Fans of musical theatres have long protested the fact that the majority of professional theatre is in New York and have resorted to watching illegally recorded bootlegs to get their fix. However, fans can rejoice because, since 2009, Team Starkid has been uploading full-length versions of musicals to YouTube.
In April 2009, Darren Criss and several other members of the University of Michigan’s theater program produced a parody musical called “A Very Potter Musical.” The musical was free to attend and ran for only a weekend. Since the students producing it did not have a budget capable of giving each cast member a DVD recording, as most shows do, they instead had the show recorded and put on YouTube to live forever.
Soon after, the musical they had originally only intended to be viewed by family and friends exploded, gaining millions of views.
After the unforeseen success of “A Very Potter Musical,” the cast and crew members formed Team Starkid. Their next theatrical performance was an original coming-of-age story written by Criss, A.J. Holmes and Carlos Valdes entitled “Me and My Dick,” which was also put on YouTube. When that show’s album of songs was released, it was the first album written by college students to place in the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at No. 11 of that year’s Top Cast Albums.
Next, Criss and the rest of the team made a sequel production, aptly called “A Very Potter Sequel,” which was also released to YouTube and garnered positive reviews. After the third musical, the team continued to produce annual musicals which they would subsequently stream online.
They also began touring professionally across the nation and creating sketch comedy productions, such as “1Night 2Last 3Ever.”
So if all their musicals are online, how do they make money? Team Starkid makes money through both ticket sales to their live performances and merchandise, sold from their website. They also make money from local theatres and acting troupes who can license several of their shows, including “The Trail to Oregon” and “Firebringer.”
Currently, Team Starkid boasts 12 original musicals, from “Firebringer” to “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals,” which can all be found on their YouTube channel, boasting over 612,000 subscribers and a collective total of over 267 million views.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the acting troupe is represented by the CESD Talent Agency and composed of over 30 actors from the University of Michigan’s theater program.
Starkid Productions’ most recent endeavor was an original musical called “Black Friday.” The musical, written by Nick Lang, Matt Lang and Jeff Blim, premiered at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Los Angeles, before being subsequently released to YouTube on March 2, 2020.
The horror-comedy musical revolved around a fictional toy, called Tickle-Me-Wiggly. Funded through Kickstarter, the musical featuring a cast of 13 garnered, mostly positive, reviews from critics.