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A CurtainUp Review
The Lightning Thief
The Lightning Thief, which is the first novel of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, has an interesting history. Riordan's son, who had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, was studying Greek mythology in second grade and asked his father for some bedtime stories based on the Greek myths. After a while, even though Riordan had taught mythology to middle-schoolers, he ran out of stories and decided to create his own.
Riordan didn't just add to the Greek cannon but gave his myths a new hero, one who would also deal with ADHD and dyslexia, His invention, Percy Jackson, was the son of a human and Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. He had Percy meet others like himself at Camp Half-Blood and have many adventures with his new friends.
In The Lightning Thief Percy has a lot to do for a middle-schooler. For some reason, the Gods think he stole Zeus' lightning bolt and the only way he can clear himself is to recover the sacred weapon from the real crook and thus save the world from Olympian warfare.
Considering the popularity of the books (more than 45 million copies have been sold in more than 35 countries), a dramatization was inevitable. And so Joe Tracz (book) and Rokicki's (music and lyrics) The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. First staged by Theatreworks USA in 2014 as an hour-long show, this has now added a second act, and features a larger cast of characters and a new score.
This new version, directed by Stephen Brackett, aspires to the pizzazz of a Disney musical without spending the money. There are lots of songs and a few production numbers. There are only seven actors to play the many characters. The only ones to play just one role are Chris McCarrell as Percy, and Kristin Stokes, as the wise and sassy daughter of Athena and a possible girlfriend for Percy.
There isn't much by way of costumes or set. The surging of the sea is represented by rolls of toilet paper tossed into the audience.
Considering the age of the audience members , none of this may be a problem. Maybe they won't mind that the actors are at least ten years older than most of the characters they are portraying.
It also helps that most of the youngsters who see the show will have probably read the books and come to the theater with lots of good will. But for their adult companions, much of the show is slow and confusing. Good guys and bad guys, gods and mortals all become a jumble. And why does it take the whole first act to finally send Percy and his friends off on their mission with “Killer Quest?”
As for the acting, it's about as good as you can expect when adults are playing children who are demigods. The kids' problems with their immortal parents are similar to those real kids have here on earth.
The Lightning Thief as a book seems to have captured the imagination and the loyalty of preteens, but the musical tries too hard to mix adventure, adolescent humor and all too familiar family issues. But it's hard to see how anyone could help a performr with lines like, All hail Percy Jackson, supreme lord of the bathroom, or "You need me too, Seaweed Brain."
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The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
By Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Cast: Carrie Compere (Sally and others); Chris McCarrell (Percy Jackson); Sarah Beth Pfeifer (Clarisse and others); Jonathan Raviv (Chiron and others); James Hayden Rodriguez (Luke and others); George Salazar (Grover/Mr. D); Kristin Stokes (Annabeth) Musical Direction: Wiley DeWeese
Orchestrations: Wiley Deweese & Rob Rokicki
Choreography: Patrick McCollum
Fight Direction: Rod Kinter
Costume Design: Sydney Maresca
Lighting Design: David Lander
Sound Design: Ryan Rumery
Running Time: 2 hours, with one 10-minute intermission
Theatreworks NYC at Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street www.LightningThiefMusical.com
From 3/23/17; opening 4/04/17; closing 5/06/17
Monday – Tuesday at 7:30pm; Thursday 2pm & 7:30pm; Friday 7:30pm; Saturday 2pm & 7:30pm and Sunday 3pm
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 7, 2017
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