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BWW Interview: Chris McCarrell Talks THE LIGHTNING THIEF on Tour and More!

BWW Interview: Chris McCarrell Talks THE LIGHTNING THIEF on Tour and More!
Chris McCarrell as Percy from NYC Production
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniels

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical is the exciting musical adaptation that features a thrilling original rock score of the New York Times best-selling novel written by Rick Riordan is now playing at the Fisher Theatre through March 8th in Detroit. The book series has sold more than 100 million copies of book series sold worldwide and the theatrical production had a sold-out run in New York City where it earned three Drama Desk Award nominations including Best Musical. As the son of Poseidon, Percy Jackson has newly discovered powers he can't control, monsters on his trail, and is on a quest to find Zeus' lightning bolt to prevent a war between the Greek gods. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Chris McCarrell, who originated the role of Percy Jackson and is currently touring with the show as him, about why fans of the book will love The Lightning Thief and random theatre-goers will be entertained as well - plus so much more! Check out what Chris had to say below:

Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?

Chris McCarrell: I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I was always into music. I studied violin until I got into musical theatre and that was my true passion. I got really serious about theatre in high school. I went to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music and I got my music theatre degree there. I came straight to New York and got started in the theatre scene doing some regional shows and originated some characters there. I was pretty much thrown into Les Misérables on Broadway, the latest revival. I started off as the Marius understudy. Then I took over Marius and played him for a year and half. Right after that was when I started Percy Jackson so it was kind of a quick jump from Les Mis to Percy Jackson. I did the off-Broadway production and the cast album. Now we're touring the country and getting a lot more people to see the show than they got to see it in our original production!

How would you describe The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical in your own words?

It's this story that is center around the fundamental values of what it means to be a good parent and what it means to be a good son. In Act One, it is the things that he really struggles with in school and his normal life and then in Act Two, it really is about what is at the heart of his powers. It's a story of friendship, empowerment, family values, and doing the right thing in the face of very extreme circumstances.

How do you describe who Percy Jackson is to you?

To me, he is just this normal kid who is thrown into this world that he never asked to be a part of where the stakes are extremely high. He's the son of a Greek god, but his entire life he just thought that his dad was some deadbeat. So, he kind of goes down the path that is required of him to clear his name and to basically save the world, but the entire time he just remains a normal kid that is trying to do the right thing. That's my favorite part of him that he always maintains that level of authenticity and normalcy even though it turns out that is life anything, but normal and nothing about him is average.

Do you see any similarities between Percy and yourself?

BWW Interview: Chris McCarrell Talks THE LIGHTNING THIEF on Tour and More!
Chris McCarrell

Yeah, for sure. The whole show basically revolves around his relationship with mother and trying to save his mother. I've always had a really close relationship with my mom; so, our love for our mom's is very similar. I would say he's very like scattered in school, which I was like more of the scattered type when I was growing up and in school. Even though I always knew what was going on, a lot of people assumed that I wasn't paying attention or I didn't understand what was happening, even though I did. Just kind of feeling underestimated because of you seeming to be aloof or kind of scattered, I can really relate to Percy in that way.

Did you have to do any type of special preparation for this role?

I really didn't have a lot of time to from the time I got the role. I read the first book that our show is based off of and I just kind of jumped in from there because that was really all there was time for. The creative process with our director, Stephen Brackett, really let us explore and create our own world within what this script called for. A lot of my preparation was done in rehearsal, just kind of jumping in and not judging anything, not treating anything as a young adult story, we really treated it as this fun, high-level quest that we had to pull together and do onstage.

You brought up the books, how much of the books is in the musical? How much of this is a brand-new show?

So much is from the books. Our team knew that what was going to make the musical special was the same thing that made the books special. They tried really hard to protect what made the books so different. The tone of the book is there. A lot of funny moments and the dramatics are there like right when Percy is about to die there always a one liner or something, which is a lot like the books. There is a lot of quotes that are pulled directly from the books. The first thing I say, well sing, is the first line of the books. The first line Annabeth says is her first line in the books. You can always tell the people in the audience who have read the book because they are always so excited!

Do you think people that are diehard fans of the books will be happy? Do you think that people who have never read the books will still enjoy the show?

We have both people. A huge part of a platform has been the book readers who have just been dying for an adaptation that does the story justice and they're all so happy. The author, Rick Riordan, although he's never seen the show, is such a super fan since the overwhelming support from the book fans is so positive. We definitely succeed in that area. My entire family have seen it and have never read books. I would say half of audience have never heard of Percy Jackson and, by the end, it's almost more fun in that sense because they are more surprised by every twist and turn and when someone turns ours to be half goat/half human, they are like what is happening? In the end, it all just makes this a fun, fantasy world that everyone can get on board with. I think we cover both ends really well.

Do you have a favorite song in the show?

I really like "Strong," which is the second song of the show. It's just me and my mom at a campfire and the first time that the musical really dies down and gets to the heart of what it is talking about it. The first number is really exciting, a lot happens, and there are monsters. Then the second song really gets to the heart of what Percy struggles with. It's just this really awesome, acoustic guitar-based song on the beach with Percy and his mom.

Besides being a show based book series about on Percy and the gods, what do think makes this show unique and different?

It's a show that is really based on friendship and empowerment, which I feel like makes it unique in a way that there's not a lot of love stories and relationships being played out - there's not girls chasing after boys and boys chasing after girls the whole time. It's just a show about these young people really figuring themselves out and what made them different, what made them unique and strong in the end, and them helping each other through it. It's them figuring out the world, not through their parent's eyes, but through their own eyes. I think it's a really good, unique coming of age story that doesn't get told a lot. Everything is blown up, but everyone can relate to it. You know all the things that we rely on now as adults that kind of make us different and empower us back in the day were the things that we used to be most frustrated about ourselves. It's a really fantastical, crazy world that really just blows up the coming of age challenges and stories that we all have.

Why should Detroit audiences come see The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical?

This is a story unlike any other and you can tell by the millions of copies of the books that have been sold that people love and understand the story deeply. It is set to an original rock score that people have never heard before. We have these huge speakers and everyone in the cast just sings for their lives. The base of it is that it is a story that is loved by millions and it's modernized and revolutionized into this really awesome rock musical.


Connect with The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Twitter at @LTMusical, on Instagram at @ltmusical, on Facebook at facebook.com/LightningThiefMusical, and www.lightningthiefmusical.com.


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