photo by Jeremy Daniel
by Marialena Rago
Mythology, monsters, Gods and a quest to save the world. The extraordinary tale of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, based on the New York Times best-selling book, is playing at the Merriam Theatre now until January 27th.
Percy Jackson is a troubled, but good kid who doesn’t understand why he is always getting himself expelled from school. When he finds out that he is a demigod, meaning he is half mortal and half god (his father is Poseidon, God of the sea), Percy is sent on a quest, the highest honor of any half-blood, to save his mother and the world from a war between the Gods. His fellow half-bloods, Annabeth and Grover, join Percy on his journey across the country to LA (where the underworld is located).
The musical itself has also had quite a journey. It was introduced in NYC in 2014 as part of a free theatre series, in a one-hour format. That version then went on a national tour. Two years ago, a new version began production featuring updated music and a longer script. A limited Broadway run began in March of that year. Now, Philadelphia has a chance to see this musical as part of the recently launched National tour. Many of the cast members have been with the show since the workshop days, including Percy himself (Chris McCarrell) and Annabeth (Kristin Stokes).
The characters in Lightning Thief are met with monsters and partake in battles with Gods like Medusa and Aries. The show leaves a lot to the imagination of the viewer (which isn’t a bad thing), when it comes to battle scenes. Unfortunately Broadway’s history with superhero-focused shows is not a good one (let’s not forget the Spiderman fiasco). No doubt, it’s difficult to have cars blowing up on stage or a fight sequence where someone is hit with a wave of water. Whether a stage in permanent or has to be torn apart and rebuilt in another city within a short time period, some settings just aren’t an easy task. Parents of younger viewers might appreciate the toned-down visuals though.
The show has many funny moments. Actor Jorrel Javier is a special stand out, playing two characters with wit and physical humor (Grover and Mr.D). Javier has all the funny lines, I loved the scene where Grover talks to a squirrel in the woods and somehow the squirrel manages to get Amtrak tickets from New York to LA. Scenes like this make the kids laugh and enjoy the show.
If you have children, it is a great show to see. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief teaches life lessons through battles, mythical monsters, and a lead character that is relatable to younger audiences. The theme of the show is great for anyone, though- you are special; what makes you different is what makes you strong.
Sure, it might seem odd that toilet paper was used as water in a fight sequence and the amount of lights might blind you by the end, but the smile on the kid’s face next to me Tuesday night is what theatre is really all about. Theatre is about being immersed in what’s in front of you. Percy Jackson definitely does not lack imagination and an escape from the real world, and gets bonus points for bringing a theatrical experience to a younger audience. If a show does that, then I’m not going to be a theater snob about it in any way.
The Lighting Thief is at the Merriam Theater now until January 27th. Purchase tickets here.
Check out our interview with cast member Kristin Stokes here.