In January, ironically enough, Criss will star on Broadway in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," replacing Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. As for the rest of the group, plans are vague, but vast — maybe a show about the U.S. Constitution, maybe another Harry Potter musical, maybe an animated series or a variety show, or starting a theater company in Chicago, or revisiting (and revamping) "Starship." Holden said two new stage shows have already been written and are ready to be produced.

All of which, if you watch StarKid's no-budget YouTube clips, sounds like a leap. Criss himself admits the group was horrified by the quality of the lighting and sound when the videos went viral. In person, however, in the company of StarKids, you want to drink their Kool-Aid. It's no great exaggeration to say they look like stars. Even Gaber sees himself "down the road, talking about when these guys were gathered in one place."

Because what they offer is compelling: a vision of friends marching arm in arm into a digital future. Still new to Chicago, they generally stick together. They hold movie nights. A dozen or so recently rented a cabin on Lake Erie and spent the weekend telling ghost stories. They regularly patch in Criss and Richter (who live together in Los Angeles) via Skype. "It's not a cult," Beatty says. "If nothing else, it's von Trapp-ish." Or as Criss, who will appear at only one or two of the StarKid tour stops, puts it, "I think we are desperate to hold on to that idea that we are just kids having fun, growing from whatever small beans we've been handed."

Which, in that Lakeview rehearsal space, seems much more realistic than it sounds. "So should we, like, stand in a cluster now," Holden asks Albain, "like we're pretending to decide who's going to sing next?"

"You want to fake a huddle?" she asks.

And so the StarKids form a circle, squash their shoulders together and lean forward with one motion, as though they've been fake-huddling all their lives. Loud stage whispers chime out from inside the scrum:

"But Darren's not here!"

"Who's going to sing?"

"Who'll take his part?"

Before they can fake-decide, Walker breaks through the huddle and pretend-pushes aside his fellow StarKids and ignores their cartoonish glares of outrage and moves downstage and sings, his hand intensely gripping his invisible microphone, his face contorted with fake emotion. Albain shouts an exaggerated, stadium-esque roar of approval. Then Team StarKid spreads out, working the invisible crowd at the lip of the invisible stage — everyone so lacking in self-consciousness despite the corniness and comfortable despite the rough edges, I found myself hoping they wouldn't sand down the rough patches. They are what makes Team StarKid infectious and relatable, especially here, in this cold Chicago attic. Because anyone can put on a show. But only these kids put on this one.

Twitter @borrelli