Mom Theatre Blogger: The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

Percy Jackson has newly discovered powers he can’t control, monsters on his trail, and he is on a quest to find Zeus’s lightning bolt and prevent a war between the Greek gods. Based on the best-selling Disney-Hyperion young adult novel by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical is a slam dunk crowd-pleaser for fans of the book and others.

Percy is tight with his mortal mother, Sally, but has disdain for his stinky stepfather, Gabe, and ultimately learns that his father is the powerful Poseidon.  As a half-blood (or demigod), he feels different than other teens, until he joins half-bloods like himself at summer camp.  Together they go on an ambitious mission, which includes freeing his mother from Hades, and in finding her, he finds himself.

I was not familiar with the book series, nor was my 14 year old son, but the story is action-packed and compelling, with both warmth and wisecracks, and the added bonus of an empowering takeaway message.  Kids withh ADHD will find a kindred spirit in Percy, who reveals he has dyslexia and ADHD.  Rioridan’s own Greek mythology-loving son, Haley, has both, and serves as the real-life inspiration for Percy.  Percy’s challenges ultimately prove to be strengths, given the hyper-focus that comes with ADHD that also enables him to think quickly and be on his toes in battle.

Chris McCarrell (Les Misérables) does Percy proud.  With his leading young man looks, strong voice, agility and stage presence, he is a sword-wielding talent to keep your eyes on.  His solo, “Good Kid,” is one of the more memorable songs from the pulsating (and at times too loud) pop-rock score.

McCarrell is well supported by a versatile ensemble who play multiple roles, including Carrie Compere (Broadway: The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me) as Sally, Sarah Beth Pfeifer (Nat’l tour: Legally Blonde: The Musical) and Clarisse, Jonathan Raviv (The Band’s Visit) as Brunner, James Hayden Rodriguez (National Tour: Spring Awakening) as Luke, George Salazar (Broadway: Godspell. Nat’l tour: Spring Awakening) as Grover, and Kristin Stokes (NY: Fly by Night, Regional: Diary of a Wimpy Kid) as Annabeth.

Standouts include Salazar, when as Mr. D (Dionysus), he puts his pipes and comedic chops to the test and scores with “Another Terrible Day”, and Compere, who knocks it out of the underworld belting “D.O.A.”, as the sequined ferry conductor Charon.

With an understated set, staging and costumes, given a modest Off Broadway production budget, one can only imagine what a fantastical full out production might look like.  That said, the lighting, smoke effects, thunder sounds, and a leaf blower and roll of toilet paper go a long way in amusing audience members.

The musical is written by Joe Tracz (Netflix “Series of Unfortunate Events”) and Rob Rokicki (Strange Tails), directed by Stephen Brackett (Buyer and Cellar), choreography by Patrick McCollum (The Band’s Visit) with musical direction by Wiley DeWeese (The Wildness), orchestrations by Wiley DeWeese & Rob Rokicki, fight direction by Rod Kinter (More Than All the World) , Set Design by Lee Savage, Costume design by Sydney Maresca, Sound Design by Ryan Rumery, and  Lighting Design by David Lander .

Presented by Theatreworks NYC, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical began performances March 23 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street) and is running through May 6, 2017.

As the mom of a teen boy, I have often found few kid/tween/teen friendly shows that don’t focus on female characters, so this show is a welcome addition to the NY theatre scene, not to mention a more affordable ticket than Broadway shows for budget-conscious parents.  And, if your child, like mine, is one who would rather play on electronics vs. reading, this could pique their curiosity and inspire them to pick up a Percy Jackson title.  I might even check one out myself.  (The show reminded me of my interest in mythology when I was in high school.)