“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” Takes NYCC by Storm
Ten months ago, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical was preparing to go on tour. Now, the production is in previews for its 16-week Broadway run at the Longacre Theatre. The cast, writers, and director all participated in New York Comic Con in their panel The World of Percy Jackson: From Page to Stage.
Although this adaptation is untraditional in many ways, the musical has found success by encapsulating the heart of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Stephen Brackett (director) read Riordan’s book and “fell in love with its imagination, its heart, its sense of humor.” When he saw Joe Tracz’s script, he appreciated how Tracz approached the impossibility of the task they were undertaking in a way that felt authentic to the tone of the original material.
At first glance, Percy Jackson may not seem to lend itself to a musical adaption, but Chris McCarrell (Percy Jackson) feels differently.
I actually think that the story actually lends itself to the musical art form more than most other stories because it’s these seemingly normal kids with these powers they can’t control, and no better way to heighten a character in a story than to make them break out into rock songs when they are emotionally bubbling over.
The show doesn’t just understand the source material, though. It also understands the fans. While many MuggleNet readers grew up with Harry Potter, so many others found a connection in Percy Jackson. Jorrel Javier (Grover Underwood) was one of those kids. When he read Percy Jackson before sixth grade, he fell in love with the story and the characters. He described himself as being a “little too loud, little too energetic. I fell in love with the books. I found myself in these characters.”
The creative team faced the challenge of representing mythological creatures with limited props and characters. They decided to take a minimalistic approach to ensure that fans of the books like Javier were able to bring their own versions of the story to the show. “We wanted to capitalize on the audience’s imagination to participate in the spectacle that was unfolding,” said Brackett. “We wanted especially to allow room for people who loved the books and have their own thoughts about how everything looked and felt like, that there was room for that take in our version.”
Since the team leaves it up to the audience to understand the mythological moments, the cast had to have a lot of trust in Brackett. “Before the first preview, I was so deeply terrified. […] I was like, this is either going to work, or it is not. And then that first preview, we had the lights, and it all came together, […] and everyone just freaking got it,” said McCarrell. “One of the biggest accomplishments our show did was trusting these ridiculous moments.”
Mythology is not the heart of this show, however. When Rob Rokicki (music and lyrics) and Joe Tracz (writer) first started to expand the show, they wanted to add in all the plot points they had left out of the original hour-long version. Then they realized that the story didn’t need more plot but rather a deeper exploration of the characters. Rokicki then wrote songs like “Good Kid” and ”My Grand Plan,” which Tracz describes as “the core of the show.”
Ultimately, when we expanded, it was about how can we really let these characters feel as dimensional as possible.
Kristin Stokes (Annabeth) illustrated this dimensionality through her own journey with the confident and outspoken Annabeth.
I almost had to unlearn those conditionings of society in order to fit into what Annabeth is like naturally, this idea of like, ‘Well, I shouldn’t be the first person to speak up even though I know the answer.’ […] Annabeth doesn’t have that. […] Instead of having the tendency to […] soften her edges, I had to lean in and let her harden mine.
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical is on Broadway until January 5! Tickets are available at lightningthiefmusical.com, so don’t miss your chance to see this incredible show!