If you ask anyone at comic con who Rick Riordan is you will hear squeals of sheer delight, just like I did last night at the opening of The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical. It is completely understandable considering Riordan invented the Percy Jackson stories for his son Haley, who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. Haley had been studying Greek mythology and asked his father for bedtime stories based on those myths. Riordan created Percy Jackson and the story of his travels across the US to recover Zeus’s lightning-bolt. Those books sold twenty million copies worldwide and were made into a film. In the story, Percy also has ADHD and dyslexia.
The story starts out as Percy (Chris McCarrell, Les Miserable revival), has been expelled from yet another school, only this time, he was fighting a Fury that nobody could see, including his best friend Grover (George Salazar), who turns out to be a satyr. He discovers he is a demi-god, when his loving mother (Carrie Compere, The Color Purple) tries to tell him who his his real father is. After his mother is killed by a Minotaur, Percy finds himself in a summer camp for “half-bloods.” He is called into Mr. D’s (Salazar, again), the camp’s director’s office who has been demoted due to the fact he is Dionysus, the god of wine and pissed off Zeus. He is not a fan of children especially “half bloods.”He sings the amusing “Another Terrible Day.” Percy learns his disabled teacher is actually Chiron (Jonathan Raviv, The Band’s Visit), complete with horsey gait. he feels welcome by Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez), Hermes son, his camp councilor and his teammates the feisty Annabeth (Kristin Stokes, Fly by Night), daughter of Athena and Clarisse (Sarah Beth Pfeifer) Ares daughter. Percy soon discovers that he is Poseidon (Jonathan Raviv), god of the sea’ son when he is claimed. That makes matters more complicated as children of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon are looked down upon.
The complicated plot involves Percy, Annabeth and Grover’s quest to prevent a war among the Greek gods. At the heart of this story is a teens on a quest of self-discovery, who seek parental acceptance and who are desperate to fit in. With lines like “Normal is a myth/Everyone has issues they’re dealing with,” this is a show with an upbeat positive message. Even each character’s percieved weaknesses are strengths, which allows kids to feel good about themselves.
The cast is an incredible talented group, each playing multiple characters. Salazar, is over the top, fun and hilarious. Raviv and Rodriguez, have some wonderful moments. McCarrell, is a likable gangly hero with a kick ass rock voice, but it is the powerhouse Carrie Compere who adds heart as Percy’s mother as she sings the song “Strength”, adds fright as the Oracle and is hot as hades with incredible out of this world vocals on “D.O.A.“.
The direction by Stephen Brackett is fun and keeps the pace at God like speed. The choreography by Patrick McCollum is unimpressive and looked a little messy. Book by Joe Tracz will appeal to teens and will keep their parents from being bored. The music and lyrics: Rob Rokicki is tuneful and toe tapping, especially “Drive.”The orchestrations by Wiley Deweese & Rokicki are fleshed out and polished. Sydney Marescas costumes are clever, low budget designs, but add imagination and creativity. David Lander’s lighting, makes you feel you are in rock concert mode. Lee Savage’s set is utilitarian but works.
For a show that looks like their budget could have used some Godly assistance, the overall messages of belonging, community and acceptance make you forgive any of the shows faults. After all how do you criticize a show with such a positive message?
The Lightning Thief: Lucille Lortel Theatre. 121 Christopher St. until May 6th