"A Very Potter Sequel" thrills opening night fans
On Friday night, half an hour before the opening night performance of “A Very Potter Sequel” - the highly anticipated new show built on the blockbuster online success of last year’s “A Very Potter Musical” - a stand-by line with about 35 people stood in one hallway of U-M’s Walgreen Drama Center, while a separate line for the 100 people lucky enough to already have tickets snaked around the main lobby. (4,000 e-mail requests for the free tickets came from everywhere for this weekend’s three performances at U-M.)
Several attendees sported Gryffindor shirts, a Michigan Muggle shirt, and striped ties (mostly maroon and yellow, naturally), though Team StarKid - the group of U-M students and graduates that created and produced “AVPM” and its sequel - offered their own selection of shirts for sale, which seemed to be doing brisk business.
Because the “Sequel” tickets were general admission, audience members who were angling for the best seats on opening night arrived early. So who was at the front of the line?
Bill and Sandy Lang, parents of Matt and Nick Lang - two of the show’s primary creators.
“Matt’s spent the last nine months of his life writing this show,” Bill Lang said. “And Nick quit his job and came back here around February or March. He quit his job in L.A. to come back and help his brother write the script.”
The three-hours-plus show’s third book writer is Brian Holden, while Darren Criss provided its music and lyrics. Team StarKid will take the show to a four day Harry Potter conference, called Infinitus, in Orlando in July, and then post it on YouTube for the world to enjoy.
Until then, the show’s creators urge those few who get to see “Sequel” live to keep its storyline and characters under wraps.
“The first ("Potter Musical") was kind of the highlight of our junior year,” said recent U-M graduate Caiti Schlitt, who attended "Sequel"'s opening night with her friend, Caitlyn Klaska. “It made your stomach hurt from laughing so much.”
“It was so unexpected,” said Klaska, also a new U-M graduate. “It was just this free show. And there were so many pop culture references, like Zac Efron, that were put into this story that we all know and love.”
Two others accompanying Schlitt on opening night were her aunt and her 10-year-old cousin, who traveled from Shelton, Illinois to see the show live.
But Bri Maresh, 24, had them beat, coming all the way from Alaska to see “Sequel.” She’d already made plans to travel to Orlando to see the show at Infinitus; but when a fellow Potter fanatic that she’d met online had her name drawn in the “Sequel” ticket lottery, she said, “I was like, ‘That’s fate. I have to go.’”
Meeting people in person that you’ve chatted with online is always a risky venture, however.
“My mom was sure (Bri) was going to be this 50 year old man,” said Bonnie Culhane, 19, of St. Clair Shores.
The two women - along with sisters Samantha (15) and Christine Winer (18) of Warren - had all entered the e-mail ticket lottery that happened April 3, coaxing siblings and friends to do so as well in order to increase their chances.
“I saw the first show on YouTube, and I was so disappointed that I didn’t find out about it in time to see it,” said Culhane. “It was just last year. But I found out it had been mentioned on Mugglenet, and so now I check there everyday. And every hour, I’m stalking (StarKid) on Twitter.”
Friday night’s packed-to-the-gills audience skewed young and slightly female, and the giddy excitement was palpable, with rampant speculation happening before the show (“Maybe it will be from Dumbledore’s perspective,” someone suggested from behind me).
And while I’m not at liberty to leak details about “Sequel”’s content, I will say that I laughed often, and that the crowd cooed at sweet or sad moments, and clapped and cheered thunderously at the first arrival of some familiar faces on stage. This was similar to the reaction that movie stars get when they appear in Broadway productions; and in a way, thanks to the viral success of “AVPM,” I guess that’s precisely what these U-M students and grads are.
After the show, in the lobby, one fan excitedly reported to her friends, “The cast is going to come out. They’re coming out!” And soon, photos were being taken with actors, and programs (cheekily listing “High School Musical” character Sharpay Evans as assistant director) were being autographed.
But in the end, was “Sequel” worth a 13 hour plane trip from Alaska?
Without hesitation, Maresh said, “Totally worth it.”