Saturday, July 24, 2010
My childhood officially ended in the summer of 2007-- the limbo summer between the carefree days of high school, and well, Penn, but more importantly, the last Harry Potter summer. Since then, I have always tried to find ways to recreate my childhood, a tendency that Darren Criss calls “nerdstalgia.” No one does it better than he does; if you go to his YouTube channel, you’ll find a series of acoustic Disney covers. And let’s not forget his claim to fame — he stars as Harry Potter in “A Very Potter Musical,” a play he helped write and produce with his friends at the University of Michigan and which became an Internet phenomenon last summer. The musical lovingly and, might I add, hilariously spoofs the Harry Potter saga, featuring a bromance between Voldemort and Quirrel, a flamboyant Dumbledore with a poster of Zac Efron in his office, and, as promised by the opening number, a “totally awesome” soundtrack. Criss and his friends, who call themselves Team StarKid, released the much-anticipated “A Very Potter Sequel” on YouTube last week.
Two weeks ago, I went to see Criss’ free show at The Living Room in New York City, and I left thinking that it was a show I would definitely be willing to pay for the next time around. Criss owned the stage with easy charisma that perfectly suited the intimate and casual atmosphere of the venue. Though he played a short set of only ten or twelve songs, he performed each song with energy and passion. His lone acoustic guitar never sounded bare and more than filled the small room and his piano numbers were equally resonant.
After the show, I spoke briefly to Criss. With the best intentions to communicate how much I enjoyed the show, I stupidly said something along the lines of “I enjoyed that more than I expected to.” Darren, if you’re reading this, I meant that in the best possible way. Not being too familiar with Criss’ repertoire, I went to the show hoping to hear a song or two from AVPM. Criss did not disappoint on this count. Along with a fervent performance of “Not Alone,” a favorite from the musical, he gave the audience a preview of the upcoming sequel, an immediately catchy song he prefaced with, “This song is supposed to be sung by a girl,” before crooning out the lyrics “I’m the coolest girl in the world!” But even Criss’ personal acoustic music was a pleasure. “I Still Think,” probably his strongest song, was full of hooks and clever melodies, and “Human,” which Criss wrote when he was fifteen and admittedly sounds like it, was nevertheless endearing. Criss ended his show with very subtle rendition of “A Whole New World.”
His ability to combine playfulness and maturity is Criss’ unique talent, one that definitely shone through in his performance.
You can check out “A Very Potter Musical” (and soon the sequel) on YouTube, and you can also find Criss’ very musically talented brother in the band Freelance Whales.