Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Team Starkid’s new high-spirited musical, “Nerdy Prudes Must Die”

“And suddenly I’m defending Grace Chasity of all people!”
Courtesy of Team Starkid’s official Facebook page.

In 2009, a group of theatre kids from the University of Michigan banded together to provide a creative outlet and a safe space for one another. Some may know the name “Team Starkid,” or they may know the stars and musicals they have produced in their thirteen years of creating. They are mainly known for one of the group’s founders, “Glee” star Dareen Criss, plus their tradition of uploading their musical production’s pro shots to YouTube for free access and entertainment. Although they started their career with parodies of Harry Potter, Team Starkid has since produced a wide variety of their own original musicals and musical-like projects in recent years.

Starting with “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” in 2018, Team Starkid began work on their newest installment— known across their fanbase as the “Hatchetfield Series.” Each story is contained in its respective musical or short-form content but inhabits the rather eerie and unsettling town of Hatchetfield. This musical was followed by “Black Friday” in 2019 and built up to a third entry in 2023 called “Nerdy Prudes Must Die,” with each being uploaded to YouTube.

Staring characters from their series online exclusive “Nightmare Time,” “Nerdy Prudes Must Die” stars both nerds, jocks, devout Christians and otherworldly demons in this refreshing take on the high school setting. Following these scattered characters navigate the terrifying world of high school politics and cliques, popular girl Stephanie and geeky Pete are whisked into a friendship-turned-relationship spanning the musical’s duration. Songs like “If I Love You” and “Cool As I Think I Am (Reprise)” shine in accumulating and explaining each of their perspectives on their blooming romance — to a techno-pop and emotional string backing respectively. Their friendship irritated Max Jägerman, who is described as a “Literal Monster” in song by both him and his peers, proud to make Hatchetfield High succumb to his design and wishes. This crescendos to a prank-gone-wrong, leaving Max deceased in a rumored haunted house.

The titular song “Nerdy Prudes Must Die” orchestras both the musical’s shift into the supernatural, but the motivation of how the horror comes to fruition. The verse sung by Max towards Pete’s nerd best friend Richie, transcribed via Genius, over an overwhelming electronic guitar and drum combination: “You think I seek revenge/ I could give two shits that you buried and left me/ Defiled my body/ You pushed me off the edge!” Max’s act of terror post-modem leads our nerdy cast to desperately seek out a way to put the violence and spirit to rest. As this is a Hatchetfield product, the evolution of Wiggly and his ethereal siblings was incredible for long-term and newer fans to raise the already high stakes.

The musical utilizes its ensemble and fleshes out each character in the almost two-and-a-half-hour timeframe extremely well, especially Grace Chastity. Once a throwaway joke in both “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” and “Black Friday”, finally appearing in “Nightmare Time” and “Nerdy Prudes Must Die,” the show establishes her homelife, aspirations and motivations, in addition to her vices and virtues. One of the best signifiers of such is during the song “Dirty Girl” which explores her immoral feelings towards the resident jock and general terror, Jägerman. The song is a duet between the pair and while exploring a character’s complicated emotions with oneself, somehow manages to make the phrase “dirty girl soup” serious and intimate.

The set design appears mundane at first glance, with faint props used throughout scenes and a stagnant graffiti backdrop, but the skilled performers know how to make a small venue look larger than life. While watching the musical, my favorite use of an unusual prop was the school’s lunch table recycled into Grace’s bed, having her wake up in bed (otherwise known as the bench). In addition, the lighting is dramatic and subdued in the correct scenes while the shooting of the video manages to encapsulate the precise angles for a specific tone and emotional beat.

As most musicals tend to require, the vocals and underlying score of the tracks are addictive and effective earworms from just the first listen. In particular, I love the comedic timing of having “Bully The Bully” and “Bury The Bully” back-to-back on the track list, yet still possessing the same joyful snapping and piano plus guitar riffs to offset their criminal offense. A pull-and-push of these comedic horrors comes from Pete’s other nerdy friend Ruth as they imagine themself as a hypothetical character in the upcoming play, “BBQ Monologue.” The high schooler describes their life as a 40-year-old parent, yet the sentiment of wanting a moment of understanding and acknowledgment most teens crave at that time. As the jokes throughout the musical are plentiful, the more somber moments such as the chanting of a dark spell in “The Summoning” and the witch-hunt of the town in “Hatchet Town” help flesh out the world outside the high school schedule.

The musical ends with couples getting together, a charismatic homecoming and the potential new dread coming — which I implore you to see for yourself without my spoilers this time around. Although Hatchetfield products may be pushed aside in the future for more creative ventures, “Nerdy Prudes Must Die” is a fantastic entry for both the overarching story and anyone looking for a fun two-and-a-half hours to kill.

Sierra Thornton can be reached at [email protected].

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