BWW Review: Teenage Demigods On A Quest in THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL
The preteens dressed in their matinee finest seemed to be having a swell time when this critic attended The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. So really, if this review seems less than enthusiastic, it's written with the full understanding that pleasing an overly-seasoned playgoer who, until recently, thought this was going to be a jukebox musical about some songwriter named Percy Jackson, is not a priority.
Percy Jackson, apparently, is an adolescent demigod who is the central character of Rick Riordan's popular series of books for young readers. The musical that bears his name was commissioned by Off-Broadway's popular home for young audiences, TheatreWorksUSA, which has been developing the piece through New York mountings and tours since 2014.
The premise is a good one. The musical's book, by Joe Tracz, takes us to the beginning, where Percy (Chris McCarrell), here played as a teenager, is unaware that the reason he has trouble focusing in school and in social situations is that his human mother (Jalynn Steele) conceived him with a Greek god, and thus his dyslexia is the result of a natural proclivity towards ancient text and his ADHD reveals his "battlefield reflexes" in action.
Exactly which god is his dad is a mystery for now, but when our hero learns the truth about his lineage, he's sent to Camp Half-Blood, where he can be among kids like him.
Jorrel Javier, sporting horse legs provided by costume designer Sydney Maresca, plays the cheerfully nerdy satyr Grover, who apparently is a favorite among squirrels. He doubles as camp director Dionysus, who, as the god of wine and theatre, tends to get a little overdramatic.
Super-smart Annabeth (Kristin Stokes) is the daughter of Athena. In a nice touch, she swoons when complimented for her toughness, rather than, say, her looks.
Percy's discovery of the identity of his father is tied into a conflict between Zeus and Hades (played by Ryan Knowles in what seems like a Paul Lynde impersonation) regarding a stolen bolt of lightning, so the lad, joined by his two pals mentioned above, sets out on a quest to resolve matters.
While overblown special effects can be an annoyance, this musical seems a bit underproduced for a Broadway show about Greek gods. Lee Savage's sets are rather bare bones and the minimal amount of puppetry supplied by Achesonwalsh Studios might leave you expecting something more elaborate to come than Act II's climactic moment where rolls of toilet paper are unspooled into the audience.
Composer/lyricist Rob Rokicki's score fluctuates between aggressive rock and genial showtunes and director Stephen Brackett's 7-member cast performs with gusto and energy.
Certainly a respectable effort, if not to this reviewer's taste, but the smiling faces of the kids leaving the theatre should provide a more reliable assessment for this musical's target audience.