by Jacqueline Lemieux, Class of 2020
Fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians know to be somewhat wary of adaptations of the source material. After the 2010 and 2013 movie versions of The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters — both of which are considered quite disappointing both to fans and to Rick Riordan, who wrote the original series — it can be difficult to trust any Percy Jackson-based material which is not written by Riordan himself. However, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical went above and beyond expectations; it is perhaps the most true-to-book adaptation I have ever seen, with a Drama Desk nominated book by the incomparable Joe Tracz (Be More Chill) and upbeat, hilarious music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki (Smart Girls).
Three of The Lightning Thief‘s stars are reprising their roles from the show’s Off-Broadway run: Chris McCarrell as Percy Jackson, Kristin Stokes as Annabeth Chase, and James Hayden Rodriguez as Luke and others. The show also features Izzy Figueroa as Grover and Mr. D — also known as Dionysus, god of wine and director of Camp Half Blood, Ryan Knowles as the hilarious Chiron and others, Jalynn Steele as Sally Jackson and others, and T. Shyvonne Stewart as Clarisse and others.
Chris McCarrell perfectly captures the essence of Percy Jackson. He absolutely embodies Percy’s awkwardness, goofiness, and sarcasm — for two and a half hours, I was entirely willing to believe that he was a twelve-year-old thrust into the world of the Greek gods after killing his substitute teacher. As a lover of the Percy Jackson series and a performer myself, I was in awe of his talent — it was truly the Percy Jackson I had grown up with, the character I know and love, standing onstage killing monsters or delivering witty one-liners or bringing the house down with his rendition of Good Kid.
Throughout the years, one thing has remained consistent no matter how many times I read and reread the Percy Jackson books: I love Annabeth Chase. No matter how old I am or how many times I reread the books, she has always been my favorite character. Kristin Stokes’ interpretation of Annabeth lined up very closely with my own; Annabeth has always been a character I relate to, and Stokes’ Annabeth felt very familiar and intimate, as if Annabeth herself had stepped off the page and onto the stage.
Perhaps the most impressive performance was by Ryan Knowles, who played Chiron — the centaur Trainer of Heroes at Camp Half Blood — as well as a host of hilarious other characters. Any time he was onstage, he absolutely stole the show, whether he was galloping like a horse or dressing in drag as the uproariously terrifying Auntie “M” — short for Medusa.
The breathtaking special effects and tech were by far my favorite part of the show. The set was mostly minimalist-industrial, with scaffolding reminiscent of Newsies set in front of Greek columns covered in graffiti. I was especially impressed by the use of humans, props, and even puppets to create the monsters; I loved the transformation from Mrs. Dodds to the fury during “Prologue/The Day I Got Expelled” and the statues in Auntie M’s Garden Emporium.
The Lighting Thief was an incredible experience ripe with comedy, drama, amazing music, and stunning technical elements. Whether you are a Percy Jackson fan, musical enthusiast, or just a person who likes to have a good time, I would highly recommend going to see this show. The North American tour is coming to a close on Sunday, 28 July 2019, but fans remain hopeful for an Off-Broadway revival or even a Broadway transfer (please!). With all the closing announcements recently, I can think of a few theatres for The Lightning Thief to occupy: Circle in the Square (currently home to Oklahoma!), Neil Simon Theatre (The Cher Show), Brooks Atkinson (Waitress (my personal favorite theatre!!!!!!)), Nederlander (Pretty Woman), Broadway (King Kong), Longacre (The Prom), Lyceum (Be More Chill), Hayes-Second Stage (What the Constitution Means to Me), Hudson (Sea Wall/A Life), Golden (Slave Play), Booth (freestyle love supreme), or Lunt-Fontanne (Manilow Broadway). If none of these are appealing, feel free to take over the Marquis Theatre — just saying.
Even if no transfer is announced, I am certain this will not be the end for The Lightning Thief. I anxiously await the next production — or perhaps an adaptation of the rest of the books (Joe Tracz + creative team, if you’re reading this, please) — and will be streaming the soundtrack until Percy Jackson returns to the stage.