With the opening of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway, we see the return of a bygone breed: a new Broadway musical based on a book. Drawn from Rick Riordan’s best-selling Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief bowed at the Longacre Theatre October 16 for a 16-week limited engagement.
The musical with a book by Joe Tracz (Be More Chill) and a score by Rob Rokicki, the arrival of The Lightning Thief has turned 48th Street into Greek Row (sharing the real estate with Tony-winning Hadestown). The story follows Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell), a kid who grew up never knowing his dad and struggling in school due to his dyslexia and ADHD. When his mother finally reveals that his father was not just an absentee dad, she sends him to Camp Half-Blood where he learns he’s a demigod—half mortal, half deity. Surrounded by other demigod kids, Percy must stop a war between their Olympian parents.
If it sounds like family fare—and made for young fans of the books—it is. But it’s also more than that. “It's a YA story, and it's about monsters, so you could think of it very superficially, but there's so much to uncover,” said Kristin Stokes, who plays Annabeth. McCarrell adds, “There's so many lessons for young people, for parents, for families embedded throughout this whole show. It's easy when you first attack it [to say] it's about monsters and it's funny, and I think the longer we live through it and the more interactions with audiences we've had, we've realized how deeply this show ignites something in people to take on the world.”
Directed by Stephen Brackett (Be More Chill), the show wins in its comedic moments, especially the menagerie of characters played by only seven actors—all of whom (except McCarrell) make their Broadway debuts with the production.
Ryan Knowles, who plays seven characters including Greek gods Hades and Medusa, shared the secret behind finding the many voices of his characters. “I fell down a YouTube hole and randomly started watching Paul Lynde one-liners from Hollywood Squares, and he did one line ... somehow that line made me go, ’That's Hades,’” he shared. “He's funny, but he's also really angry. Medusa started because I wanted to make her like Maggie Smith, but that was too low key. ... So I started to think ‘What would Maggie Smith be like if she were up for like five days doing drugs?’ That’s my Medusa.”
Live on the opening-night red carpet, the full cast also shared their Greek god alter-egos and the track they would most like to play if they weren’t starring in their own. Watch the video above for interviews with stars McCarrell, Knowles, Jorrel Javier, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, James Hayden Rodriguez, Jalynn Steele, Stokes, Brackett, Tracz, and Rokicki.
The Broadway production features set design by Lee Savage (Satchmo at the Waldorf), costume design by Sydney Maresca (Hand to God), lighting design by David Lander (Torch Song), sound design by Ryan Rumery (Be More Chill, Fool for Love), puppet design by AchesonWalsh (On the Town), fight direction by Rod Kinter (Red Roses, Green Gold), hair, wigs, and makeup design by Dave Bova (Bandstand), and orchestrations by Wiley DeWeese (First Daughter Suite, Preludes) and Rob Rokicki. The production is being presented by special arrangement with Rick Riordan and the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.
READ: From Touring in a Van to Broadway: The Lightning Thief's Journey to the Big Time From Humble Beginnings
The Lightning Thief is produced by TheaterWorksUSA, Martian Entertainment, Victoria Lang, Lisa Chanel, Jennifer Doyle & Roy Lennox, Meredith Lucio/Van Dean, O’Hara/Rae/Zurcher, Wei-Hwa Huang, Stewart Lane, Bonnie Comley, Leah Lane, Tosha Martin, Cara Talty, Fisher/Jacobs Baker/Masotti/Prince, Schroeder Shapiro Productions/Retsios Boghosian, and SJGH Productions.
Playbill host Ruthie Fierberg was styled by Sam Ratelle of RRR Creative wearing A.I.C. and vintage jewels.