With a tight ensemble of seven actors and a high-energy production led by Greek gods and their children, WRAL Greatest Hits of Broadway presentation of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical did something last night at the Durham Performing Arts Center that might just make a difference in the history of the Durham, NC theater community: it brought adolescents into the theater. And those adolescents turned to the adults who brought them with a resounding chorus of “I loved it!”
This fun production is based on Rick Riordan’s bestselling books about Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Greek gods/goddesses and the demigods (kids they produced with human beings). The main character, 12-year-old Perseus “Percy” Jackson (played with perfect timing and a droll attitude by Chris McCarrell), has enthralled more than 30 million readers in the United States and many more via the books’ translations into 42 other languages. The Lightning Thief became so popular that the book were made into a movie and Riordan has his own line of books entitled Rick Riordan Presents, which introduces new writers whom fans of Riordan’s books might also enjoy.
The musical version of The Lightning Thief, with music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki and book by Joe Tracz, produced by TheaterWorksUSA et al., directed by Patrick McCollum, and choreographed by Stephen Brackett, with musical direction by Wiley DeWeese. It brings to the stage a combination of fairly complex themes, but the kids in the audience didn’t care about the themes of diversity, abuse, or bullying, or that they were being educated about the Greek gods who populate the show. Instead, they giggled at the snarky lines that characters dropped and roared with laughter when over-the-top characters dominated the stage.
Though the setting was a disappointment (a cheap, blue tarp comes down in the opening scene to reveal a couple of Greek columns and some scaffolding), it forces the audience to focus on the actors and their lines and to use imagination when the Greek monsters (i.e., the Minotaur, Medusa, and others) arrive to challenge Percy and his friends.
The “half-bloods” — i.e., those kids of gods and humans — band together in this musical; and though the main conflict of the story is to find “the lightning thief,” the theme is really about the imperfections of parents and their kids struggle to find their own way. Percy has a history of being expelled (“6 schools in 6 years”), and the only one who appears to understand him is his mother, Sally (played by Jalynn Steele) who tells him, ironically, in the first act that “Normal is a myth.”
Dance captain Kristin Stokes plays Annabeth, daughter of Athena, a feisty character who can take on any of the male demigods with confidence and a powerful voice. Several actors steal scenes from Percy (even though Chris McCarrell is extremely talented and perfect for this role). Perfectly cast as Grover/Mr. D, Jorrel Javier is an athletic actor with great comic timing; whereas Ryan Knowles’ voice rumbles like a god’s and fight captain James Hayden Rodriguez shines in his brief onstage moments as Luke and others.
The music, a four-piece orchestra conducted by Wiley DeWeese, rocks the house, particularly in numbers like “Good Kid,” “Lost!” and “Bring on the Monsters.” Though the bulk of the numbers are rock, one of the best musical moments in the production is Annabeth’s “My Grand Plan,” when we hear her voice and see a bit more heart.
Key words for this show: fun, fun, fun. Bring the kids (except for little ones who’ll definitely be frightened by some of the monsters in the second half of the show).
SECOND OPINION: April 10th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/04/dpacs-the-lightning-thief-the-percy-jackson-musical-enchants-viewers-of-all-ages/; April 8th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Hollyann Gardner for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/the-lightning-thief-comes-to-dpac/; and April 6th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Izzy Figueroa, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Izzy-Figueroa-Reflects-on-THE-LIGHTNING-THIEF-Being-a-Role-Model-and-More-20190406.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. April 10 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $29.50 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here to enter the digital lottery for $25 Rush Tickets.
BOX OFFICE: DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/2012893.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/lightning-thief and https://www.facebook.com/events/345273156213439/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASES: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/dpac-announces-digital-rush-lottery-for-select-tickets-for-25-each-to-begin-april-8th and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-lightning-thief-coming-to-dpac-april-9-10.
WRAL GREATEST HITS OF BROADWAY: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/category/broadway.
THE TOUR: http://www.lightningthiefmusical.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-lightning-thief-519545, https://www.facebook.com/Lightningthiefmusical, https://twitter.com/LTMusical, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYJGrYvvuS86awQ0ASlribA.
TOUR CAST & TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.lightningthiefmusical.com/#company.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.