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Starkid’s ‘The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals’ is campy in the best way

<p><em>Image from Kickstarter</em></p>

Image from Kickstarter

As a huge fan of Starkid Productions, I anxiously anticipated the YouTube release of their newest show, The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals, for months. I was honestly prepared to be disappointed; after their last show, Firebringer, I wasn’t expecting much. However, this show exceeded my expectations and evoked the infectiously fun and campy feeling of earlier Starkid shows like A Very Potter Musical and Starship.

The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals is a horror-comedy-musical following an ordinary man named Paul who (as you may have guessed) doesn’t like musicals. His normal life of office work, trips to Beanie’s coffee and avoiding socialization is thrown off the rails when his small town of Hatchetfield is completely transformed into his worst nightmare: a living musical.

Captivating performances

One of the most important elements in any Starkid show is the acting. With these shows, the actors have to carefully walk the line between being over-the-top to fit the fun, campy atmosphere of their shows and being so ridiculous that it comes off as unprofessional or takes the viewer out of the show. Fortunately, in this production, there were no weak cast members and everyone seemed to have their specialty.

Image from Team Starkid

I was quite nervous to see the new faces of Jon Matteson (Paul) and Mariah Rose Faith (Zoey/Alice) enter a cast among people who have been with Starkid productions for years, mostly because I was concerned they wouldn’t be able to match the style of the others or keep up with them talent-wise. However, I was relieved to find that Matteson played a perfectly funny leading man who was equal parts charming and awkward, while Faith was a strong addition to the cast in the smaller roles she took on. Unfortunately, there were a couple moments scattered throughout the show where their inexperience with this group was evident, but these were few and far between.

Among the Starkid veterans, Corey Dorris gave his strongest performance to date as the dorky, concerned father Bill. While Dorris is usually strong playing various comedic roles, this show exhibits his ability to blend comedy and gravity in a way that is wonderfully emotional without drawing from the comedic value of the piece. Jeff Blim (Sam/Mr. Davidson/General McNamara) plays a bunch of minor characters, showcasing his strength as a character actor. In one of his first leading roles with Starkid, Robert Manion absolutely shines as the kooky, hilarious Professor Hidgens. Other unsurprisingly brilliant veteran performances include Lauren Lopez as Emma, Jaime Lyn Beatty as Charlotte and Joey Richter as Ted.

Brilliant ‘Show Stopping Numbers’

As composer and lyricist, Jeff Blim does a fantastic job using the song structure of this show to mirror a stereotypical modern musical while remaining impressively self-aware. The inclusion of obvious archetypal song types like the classic exposition-heavy opening number (“The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals”), the inciting incident song (“What Do You Want, Paul?”), the eleven o’clock number (“Show Stopping Number”) and even the classic, upbeat finale featuring callbacks from earlier numbers in the show (“Inevitable”) makes the entire show feel hysterically self-aware and ironic. The most memorable number in the show by far is “Show Stopping Number.” Robert Manion absolutely kills this piece and shows an impressive ability to quickly switch styles when he goes from the classy “Show Stopping Number” chorus to the rock-musical, Spring Awakening-esque “Working Boys” section.”

Image from Team Starkid

Unfortunately, not every number is a show stopper. “Not Your Seed,” despite its beauty as a song, lacks energy to the extent that it significantly slows the pacing of the show and feels out-of-place; in fact, the whole number does little more than add to a side character’s emotional arc and could have been cut with minimal impact on the show. Additionally, “America is Great Again” went a bit too far with its political commentary, which was funny, but it just didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the show. Overall, act one had generally stronger music than act two (with the exception of “Show Stopping Number”), which made the show seem to drag in pacing towards the end.

Minimal, functional props and set

Like just about every Starkid musical, the set and props are very simple yet functional, allowing quick and easy transitions from place to place within the show. The boxy backdrop allowed for lighting to imitate props like a television, and the overall lighting of the show was actually incredibly impressive and really highlighted the mood of certain moments of the show. The blood and gore props were hilariously over-the-top, making the whole show feel like a B-horror film, which absolutely fits the satirical nature of the show. Additionally, when actors had to strike props, the writers included humorous lines that acknowledge the awkwardness of the transition (for example, “Should I take this chair with me?” “Sure!” etc.). The minimalism of set and props definitely added to the humor and lighthearted, campy tone of the show.

Additionally, the video quality for the YouTube upload of this show was the best it has ever been for a Starkid production. There were almost no blurry or shaky camera moments, and the use of many different camera angles enhanced the show and made sure the viewer knew where the action was happening. There were a few moments where background performers were not visible due to the camera angle, which could be a little frustrating, but did not detract from the overall show enough to make a big difference in my enjoyment.

Featured Image: Kickstarter

Images from Team Starkid

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