5 Internet Musicals That You Should Not Miss
Kick it up a notch and sing on, because sometimes, a [email protected]'s gotta do what a hero's gotta do, and I hear that spies, like Batman, are forever.
I’ve always been a huge geek for musicals. I saw Annie when I was four. My mom dressed me in a little red Annie dress and took me to the theater. First cosplay? I think so. I was taken to Peter Pan when I was … three? I remember a lady flying around, and then I fell asleep, but I remember it—the singing, the flying, the feeling of being somewhere different and watching something that became a part of me in a way that nothing else had before.
By the time I was in high school, I had absorbed the lyrics and melodies to Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Secret Garden, and so many more. I think we may have seen Cats like … seven times? Soon to be eight, after I see the upcoming movie? My friends and I also committed to memory every Disney movie we encountered.
It all became a part of us and a part of our communications with each other. It formed our in-jokes, helped develop our senses of humor, and made us want to spend our time together singing, playing with harmonies, and taking turns getting to be Eponine. (She has all the best songs and lines.) I once fell down a hill wearing a hoopskirt in the dark because I was doing some weird outdoor Phantom of the Opera-related high school bullshittery.
As much as musicals have been a part of my life, I somehow missed out on the whole internet musicals wave when it was fresh and new. I didn’t see Dr. Horrible until it was on Netflix. I somehow completely missed out on Team Starkid’s work, even though I was a huge Potter fan with enough friends and family in Michigan that I was probably literally present in Ann Arbor when they performed their first shows at the University of Michigan. Why the internet didn’t recommend them to me, I’ll never know, but I’m here now to make sure someone recommends them to you.
Suffice it to say that, one day early this year, I was riding in my friend’s car to a convention, and we were singing Disney and other random stuff, when a song came up on her random playlist that I didn’t know. She was singing along, and I was listening; it seemed to be about … a robot learning to love? It was “The Way I Do,” from Starship, one of Starkid’s original productions. I immediately binged the musical on their YouTube channel and dove straight into Holy Musical [email protected].
To be honest, I still haven’t seen all of the Potter musicals all the way through, because I’m such a noob, but I’ve listened to most of the music and seen bits and pieces. Last night, I rewatched Starship with the friend who started this whole thing and found myself singing along, pointing out specific actors and talking about the other roles they’ve played, comparing and contrasting, and I realized I’d gone full fangirl. Friend of mine, if you’re reading this article, this is all your fault, and I love you for it.
So, because of my newfound obsession with internet musicals, I decided to write about them, starting with Dr. Horrible and then progressing through some of my other favorites. You will notice that there’s a bit of crossover with many of the actors involved, and that some of them are familiar from other shows. Also, please remember that I literally just found out about this stuff this year. If I missed some huge obvious favorite in the category, please clue me in (kindly) in the comments!
Starkid may have been around for ten years—they’re doing their Homecoming ten-year anniversary concert literally today—but to this internet musical newcomer, they’re only about a year old. Don’t worry, their website says a recording will be available for purchase for those of us who would have loved to have gone but lack the time and cash to attend. There are spoilers in the descriptions, so beware if you are heavily anti-spoiler.
1.) Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – Joss Whedon
The writer’s strike in 2008 meant that traditional onscreen entertainment wasn’t a thing there for a minute. When Joss Whedon put out Dr. Horrible, it came out at a time when people were hungry for new content because they hadn’t had any for a bit, and right when internet video was first becoming a popular thing that most people knew about and could access easily. The musical came out in three installments and was produced specifically for the internet. It also starred Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, which could not have hurt its popularity.
Watching him pinball back and forth between being a vulnerable, bullied nerd with a broken heart and an up-and-coming icon of evil, all while singing his heart out, was a magical experience—one that my friends and I still enjoy so much that we’re planning a gender-flipped cosplay of some of the characters for a convention in the near future. I get to be Captain Hammer! Also instrumental (haha, music pun) in the musical’s success were Felicia Day as the sweet, caring Penny and Nathan Fillion as the hilariously obnoxious Captain Hammer.
