On average, I find myself attending around 15 live performances a year, most of the time in education or community environments. I have quite the stack of programs in my room, not to mention that dozens that have gone missing over the years. There have been a handful of shows that I have seen that have stood out from the rest and have made me truly appreciate the career field I am so passionate about. The most recent one to be added to this list was, “The Lightning Thief.”
When I was in middle school, Rick Riordan’s book series about Percy Jackson and his demigod adventures were all the rage. My 7th grade history teacher loved them and set aside time to read a chapter of the first book out loud to our class whenever she had the chance. A few years ago, a musical was created based off of this book. At first, I was pretty skeptical. After the disasters of the two movie adaptations, I wasn’t too keen on seeing another interpretation of the story. However, with my dear friend Libby invited me to join her to see the tour in Tulsa, I agreed, open to the idea of seeing a show she loved so dearly.
During intermission of the show, I began typing out a list of all the things I was astounded by with this wonderful production. I just had to write about it! This was an experience that was reminding me of the joy that can come from theatre. So, without further ado, here is my Top 7 List, in no particular order, for the “The Lightning Thief Musical.”
Costuming- The more design classes I take, the more details I notice every time I watch a show. The costuming for this company was so carefully planned, and props must also be commended to the backstage dressers. With the amount of quick changes in the show, I can imagine that things can get super hectic super quickly. A little detail I appreciated was the compliment between Percy’s green jacket and Annabeth’s red striped shirt. Red and green are my favorite complementary color couple, and while I was a little bummed that there were no orange Camp Half-Blood shirts present, this was a nice design touch. Also, I didn’t know how they were going to get a centaur to work on stage, but the way they made that bit of magic work was hilariously clever. Our Dungeons and Dragons loving costume professor would have gotten a kick out of all the fantasy costumes used for this production.
Lights- This show could definitely fall under the category of “spectacle theatre.” I’ve gotten into debates with peers before about flashy shows before. I do agree with the fact that theatre can be done without elaborate “extras” such as projections, sound effects and complex sets. However, I believe that there is a certain kind of beauty that can be found from technical design. The lighting design for this show was unlike anything I had ever seen. God bless the Stage Manager who had to call this show, because holy cow, there was a lot going on. The designer created storms, underwater moments, the illusion of driving down a highway and so much more with the tools they had. Because of the high energy nature of the show, the design elements need to match the energy of the actors. This was one of the best examples of a design element working with the script and performers to effectively tell the story.
Stage Combat- I am a huge fan of well executed fights on stage. What was really interesting is that when you watch actors with good training, you realize they perform at about 75% the speed one would actually fight at in real life. There’s an immense amount of control that has to go into performing stage combat. The goal is to make the audience believe that you are hurting one another without actually doing any damage. I’ve taken a few hits from scene partners who decided to throw punches or kicks too quickly, so it’s always refreshing to see a really well done (and safe) live performance. Bonus: the staging for the reveal of Percy’s sword, Riptide, was fantastic.
Kid characters on stage- I think it’s very important for kids to see character portrayed on stage that are their age. While the touring ensemble is comprised of professional adults, it was astounding how well they were able to come across as twelve year olds. That was my biggest gripe with the Percy Jackson films: they made him sixteen! Young theatre audience members need to see characters that they can truly relate with on stage.
Opportunity for the future- While the tour company is made up by seven cast members, there are dozens of characters in this script. As I was sitting in the audience, I realized how great this show would be for community or educational theaters. There is a wealth of opportunity for actors to be featured in a high-energy show. This musical is definitely near the top of my list of shows I hope to direct one day: it would be a blast!
Children with ADHD- I’ve grown up learning about ADHD due to the fact that my brother was diagnosed with the disorder when I was in elementary school. It’s a subject that is very near and dear to my and my family’s hearts. I am really grateful for writers like Rick Riordan for creating characters like Percy Jackson who have learning disabilities. It’s so important for people to be educated as to what ADHD, dyslexia and other disabilities are like. In the musical, the lead actor did a stellar job of not only portraying a twelve-year-old, but also a child with ADHD. Seeing the frustration from not being able to focus and wanting to be a “good kid” made me tear up several times during the performance. It’s things like that which remind me how powerful this art form can be.
Friendship- If you’re a major fan of Rick Riordan’s books, you know that Percy and his friends don’t stay twelve forever. Riordan tackles the topics of crushes and dating in high school in books later on in the series. However, the main point between the relationship of Percy and Annabeth’s characters in “The Lightning Thief Musical” is their friendship. Sure, there’s a bit of flirting here and there, but it’s awkward and silly, just as all twelve year old relationships are. There is also the solid friendship between Percy and Grover, which was super fun to see in person, as Grover and Percy’s bromance is one of my favorites out of all the books I’ve ever read. It was refreshing to see a show with an absence of romance. It just goes to show that you can tell a good story without characters professing their undying love for one another.
I am so grateful for the Killer Quest I got to share with my sweet friend this summer. Sharing a theatrical experience with someone you are close to makes the show even better. If you ever have the opportunity to see this show, do yourself a favor and go. It was a hilarious, impressive and impactful performance that I will never forget.
Until Next Time,