By Erika Brown Thomas
Broadway In Chicago presents The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical for an extremely limited engagement at the Oriental Theatre. This bestselling book, now adapted for the musical stage is a treat for loyal fans – although you don’t have to know anything about it to understand and enjoy! The only caveat being that as with any book adapted for another medium, favorite parts end up skimmed over or entirely left out. Nevertheless, the original theatrical concepts and musical realization of this compelling story are more than satisfying and not to be missed!
The artistic team of Joe Tracz (book), Rob Rokicki (music & lyrics), Stephen Brackett (director), Patrick McCollum (choreographer), Lee Savage (set design) and Sydney Maresca (costume design) pay tribute to the intricately woven world that Rick Riordan has penned to paper. The team’s attention to detail and the creative presentation of the dissimilar worlds of mythology and modern day life fused together is both clever and amusing – how exactly would one go about showing a God-given power over water on stage without using water at all?
It takes a bit of time to get used to the melding of myth & reality and this team’s unique approach to the combination of a fantastic and ancient world with modern reality. The resulting production, however, is enjoyable, funny and full of nods to this beloved series.
Chris McCarrell is the perfect Percy Jackson. His quirky attitude and idiosyncrasies bring pages of the book to life in a completely gratifying way. McCarrell portrays Percy’s humor and youthful sincerity to a T. His stellar vocals sets the bar extremely high and it is evident throughout his comedically nuanced and exceptional performance that Mr. McCarrell originated the role!
Sally Jackson, Percy’s long suffering mother is played by Jalynn Steele. She also plays several characters throughout the musical and her ability to morph through multiple characters and musical styles is exciting and advantageous. A standout performance, “D.O.A.” happens in the second act, in which Ms. Steele portrays Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx. Her voice and enthusiasm brings the house down!
Kristin Stokes plays the goddess Athena’s daughter, Annabeth with careful attention to this character’s simultaneous strength and vulnerability. Her killer rendition of the song, “My Grand Plan” is one of the newest musical torch songs to hit the stage for all of the tween and teen fans.
A host of other favorite figures are characterized by the rest of the cast, Jorrel Javier (Grover & Mr. D), Ryan Knowles (Chiron & others), Sarah Beth Pfeifer (Clarissa & others) and James Hayden Rodriguez (Luke & others). This small ensemble is able to accommodate the need for multitudinous mythological monsters & cameos of small character parts that are integral to the plot.
Several fight scenes and character metamorphoses leave the audience wanting a little bit more fantastical action, but as the production has a funky and minimalistic vibe, these small critiques are easily overwhelmed by the wonderful performances and designs of the artistic team, cast & crew.
Broadway in Chicago Presents “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” through January 13 at at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph Street, Chicago. Tickets are available here. Photos by Jeremy Daniel.