My favorite song from the show is “A Man’s Gotta Do,” because it showcases Dr. Horrible, Penny, and Captain Hammer, all singing together, and I’m a sucker for a number with lots of counterpoint and harmony.
2.) Starship – Team Starkid
Starship was the impetus for my discovery of internet musicals that were not Dr. Horrible. Apparently, a love song between a robot who wants to destroy all humans and a lovable doofus of a farm boy who sees her differently than she sees herself, which turns into a love song between a girl who hates all bugs and a guy who is an alien bug piloting a human meat-suit, is everything I never knew I needed. The song “The Way I Do” was my gateway into learning about Starkid, the actors involved in their productions, and that there was more—so much more—to watch and be excited about. “The Way I Do” is sung by Meredith Stepien as Megagirl, Dylan Saunders as Tootsie Noodles, Denise Donovan as February, and Joey Richter as Bug.
Starship is like The Little Mermaid, but in space. There’s a protagonist who wants to be something other than what he is, and there’s a Big Bad who sings an absolutely delightfully evil villain song about how he can facilitate that change … for a price. Bug is a bug alien who wants to be human so he can become a Starship Ranger. So, it’s kind of like if The Little Mermaid and Starship Troopers had a musical baby, but in space, with bug aliens—and puppets.
Seriously, if I had known about this when I wrote my villain songs article a few years ago, “Kick It Up A Notch,” sung by Dylan Saunders and Joey Richter as the evil Pincer and the naive Bug, would have been on that list, definitely including the reprise with the evil Junior, played by Brian Holden. The song even features a part that mirrors the whole, “But if I become human, I’ll never be with my father or sisters again …”/”But you’ll have your man! Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?” exchange.
Pincer even has mosquito sidekicks that are reminiscent of Ursula’s eels. The song starts at around the 4:19 minute mark, if you want to get right to it and skip the dialogue.
3.) Holy Musical [email protected]! – Team Starkid
So, immediately after falling in love with Starship, of course, I was in search of more, and there was Holy Musical [email protected]! With this show, I started to realize the true strength of Team Starkid—to somehow be ridiculous, entertaining, and hit you in the actual feels, all in the same song. Batman is a character who has been played by so many actors, and somehow, the cultural essence of Batman has been boiled down to a consensus on a rough-voiced billionaire bent on justice—a solitary, lonely figure.
As Bruce Wayne/Batman/Bat Wayne—no Bruce Man! (you’ll get it if you watch it)—Joseph Walker somehow takes everything that is ridiculous about the character, everything that is serious about the character, and rolls it up in one solidly ridiculous, oddly heartfelt, Dark, Sad, Lonely Knight. The song starts at around the 6:30 mark at that link.
The comments on the YouTube videos of the show are a great read. (For once, I recommend reading the comments.) The fan consensus seems to be that this is a much, much better story than Batman v Superman, and I super agree. The perfect counterpoint (literally, they sing together) to Joseph Walker’s Batman is Brian Holden’s Superman. Both superheroes are struggling with loneliness. Batman sings about wanting to be someone’s buddy—someone who would be his buddy back. This part of the song is at the 11:00 mark, if you want to skip ahead to that.
Superman joins in, along with Green Lantern and others. Later, Superman can be found commiserating with Green Lantern over Batman’s ridiculous pun-intensive villains. In what may be my favorite line of the entire show, Superman asks Green Lantern if he’s ever heard of Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Green Lantern has not. Superman replies, “That’s because I do my damn job!” Throughout the show, Superman tries to get other superheroes together to fight bad guys together, but everyone ghosts him.
The main villain of the musical is Sweet Tooth, who is totally #notthejoker, played by Jeff Blim, who does an amazing job of being completely creepy, as well as pulling appropriately pun-tastic endless candies out of some sort of pocket universe stored in his blazer. The song “Rogues Are We” has two parts. The first one takes place before Sweet Tooth shows up, and the second after he has taken over the Rogues as their leader. (The second part begins at around the 8:30 mark in the link.)
