There's no way a Harry Potter Musical could take itself seriously. So, knowing this, Team Starkid totally made it a self-conscious comedy. The comedy is basically total irony. It takes everything the audience would expect (either due to knowing the books/stories/characters or how the scene has set itself up) and turning it on its head. It takes expectations and uses them to a great advantage. And then, of course, a slew of running jokes (usually involving Draco). They also have fun with the actors. For instance, Draco is played by a female (to great effect).

Now, you can't discuss a musical without getting into the music. There's a good side and a bad side to this. The good is that the music for this is excellent. Like any musical, there are the fun, catchy tunes. But there are also the more dramatic, heart-felt ones. And the fun ones truly are hilarious. Not all of them are favorites, granted. But that's how it goes with any musical. You usually won't like every song. Hell, I don't like every single song in Little Shop of Horrors (which, for my astute readers will know, is pretty much my favorite). But almost everybody has a great voice. The best voices go to Harry and Ginny (Ginny probably has the best voice of the lot). And despite Cedric only having one line to sing at the beginning, he has a great one, too. There are a couple rough notes here and there, though. The toughest to listen to are Voldemort's, but that's mostly because the actor has to keep a raspy voice while singing.

Unfortunately, the biggest downfall to this production is its audio, which is a shame. Because it was performed live for an audience and was recorded during such, oftentimes the audience's laughter is louder than those on stage. And sometimes the music is louder than the singers, as well. So there are a lot of times, whether the characters are speaking or singing, you have no idea what they're saying (or have to listen very closely in order to hear it). However, the soundtrack is available to download for free, so you can get the songs that way with no laughter or music louder than the singing.

Overall, if you're a fan of Harry Potter, this is a 3.5 hour of hilarity. If you have the time and have not seen it, I strongly recommend it. You can find it on YouTube.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

A Very Potter Sequel.

The sequel sees the return of all the cast members (and maybe one or two new ones). The story mixes elements from Sorcerer's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix. It picks up right after the first story ends. Despite there being apparently nowhere to go story-wise from there, Lucius Malfoy has a plan. He figures that if he can kill Potter before his second year, everything will be better. So with the help of Death Eater Yaxley, Lucius gets his hands on a Time Turner and goes back in time to Harry's first year to try and destroy him. In Harry's first year, he makes friends with Ron and, eventually, Hermione. However, Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and is apparently after Harry. Because of this, Hogwarts must set up extra security, so the Ministry sends them Delores Umbridge to be Head of Security. Unfortunately, she's one evil lady, so Harry turns to the help of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who is being adamantly pursued by Snape, still holding a grudge against him from long ago. This also introduces other characters, such as Arthur Weasley, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan, Hedwig, and Firenze (as well as very brief appearances by Luna Lovegood and the other Weasley siblings).

Again, there is a lot more going on than just that, as this is also about 3 and a half hours long. But unlike the previous play, this sequel/prequel (depending on how you look at it) is more linear, I suppose. Because it only incorporates elements from 3 books (and really not all that much from Sorcerer's Stone except for it being Harry's first year, as well as the Mirror of Erised and the origin of the invisibility cloak), it seems more contained. The first one, while great and hilarious, had a ton of stuff going on in trying to incorporate stuff from nearly the entire series. This one is pretty much what would happen if you dropped Umbridge into the Prisoner of Azkaban storyline and set it in Harry's first year without Quirrel.

My biggest complaint from the first one was the fact that you couldn't understand half of what was going on. Thankfully, that's no the case this time. There are a couple times near the end where the music is louder than the singing. But for the most part, they seemed to learn from the first time. So that was excellent.

The humor this time is also a lot different than the first time around (though there is some of the same here and there). This one is a little more adult, which is funny considering the characters are supposed to be a year younger. There's a lot of cussing and even some sex jokes. It isn't crude, though, or over-the-top. Some of the jokes deal with giving an origin to some things from the first play (Ron's headband, a couple lines, etc.). The best parts, however, have to be Lucius, Lupin, Umbridge, and Goyle/Firenze. Taking a note from the actress playing Draco, the actor who plays Lucius is insanely over-the-top ridiculous in his movements. Lupin is the source of most of the cussing, and despite his humor being pretty much the same types of jokes over and over, it never gets old. And then there's Umbridge... played by the guy (yes, guy) who portrayed Voldemort in the first play. And he's one muscular guy... and he plays her like a bi-polar sadist with some childhood abuse issues and even some slight retardation. What's great about Umbridge is that right when a scene seems to be getting to the point where you think it's dragging on a bit much, Umbridge does something new and hilarious. Now, the guy who played Goyle in the first one is back, and he's given even more to do this time around. He plays Goyle to hilarity, but he truly shines when he portrays the Centaur Firenze, which--outside of Lupin's scenes--are probably the funniest parts of the entire play. This play also has Rita Skeeter (played by the girl who played Ginny in the first one), but she's not in it all that much, and none of her scenes are particularly memorable.

Now, the music is also different than the first time around. The music from the first play was heavier on the catchier tunes. This one is heavier on the ballads. I think while the songs in the first play are much funnier, I liked more of the songs in this one, which is intriguing to me (as I'm usually more of a fan of the catchy tunes). I'm anxiously awaiting the release of the soundtrack so I can get to know the songs better and tell for sure.

Overall, while I adore the first one, I think this sequel is even better. Though I said the songs in the first one are generally funnier, the whole of the sequel is funnier than the first. Most of the time, I couldn't stop laughing... and if it wasn't 3.5 hours long (and it didn't take me on-and-off all day to watch the whole thing, as I had to mix it in with getting some other things done), I would turn right back around and watch it again right now. However, I would strongly suggest watching the original first if you haven't (and shame on you if you haven't), as there are quite a few references to it in this one (more jokes will make sense, in other words). So yeah... what are you waiting for? Get to watching! Like the other, you can catch it on YouTube.

Royale With Cheese

(P.S. There is a great moment of improv where something goes wrong, and the guy playing Ron comes up with a great line to get around it.)

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