REVIEW: ‘THE LIGHTNING THIEF’ STRIKES BROADWAY

The Lightning Thief

2019 will go down as the year of Greek mythology’s stage resurgence.

Earlier this year, Hadestown– a stunning musical adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the underworld – swept the Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Now, tickets for Hadestown have become some of the most coveted—and expensive–to secure. This summer, The Public Theater’s world-famous “Shakespeare In the Park” series debuted the stage version of Disney’s Hercules, including new music from the film’s composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel. The demand for tickets was so high that potential audience members had to enter a lottery to be allowed access to ticket giveaways.

It should be no surprise, then, that The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical struck Broadway this fall like a lightening bolt for its limited engagement. Based on author Rick Riordan’s beloved and best-selling Percy Jackson & the Olympians young adult novel series, The Lightning Thief first opened off-Broadway before enjoying a successful national tour. Now playing at the Longacre Theatre through January 5, the Broadway transfer of this fantastical tale marks its biggest and boldest production yet.

The Lightning Thief

Directed by Stephen Brackett, The Lightning Thief tells the story of Percy Jackson, a teenager who discovers that the reason he’s never met his father before is that he’s a Greek god. Following this discovery, Percy enrolls at Camp Half-Blood, a summer retreat for demigod children. There, he befriends Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and learns that his best friend Grover is actually a satyr. Like Harry, Ron, and Hermione before them, this trio of lovable misfits embarks on a heroic quest to prevent a war that could destroy the human world. Plus, could traveling to the underworld to retrieve Zeus’ lightning bolt also lead to resurrecting Percy’s mother?

Chris McCarrell plays Percy with the social anxiety of Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, the husky and rock-tinged vocals of John Gallagher Jr. in American Idiot, and the cheeky comedy of Will Roland in Be More Chill. As a result, Percy is a far more relatable and grounded character than he was in the much-maligned 2010 and 2013 film adaptations. With equal amounts of humor and heart in his performance, McCarrell does a terrific job of serving as the vessel through which the audience begins to understand this world of gods, demigods, demons, and monsters. His wit feels like that of a real teenager, and the way he channels his angst and sarcasm into a weapon as mighty as his sword allows for a fully-developed character in a show that’s otherwise mostly comprised of actors playing various smaller roles.

The Lightning Thief

Composer Rob Rokicki’s music and lyrics are clearly influenced as much by radio-friendly punk bands like Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World as they are by contemporary pop-infused musical theater scores such as Next to Normal and Spring Awakening. Full of energy, youth, and slick hooks, the show boasts catchy tunes that audiences are sure to have stuck in their heads for days after the final curtain drops. Standout number “Good Kid” sounds like the best single Simple Plan never released, while “My Grand Plan” is a powerful and uplifting belt-your-face-off anthem that is tailor-made for college musical theater reviews.

The Lightning ThiefThe Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical will likely benefit nicely from the holiday tourist season, as it’s the type of production that makes for a wonderful first Broadway show.

While it may not be on Broadway stages for the long haul, it’s certainly the family-friendly type of show that you can expect to see frequently on regional and school stages. The audience was comprised of many, many children, all of whom seemed to be smiling and wide-eyed with wonder throughout the whole thing. And although predominantly geared towards a younger crowd, the show features a lively rock score that’s surely irresistible to those of any age.


CLICK HERE to purchase tickets to The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, now playing at the Longacre Theatre through January 5, 2020.


The Lightning Thief

PHOTOS | JEREMY DANIEL

About ALEX KELLEHER-NAGORSKI 167 Articles
Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.