Hypable attended the opening night of the new The Lightning Thief musical, and we’re happy to report it’s better than ever in this new production.
The Lightning Thief premiered off-Broadway in a one-hour incarnation in 2014, and we championed it back then. Now, it has been expanded into a full two-act musical. It’s pretty much every fan’s dream come true: take a great adaptation of a beloved book, then double it in length to make it even more faithful!
‘The Lightning Thief’ Percy Jackson musical review
This production works on both levels: it’s accessible to the uninitiated mere mortals who want a good show, and it’s chock full of things to love for the most ardent of demigod fans. Both parties leapt to a standing ovation before the cast even emerged for bows.
Obviously, we fall into the latter camp of diehard fans.
The PJO fandom has already been burned by an awful film adaptation, but as the musical’s sassy Twitter account will tell you, the show does its utmost to be faithful. It’s being created by true fans of the series – if you don’t believe us, look at the tattoo the composer just got of a trident! And generally speaking, works that are by fans for fans turn out pretty great.
Long after @ltmusical closes, I'll have this reminder that this good thing happened to me. This show came into my life when I needed it most & whatever happens we're all fiercely proud of it. It's scrappy. It's about taking your own agency in the world -that parents may not care, that monsters are real, that you have to fight everyday -but the fight is worth it. Thank you @joetracz @theatreworks_usa #stephenbrackett #bringonthemonsters #letsdothis
So you can rest assured that the ending of the book is kept intact, that Percy spends time wondering about his father’s identity, and that Annabeth has curly blonde hair.
The expansion into a two-hour show allows for time spent on the quest across the country, which was essentially a montage in the last iteration. Fans can look forward to seeing Echidna, Auntie M, and the furies realized on stage. It’s really impressive, considering the shoestring budget the show’s running on, how much they accomplished.
A Percy Jackson musical can only be as good as its Percy Jackson, and Chris McCarrell is an absolutely flawless Percy. He’s goofy, he’s snarky, and captures all the hurt that Percy carries inside. He gets many songs to sing in the show, and they all sound incredible, as everyone saw in the clip released of “Good Kid.” We 100% believe him when he declares, “I am impertinent!”
The good news is that the talented cast of seven has much more room to showcase their acting and singing chops in this two-hour version. The brilliant composer, Rob Rokicki, has crafted at least one standout number for pretty much the entire cast. (Before you ask, we enquired about a cast album, and everyone really hopes it’ll happen!)
Kristin Stokes, the only holdover from the 2014 cast, remains a fantastic Annabeth. Early in Act 2, she gets to sing the girl power anthem, “My Grand Plan,” which is one of the highlights of the show and really develops her character. Stokes as Annabeth really conveys how tough and scrappy this girl is, given that she ran away from home at seven. Her chemistry with McCarrell will leave all the Percabeth shippers very content, even though the focus is on friendship because we’re only in The Lightning Thief.
George Salazar gets to show off the biggest range. As Grover, he mostly provides the comic relief, aided by the physical comedy of his furry goat legs. However, in Act 2 things take a turn for the emotional, as Grover recounts the story of “The Tree on the Hill” – the show’s best song, which had all the fans we were sitting with bawling their eyes out. In addition to Grover, Salazar plays an absolutely furious Mr. D, who gets a chair-throwing showstopper in “Another Terrible Day.”
The character that got the biggest upgrade in the two-hour version is Luke, whose dangerous charisma is wonderfully conveyed by James Hayden Rodriguez. A new song, “The Campfire Song,” perfectly conveys the bitterness the demigods feel towards their parents. “Things couldn’t be worse when your parents run the universe!” the campers declare, recounting anecdotes of the deadbeat deities. This, combined with an on-point dark reprise of a song towards the end, captures a very important truth about Luke: his methods are wrong, but he has a point about the gods not being so great.
Sarah Beth Pfeifer is fierce as Clarisse, threatening Percy that she’ll “Put You In Your Place.” Jonathan Raviv brings a flair to all his characters, namely Hades and Chiron. Chiron may not be as much of a wise old mentor in the musical, but makes up for that with horse puns. Carrie Compere rounds out the cast as Sally Jackson and Charon, with her powerful voice put to good use in a showstopper for each character. As the former, she gets a duet with Percy (“Stronger”) about how “normal is a myth,” which is ready to be claimed as a geek anthem just as soon as we have access to it.
The pacing of the show is really well done, oscillating seamlessly between action scenes and quieter moments of character development, much as the original book did. The hardcore PJO fans will have plenty of Easter eggs to enjoy in the musical – keep an eye out for Silena Beauregarde and Bianca di Angelo, among others! It really shows how this musical was a passion project for writer Joe Tracz (who’s continued faithfully adapting children’s books with Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events).
The Lightning Thief is as good an adaptation as we could wish, perfectly capturing the fun and everything we loved about the book. Great music, great acting, and a great story combine to make it one of the best nights of theatre we’ve seen. So we unequivocally recommend you go on a killer quest to see this musical!
The Lightning Thief is playing at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through May 6, and has $30 rush tickets available the day of. For more information, visit their website.