by Noemi Arellano-Summer
Photo by Richard Royle
The musical starts with a boom of thunder, as the title suggests. With that, our stars jump on stage, introducing us (through song) to the Greek gods and their demigod children, who have “issues.” Said demigods—with their issues—will carry The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical to victory.
Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell) is on a class field trip where he is introduced to ancient Greek mythology—except it isn’t ancient, it’s right in front of him as a monster tries to kill him. Soon enough, he’s brought to Camp Half-Blood, where he discovers that his father is none other than Poseidon, the god of the sea. McCarrell admirably deals with being thrown for several loops as the plot demands. His particular brand of humor, lifted straight from the books, works well.
With all of that serving as a set-up, the main quest gets under way. It turns out someone has stolen Zeus’ master lightning bolt, (of the title) and it’s up to Percy to find it and return it before war breaks out between the gods. Joining him are his best friend (and satyr) Grover (Izzy Figueroa) and no-nonsense Annabeth, daughter of Athena (Kristin Stokes). Both characters have alternate reasons for going on the quest, mainly to prove themselves: Annabeth to her mother, and Grover to himself, because of a mistake he made in his past.
Their quest introduces them to several characters, most double or even triple cast, since this cast list is seven people long. Ryan Knowles plays mentor Chiron, the god Hades, and a beach-bum styled Poseidon. James Hayden Rodriguez likewise portrays both son of Hermes, Luke, as well as the motorcycle-riding god of war, Ares. The cast’s dedication to multiple roles was fantastic. The production was originally developed by TheaterWorksUSA, and their commitment to shows for young audiences.
Well-directed and choreographed by Stephen Brackett and Patrick McCollum, this production works, even when coping with a lot of plot to set up in this detail-heavy adaptation. For example, AchesonWalsh Studios created some pretty wacky (and awesome) puppet monsters for our heroes to fight and the number of characters increases as the quest continues. Although this musical is directed toward young audiences, it’s enjoyable for everyone.
The score and script (Rob Rokicki and Joe Tracz, respectively) use both humor and hard work to explain what’s going on. Frustratingly, there are a few points where the script doesn’t quite juggle everything as well as it could. The instrumentation is a fitting hard rock sound, but was occasionally so loud that the music drowned out the actors.
This musical does a masterful job at showing the pain of parental abandonment. Luke outright states that many demigods don’t know their godly parent, which invites plenty of confusion and resentment. Most demigods in this universe also have dyslexia and ADHD, which adds to the aforementioned issues. Props to The Lightning Thief for giving these kids both a voice and a quest.
The Lightning Thief blew into the Huntington Avenue Theatre for just over a week, but starting September 20, it’s coming to Broadway for a 16-week engagement at the Longacre Theatre, with much of the same cast and crew.