Perseus Jackson is a demi-god, half-mortal, half-god, but he doesn’t know it. When he finally learns his true parentage, born to a mortal mother (Carrie Compere) and the god Poseidon, he begins to realize why he’s always been a misfit and has been expelled from six schools. The Lighting Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical at the Lucille Lortel Theatre is based on the novel by Rick Riorden has special appeal for preteens.
After Percy’s mother realizes she can no longer protect him, she decides to take him to a Camp for Half-Bloods. En route, she sacrifices herself to save him, but he is rescued and arrives at the camp. There he learns his true parentage but is accused of having stolen Zeus’ thunderbolt. To prevent a war between the three main gods, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, he sets off with Grover, a satyr (half-goat, half-man) and Annabeth, daughter of a mortal and Athena.
Although the source material is YA (young adult), the cast is truly Broadway. Percy is played by Chris McCarrell, fresh off his role as Marius in Les Miserables. McCarrell has a terrific voice and a boyish persona. The others in this small cast play several roles. The marvelous Carrie Compere (The Color Purple) is his mother and Charon in the underworld. Jonathan Raviv (The Band’s Visit) portrays Chiron and other minor roles.
The play is low-tech, with a set consisting of a scaffold and Grecian columns, decorated with graffiti. Special effects aren’t elaborate, with the most creative being “water” (Percy’s special talent) suggested by toilet paper (really fun when you see it). The monsters the three encounter are garbed in amateurish-looking costumes, but none of that matters. The youngsters in the audience loved them, and there’s an adult appeal as well. When the three descend to the underworld, the background music is by the rock group “Styx.”
Although you don’t need to read the book, it helps, since parts of the story are glossed over quite quickly. The Lightning Thief subtly teaches lessons about fitting in and being different, yet it does it without preaching. Maybe the kid in school who is dyslexic and a screw-up has some special powers. So maybe we should all be nicer to each other cause you never know.