Neil Patrick Harris. Nathan Fillion. Felicia Day. Singing.
Oh, right. The Editor seems to think this review needs to be more than eight words long, so I’d better go into a little more detail. I’m talking, of course, about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the hit web musical brought to us by Joss Whedon.
Written during the writers’ strike of 2007-2008, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a masterpiece of… hilarious poignancy, or perhaps poignant hilarity. At any rate, it is both funny and heartbreaking and your life will be enriched for seeing it. Produced on a very small budget and with a relatively small (though well-known) cast, the musical was originally released for free online, a somewhat ground-breaking move… but one which has paid off.
The story, created by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, follows the eponymous Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) – also known as Billy – as he attempts to catch the eye of his kind-hearted crush, Penny (Felicia Day)… oh, and get into the Evil League of Evil, of course. Mustn’t forget that. As if Billy’s crippling inability to ask the girl out wasn’t bad enough, his own actions inadvertently introduce Penny to his arch-nemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Meanwhile, Bad Horse – the terrifying head of the League – doesn’t seem impressed, and Billy’s friend-slash-sidekick, Moist (Simon Helberg), isn’t really particularly helpful, given that his only power appears to be his ability to make things wet, something Moist himself laments.
The action unfolds through Dr. Horrible’s blogposts, vlogs in which he speaks – and sings – about the progress of his attempts to become a real supervillain. These attempts vary in their effectiveness, but he perseveres, and… well, I can’t possibly tell you any more without giving it all away. The whole thing has a fairly short runtime, and comes in three acts – so even if you can only spare 20 minutes at a time to check it out, it’s theoretically possible to do so and I highly recommend it. I say ‘theoretically’, because there is no way I could have walked away in between acts.
The songs are beautiful and perfectly comical – except the few that aren’t intended to be funny at all, but are still exquisite. The story, meanwhile, will have you well and truly rooting for the bad guy, and experiencing a pretty full range of emotions on the way. The cast are impeccable, from the stars right down to the tiniest of non-speaking roles. Nathan Fillion excels as the arrogant Captain Hammer, Neil Patrick Harris brings a great deal of humanity to our shy supervillain and Felicia Day presents an almost unbelievably believable goody-two-shoes in Penny, who – far from being just a passive corner of a love triangle – has her own goals and ambitions and could probably have spawned a whole musical of her own.
On that note, there were so many potential spin-off stories in this short musical that it was something of a relief as well as a joy when I, browsing my local comic shop, stumbled across Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories. Yes, they made a comic book out of some of those unpursued narrative threads, and here we find a little more detail about Penny, Moist, Hammer, Horrible, and even the Evil League of Evil itself.
The DVD release of the musical also boasts Commentary! The Musical, a masterpiece in its own right recorded in the place of a traditional audio commentary. This needs to be heard to be believed, honestly. And it gets better, because production is due to start soon on a sequel, according to Joss Whedon’s announcement at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012. There is more Horribleness to come! So it’s time to get in on the action now, if you haven’t already.
I’d give this musical a 4.5 out of 5, just because the ending almost killed me and I can hold a grudge forever.
Eleanor Musgrove (A fan’s gotta do what a fan’s gotta do)
You can acquire yourself a copy of this musical here.