Percy Jackson is following the likes of Elephant and Piggie, Junie B. Jones, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar to the New York City stage. The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical begins performances on March 23, opening on Tuesday, April 4, with a limited run through May 6, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.
The musical is based on the best-selling Disney-Hyperion novel by Rick Riordan. It’s the story of Percy Jackson, a young teen who discovers he has powers he can’t control. He soon has monsters on his trail and finds himself on a quest to find Zeus’s lightning bolt and prevent a war between the Greek gods.
Joe Tracz is the writer of this off-Broadway adaptation. His writing credits include the eight-episode Netflix series based on Lemony Snickets’ Series of Unfortunate Events. Tracz was a fan of the “Percy Jackson” series long before he began work on the project. “It’s been a dream come true to get to put Percy on stage,” Tracz told School Library Journal. “It also meant I was aware of the responsibility of adapting a story that means so much to so many people.”
Tracz is confident that his is a faithful adaptation of the first book in the series. “We’re constantly returning to the book to take inspiration from our favorite moments, lines, even chapter titles. Readers will notice a lot of dialogue that comes straight from the book—and even a few Easter eggs from the sequels.”
There were challenges for Tracz, though: “The book is full of crazy action and magical moments that seem impossible to stage.” How does one stage a centaur, for example? But he found rising to the occasion fun. He had to be imaginative, inventive, and resourceful, “all necessary survival tools for theater artists and half-bloods.”
Coming off a run of portraying Marius Pontmercy in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables, 26-year-old Chris McCarrell will be bringing Percy to life on stage. Although he was not familiar with the character before getting the part, he has since immersed himself in Percy. What does he like about him? “Percy is thinking bigger than just himself. He’s trying to stop an age-old cycle between demigods and their parents,” says McCarrell.
The show’s director, Stephen Brackett, says that Chris’s off-beat charm is “undeniable and feels quintessentially Percy. He believes that McCarrell is “funny and loose and goofy,” which is “a really winning combination” that will allow him to embody being an outsider, a kid who doesn’t fit in.
Some consider The Lightning Thief to be a story that appeals mostly to boys, but Brackett disagrees. He sees the narrative about kids realizing their own identities outside of their parents’ shadow as genderless. The character of Annabeth, a demigod and daughter of Athena, played by Kristin Stokes, takes that journey here. “She has a galvanizing number in act two that I’m really proud of, and she generally kicks ass and is the most knowledgeable character in the show, which really puts the audience on her side.”
The music and lyrics for the show are by Rob Rokicki. Tickets are on sale now.
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