4.) Muzzled the Musical – Will Save Productions
Have you ever thought about the potential dark side to Disney Princesses? What if the Princesses rule while those who are descended from rebels literally can’t, because they’ve been magically muzzled? In Muzzled the Musical, Princesses are the only ones who can sing, while the Blackhearts are unable to do so, and thus cannot access their magic.
Malfalia, played by Ashly Burch, is the daughter of the Black Matron, whose Blackheart rebellion was crushed. After being seriously meangirled by the Princesses, Malfalia hatches a plan to destroy them from within and take back what was lost. Of course, it’s possible that she enjoys the Princess game a little too much, and that she pressed her two best friends, Hadey (Mary Kate Wiles) and Damon (Maxwell Glick), into servitude to further her goals—and that she might be more powerful than anyone knows, because she managed to blow out her muzzle all on her own.
The Black Matron is played by Juliet Landau, who I loved as Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so if you’re a fan and wondered if she can sing, the answer is: watch it, and yes, she can. Princess Ambrosia, played by Ashley Clements, the ultimate mean girl, parties her princess friends and her prince too hard. As a matter of fact, her Prince seems like he might have sympathetic leanings with the Blackhearts.
A big highlight of this musical is the “Song Battle,” “Princess Funbutter’s” baptism by fire into Princess society, emceed by Prince Dashing, played by Brendan Bradley. Another favorite is “Sing On,” where the Blackhearts realize that the muzzles have been broken and their power has been restored. If you’re a Starkid fan, you might recognize Lauren Lopez and Joey Richter in this musical, as well! Muzzled the Musical has three parts, and while it has an ending, it’s definitely open enough for there to be a return to this world. I hope they do it!
5.) Spies Are Forever – Tin Can Bros
This one I discovered through Spotify, while trying to figure out what else some of the Starkid members and Muzzled cast had been in. Spies Are Forever takes place in the fifties, and is most definitely a parody of the entire spy genre, while also managing to circumvent so many of the tropes the genre contains. It features Curt Mega as Agent Curt Mega (and I’m not sure there is a name that screams American Spy more than that), Joey Richter as suave MI6 agent Owen, and Mary Kate Wiles as Tatiana, a Russian spy who vibes femme fatale, Black Widow, and tragic heroine simultaneously.
One of my favorite songs in this show is “Spies Are Forever,” which can be found near the 5:25 mark in that link. If you enjoy musical numbers with counterpoint and harmony, I recommend “The Torture Tango,” which features The Deadliest Man in the World (Joseph Walker), Agent Mega, and Tatiana. Start listening at the 3:45 minute mark there. If songs where people who were once close are now enemies (trying not to spoil it too hard) sing out their love/hate situation are your thing, then you definitely want to give “One Step Ahead” a listen. Other names in the cast familiar to those who follow Starkid, Tin Can Bros, Will Save Productions, and related content are Brian Rosenthal, Lauren Lopez, Joseph Walker, Tessa Netting, Corey Lubowich, Clark Baxtresser, and Al Fallick.
Twisted: The Untold Tale of a Royal Vizier by Starkid
What if Aladdin was a jerk, Jasmine was spoiled and entitled, and Jafar was … right? What if there were more to the tale than the Disney movie showed? What if there were a bunch of villagers singing about how much they hate Jafar instead of singing about how super weird Belle is for reading books? What if Jafar was singing about how he wants to truly help people instead of Belle singing about how very bored she is by the fact that the baker bakes daily? If those ideas intrigue you, then have a look at Twisted.
Firebringer by Starkid
If you don’t want to do the work today, do I have a musical for you! It’s about cave persons discovering how to human, how to friend, and how to fire. Most importantly, it features some great songs and humor.
What are your favorite Internet musicals? Please share in the comments! I’m on a kick here and want more!
(featured image: Will Save Productions)
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