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January 27, 2012

Darren Criss: From YouTube to Broadway

by The Centinal

By Lexi Zahrn – Staff Writer

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical comedy currently gracing the Broadway stage. The musical is well known for being Harry Potter Star Daniel Radcliffe’s first project outside of the multi-million dollar movie franchise. The show received fantastic reviews that praised Radcliffe’s performance, but the star has passed the J. Pierrpoint Finch torch on to another actor who has something in common with him.

Darren Criss, a San Francisco Native, never imagined that he would one day be performing on the prestigious stage that is Broadway, although it was certainly one of his dizziest daydreams. He attended the University of Michigan where he received his Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theater Performance in 2009. Along with a group of fellow Michigan seniors, Criss co-founded an internet production company called “Starkid.” He appeared in the company’s parody of a very popular book series, A Very Potter Musical. He played the show’s own Harry Potter and wrote many of the songs performed in the musical.

Junior Samantha Wells has this to say about the Starkids: “Darren Criss is such a good actor and singer and so is everyone else in all of the Starkid productions, I hope that they can put Lauren Lopez, Joey Richter, Joe Walker, Dylan Saunders, and/or Brian Holden in something because they are all phenomenal people and performers…I would love to see them in something!”

The production received a surprising amount of feedback and over a million views on YouTube from fans just like Wells. Criss in particular received special attention from the theater world. Criss was a musician growing up in SanFran. He played a number of instruments in a band with his brother Chuck Criss, now a member of the indie band Freelance Whales. This musical background and the positive feedback from AVPM led Criss and his friends to write and produce Me and My @%*#$ and A Very Potter Sequel.

Criss wrote the entire score for AVPS and reprised his role as the boy wizard. The Starkid’s YouTube channel garnered over 100 million views and the soundtrack from the musicals made Billboard’s Top Cast Albums list. Criss then released an EP of his own songs entitled “Human.” The EP has a soft acoustic sound full of Criss’s strong, soulful voice. It took the thirtieth spot on Billboard’s Heatseeker’s chart in 2010.

His musical prowess and stage experience landed Criss a role in Fox’s Emmy award-winning show Glee. He plays Curt Hummel’s love interest, Blaine Anderson. His performance of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” put Glee on the spot as the song debuted at number one on Billboard. “…On Glee he is not afraid to take chances and play someone who is gay.” Wells tells us.

His success on the show did not take away his passion for Starkid Productions. In the last year he composed the score for their space-themed musical Starship and appeared twice on the group’s fifteen-city tour. There has also been talk of A Very Potter Threequel with Criss as Harry Potter once again, though nothing has been officially confirmed.

Glee brought Criss to the attention of Broadway’s casting directors and before long he was taking the reins from Daniel Radcliffe to play J. Pierrpoint Finch in How to Succeed. His run only goes through the twenty-second mark, which does not give many people a chance to see how fantastic he is on stage, but there is no doubt that Criss will be doing more in the future.

Check out his website at http://darren-criss.com/

Or see Starkid Productions at www.youtube.com/user/starkidpotter

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