The four-man team behind Starkid Prods. has amassed an unusually large fan base for a group of young creatives who self-produce stage musicals. Their YouTube channel has logged some 60 million views, and the cast recording of their latest show, “Starship,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard cast album chart.
How’d they manage it? They had a little help from Harry Potter. And from “Glee.”
After attracting online attention with college productions of a pair of wizarding tuners, “A Very Potter Musical” and “A Very Potter Sequel,” Starkid set out to produce a sci-fi musical in Chicago. And around that time, the team’s resident composer, Darren Criss, got cast on “Glee.”
Cut to February 2011, and “Starship,” a puppet-heavy musical about an alien bug who longs to be human, played a dozen sold-out dates in Chicago. Public screenings of filmed footage from the show also proved popular in Gotham, L.A. and Chicago.
The idea for “Starship” was generated by Criss, who says it wasn’t easy sticking around in L.A. while most development activity was centered in Chi. “It was tough, but the give and take of it is obviously that ‘Glee’ has given me and Starkid a huge platform now,” he says.
The current pool of Starkid fans combines enthusiasts who discovered the team through their “Potter” shows (plus another one called “Me and My Dick”) and those brought on board by “Glee.”
“It’s mostly high school girls,” says Brian Holden, who makes up Starkid with Criss, Nick Lang and Matt Lang. “Our marketing team is Twitter and teenage girls telling their friends.”
Next up: A future life for “Starship,” possibly with the help of commercial producers who have expressed interest in the tuner (and in Starkid’s rabid fanbase). They’re figuring it out as they go along.
“We don’t know how a real business works,” says Nick Lang. “We’re just teaching ourselves.”