To See or Not to See: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
The newest adaptation of Rick Riordan’s bestselling young adult book, The Lightning Thief, is a charming off-Broadway musical that will appeal to all ages.
Percy Jackson is your typical teenager…except for the fact that his dad is the Greek god Poseidon. When we meet him, Percy (Chris McCarrell) is still oblivious of that fact. He’s been raised by his mom, Sally (Carrie Compere), and struggling with dyslexia and ADHD. One day, on a school field trip, Percy is attacked by a Fury (Sarah Beth Pfeiffer) so his mom sends him to Camp Half-Blood which is specifically for kids who have a Greek god or goddess as a parent. It turns out his former teacher is actually a centaur names Chiron (Jonathan Raviv) who helps run Camp Half-Blood, and his best friend Grover (George Salazar) also goes there; he’s a satyr. Once Percy is at camp, he befriends Annabeth (Kristin Stokes), daughter of Athena and Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez), son of Hermes. Eventually, Percy receives a near-impossible quest—a much coveted assignment from the gods—to prevent a war between the gods by finding Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt.
If you’re not familiar with the story beforehand, it may be a bit of a struggle, at first, to follow the quick-paced plot. Once it gets going, though, the show is so engaging that it doesn’t matter. The dialogue (book by Joe Tracz) and lyrics (written by Rob Rokicki) are witty enough to entertain adults yet simple enough for children to understand. The music (also by Rob Rokicki), despite the range of subject matter (the hilarious “Another Terrible Day” or the heartfelt “Good Kid”), is foot-tapping, catchy pop. This also allows The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical to provide a few heartwarming lessons about being normal to children without being preachy about it.
Lee Savage’s minimal set design of using Greek columns—to nod to the Greek mythology theme—along with bare scaffolding that allowed the actors to move around and build their own set pieces as they performed was on point. In particular, the scene where Percy, Annabeth, and Grover travel across country in makeshift buses and trains was delightful. Forcing the audience to use their imagination in moments like that makes them participants in the show. It only makes The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical more entertaining.
Finally, there is the talented cast. With the exception of Chris McCarrell and Kristin Stokes as Percy and Annabeth, all the other actors perform multiple parts throughout the show. They seamlessly move from one to the other and are entirely believable in each unique role. In particular, George Salazar shines as cranky Mr. D. (aka Dionysius), and Carrie Compere’s smooth vocals in “D.O.A.” are fantastic.
It has all the right ingredients—the combination of stellar words, music, and acting with the inventive set and prop use—to make The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson a long-lasting and successful show not just off-Broadway, but also regionally and in schools.
In short, you’ll leave the theater smiling. The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical is truly a delight.
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