In late 2022, Team StarKid hit the road for the Jangle Ball Holiday Tour, travelling across the US for the first time in a long time to present a series of live concert dates. Our writer attended the New York City stop and can happily report that the experience was Totally Awesome! Read on for our review of The StarKid Jangle Ball Holiday Tour and catch the digital version before it disappears.
Team StarKid, for those who were not entrenched in Harry Potter fandom or YouTube culture circa 2009, is the musical theater company behind A Very Potter Musical, its subsequent sequels, and a host of other musicals that parody everything from superheroes to horror movies – Starship, Holy Musical, B@man!, and Firebringer to name just a few.
The group continue to film and post their completed musical productions on YouTube, and they have performed a number of one-off concerts featuring musical numbers from across their back catalogue, including 2019’s 10-year anniversary show called StarKid Homecoming, but The StarKid Jangle Ball Holiday Tour is the first full US concert tour they have done since the Apocalyptour a decade ago, and there is nothing like the energy of seeing them live! Fans dress up, reconnect with old friends, exclaim over each other’s merchandise, and fondly discuss their favorites… in between dancing to songs where half the audience knows every word.
During December 2022, Team StarKid hit seven cities across the US for a run of sold out shows. We attended the New York stop at Irving Plaza, but in line with Team StarKid’s long-time policy of making their material accessible to fans, anyone who missed the live performances of the Jangle Ball Tour can now watch a video recording of the Los Angeles date for $15 on the official website. The digital video recording will be available through January 5th, and then will be taken offline until a thoroughly edited, mixed and mastered version is created and re-released for purchase on DVD/digital download later in 2023 (Unlike the musicals, Team StarKid’s concert films are not released on YouTube.)
The Jangle Ball Tour is different from StarKid’s earlier tours, thanks to the breadth of their catalogue and the unique nature of their latest musical, A VHS Christmas Carol. The setlist of their earlier tours served as an effective highlight reel of StarKid’s body of work to that point: they had only done four and five musicals respectively at the time of The SPACE Tour and Apocalyptour. Those were a great time, and it is satisfying as a fan to know you’ll get to hear your favorite songs, but a decade on, Team StarKid has a dozen musicals under their belts. This allows for creative curation on their part, and adds a new layer of interest as a concertgoer – wondering what songs they’ve chosen to perform, and so forth.
The creative minds behind The Jangle Ball Tour absolutely leaned into this aspect: the concert is broken up into two acts, with the first being “Naughty” and the second being “Nice.” Under that premise, the first act consists entirely of Team StarKid’s villain songs. Even that left the company with plenty of wiggle room, given that they have a trilogy of horror musicals and a parody of Wicked where the question of who the villain is remains ambiguous. And StarKid didn’t disappoint – they brought out many excellent numbers from all their villains.
After opening with “Deck the Halls,” the seasonally appropriate song from Black Friday, fans were treated to the title song from Twisted (in the opinion of this writer and many Team StarKid fans, the best musical they’ve done). This gave Dylan Saunders a chance to deliver a truly impressive vocal performance as Jafar, setting the stage for a show that not only had fun songs, but had genuinely great singing and dancing.
It’s always a treat to see a show’s original actors perform signature songs – as was the case with Saunders and “Twisted,” or with A.J. Holmes as Gilderoy Lockhart singing “Wizard of the Year” from A Very Potter Senior Year. (For the latter, Holmes seemed to relish the chance to ham it up in front of an audience, building on his stage persona as a diva from his 2021 solo comedy show Yeah, But Not Right Now.) The folks who have been with Team StarKid for many years – Saunders, Holmes, Joey Richter, Lauren Lopez, Meredith Stepien, Brian Holden, Brian Rosenthal, Jaime Lyn Beatty, and Corey Dorris – have really come into their own as performers, and it’s good to see them as such comfortable and natural performers.
But just as interesting is seeing how new performers in the StarKid family reinterpret songs. For instance, original company member Joe Walker was not part of the Jangle Ball Tour, and his absence was perhaps most keenly felt. But that offered Dylan Saunders a chance to swap roles and sing “The Golden Rule” from Twisted. The audience was into that, shouting “More gold!” right on cue in the song. Newcomer Janaya Mahealani Jones performed Walker’s showstopper “Stutter” from A Very Potter Sequel – it was such a change of pace, hearing Dolores Umbridge’s song in powerhouse female vocals, it took me until the chorus to even recognize it! Other performers managed to hew so closely to the original, it was hard to tell the difference: Jamie Burns took over Ursula in “Twisted” and my friend didn’t even realize it was a different performer. I have no doubt fans will soon be as obsessed with these new talents as they are with the Team StarKid regulars.
The second act of the concert, the Nice half, was given over to a full rendition of A VHS Christmas Carol. With good reason: the show is a tight 45 minutes, and Clark Baxtresser’s score is among the absolute best in Team StarKid’s catalogue. I was taken with the project from the very first time I saw it, and it only gets better upon repeat viewing – Baxtresser’s book for the show is the best retelling of A Christmas Carol give-or-take the Muppets version. This is the third holiday season that Team StarKid is performing A VHS Christmas Carol in some capacity, and I expect it to be a perennial favorite for years to come.
Every song in A VHS Christmas Carol is better than the last. Jaime Lyn Beatty is so charming and funny as the Ghost of Christmas Past, followed by the mind-blowing belting of “That Scrooge,” followed by James Tolbert’s infectious choreography in “Christmas Electricity,” followed by Joey Richter and Lauren Lopez’s soaring romantic duet in “Priceless,” followed by Jamie Burns’s haunting vocals in “The Final Ghost.” The whole time, Dylan Saunders is clearly having the best time as Scrooge, rocking out whenever he doesn’t have to yell “Bah, humbug!”
The “Naughty” act was about seeing how Team StarKid curates their back catalogue – with cool medleys, fierce dance moves, and fun trips down memory lane. The “Nice” act was more straightforward, all about seeing performers that are firing on all cylinders – seamlessly going from hit song to hit song, telling a story, and taking an enthusiastic audience along for the ride. Combined, the two acts made for StarKid’s best live tour yet.
The Jangle Ball Tour concluded on December 17th, but digital tickets are still are available, giving fans still have a few more days to watch the recording as a nice denouement to the holiday season. We can highly recommend it, as a chance to see what was, in our opinion, Team StarKid’s greatest concert showcase so far.
This article was written by Subjectify contributor Irvin K. Connect with Irvin on Twitter.