It's 2:30 p.m. and Team StarKid is supposed to start a rehearsal for their final Los Angeles show, but the cause of the rehearsal, Darren Criss, is a few minutes late. It's by no means a diva move on Darren's part, despite the "Glee" star being the most well known face of the musical theater troupe -- if it weren't him, it would be one of any number of other cast members.
"This is something that's a challenge every day, getting 10 people in one place at one time," Julia Albain, the group's director and tour manager, explains as she pied-pipers the crew down the House of Blues' never-ending staircase after he arrives. The most apt comparison is trying to herd kittens.
The crew has been here three days and the stairs are definitely becoming a hassle. "They're killing us, we have to plan bathroom breaks because we don't want to keep climbing up and down all night," says Jaime Lyn Beatty, a powerhouse vocalist who has had various roles in StarKids multiple productions.
| Scenes From Apocalyptour
"To Have a Home"
Formed informally at the University of Michigan, the StarKids shot to digital fame in 2009 when they uploaded their show, "A Very Potter Musical," on YouTube. Almost instantly Harry Potter fans latched on to the parody and the group garnered attention from mainstream press and a voracious fan following. The StarKids didn't let that go to waste, forging an Internet presence and connection with their fans that sustains. They've created six musicals to date, and their cast album was the first student musical to break the Billboard Cast Albums chart, a feat they've since repeated. "Apocalyptour," their current run of shows that focus primarily on the West Coast, is the second national tour the troupe has launched in the last 9 months. Their last, the S.P.A.C.E. Tour, was more of a musical review held together thematically by a few set pieces and sparse dialogue. This time around the tour resembles more like an actual StarKid production, with a plot about saving the world from an ancient Apocalypse curse through song and dance. The songs performed tend to be more of their lesser-known hits. Though that matters not to the sea of fans who have been lining up since noon and stretched several blocks down Sunset by show time.
With everyone in place by 2:45, the StarKids converge on stage in their civilian clothes with Clark Baxtresser, their musical director, who undertook the task of re-arranging songs from a variety of their shows into a fresh and compelling orchestration for this new narrative. The StarKids have a core of constant collaborators, but not all StarKids are involved in every production, so for this tour the group involved picks songs and parts they've never performed before.
During rehearsal a wide variety of items are used as makeshift mics, from cell phones to water bottles. It's hard not to crack up, as their rehearsals are raunchier than the stage show, with the StarKids vamping lines seemingly designed to break each other's composure. The only time anyone really loses it, though, is when Jim Povolo, the generally quiet, towering cast member who plays the threatening Mayan deity "Margaret," sings for the first time in his deep, exaggerated timber. And in that case it's only Darren, not used to seeing Jim's performance every night, who can't contain his mirth. As they block in Darren it generally takes no more than two tries for him to have the movements down, Dylan Saunders teasing that, "these are Warbler moves, you've got this!" Julia stands in the middle of the empty HOB floor dancing along like an especially well-meaning pageant mom on a really strange edition of Toddlers and Tiaras. When the group starts to veer off course into in-jokes or the absurd, she's the one to reign them back in, a strategic move that allows them the creativity that makes StarKid thrive while keeping them accessible to an audience that perhaps hasn't seen every last video the group has produced.
Today the biggest distracting point is poking fun at Darren, and how they can put that into the show. They plot an entrance that ends with a "Glee" autograph joke that gets dropped from the actual performance. They work on the end of "A Very Potter Musical"'s "The Coolest Girl" and Brian Holden, often tasked as the voice of StarKid to media and press outsiders, jokes that they'll transition next into "Brotherhood of Men," the final number from "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." Without missing a beat, Darren, who starred in the show for three weeks on Broadway this winter, starts the number's tricky choreography, and even begins to teach it to Joe Walker and Dylan before Julia gets the group on track. The gag would probably play well to the die-hard crowd, but there's a fine line to toe between the insider baseball of StarKid and leaving an opening for newbie's in the audience to "get it" (the group does have a hilarious line about one of their members being "eaten by a giant Fox" that slays.) They shift around lines and formations to fit Darren in, adding a few solo songs for him as well. Even though Darren only arrived yesterday there's ease to how they all work together, without distinctly establishing leaders. Very little has to be explained -- the StarKids feel each other's movements, space and timing, then react accordingly. When they get to the final number, from Holy Musical B@man, a show Darren didn't have a hand in and which has the most complicated choreography of the night, the group tries to think of ways for Darren to work around it.
"Do you want to just be in charge of hitting the beach balls?" Brian H. offers.
"Why not just look like an idiot?" Darren quips, and passes through the choreography he's got down anyway.