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THE LIGHTNING THIEF – The Percy Jackson Musical

THE LIGHTNING THIEF – The Percy Jackson Musical

Adapted from the book THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan
Music & Lyrics by Rob Rokicki
Book by Joe Tracz
Presented by TheatreWorks USA at the AT&T Performing Arts Center

AT&T Performing Arts Center

Percy Jackson – Chris McCarrell
Grover/Mr. D – Jorrel Javier
Chiron and others – Ryan Knowles
Clarisse and others – Sarah Beth Pfeifer
Luke and others – James Hayden Rodriguez
Sally and others – Jalynn Steele
Annabeth – Kristin Stokes

Chiron and Grover – Izzy Figueroa
Percy and Luke – Sam Leicht
Annabeth – Sarah Beth Pfeifer
Clarisse and Sally – T. Shyvonne Stewart
Dance Captain – Kristin Stokes
Fight Captain – James Hayden Rodriguez

Director – Stephen Brackett
Choreographer - Patrick McCollum
Music Director – Wiley DeWeese
Orchestrations – Wiley DeWeese & Rob Rokicki
Conductor/Keyboard/Melodica – Wiley DeWeese
Drums/Percussion – Jeff Fernandes
Guitar – Kevin Wunderlich
Bass – Yuka Tadano
Keyboard Programmer – Randy Cohen & Taylor Williams, Cohen Keyboards
Scenic Designer – Lee Savage
Costume Designer – Sydney Maresca
Lighting Designer – David Lander
Sound Designer – Ryan Rumery
Fight Director – Rod Kinter
Hair, Wig & Makeup Designer – Dave Bova
Production Stage Manager – Veronica Aglow
Assistant Stage Manager – T.J. Kearney
Company Manager – Jennifer R. Graves
Production Manager – Brian Lynch
New Puppetry Designer – Achesonwalsh Studios

Reviewed Performance: 5/21/2019

Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Wind chimes sway above me on a massive chandelier, lit in emissive blue and white. A distant rumble of encroaching thunder marks an impending storm and grackles cackle with ominous uncertainty.

Welcome to the world of the Gods.

In the present day, Greek mythology still lives among us littered with half-bloods— half-god and half-mortal children with magical powers. Central to the story of THE LIGHTNING THIEF is Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell), a boy who finds he doesn’t quite fit in with his surroundings.

“The Lightning Thief” is a story about one teenager boy’s journey of self-discovery to find his godly lineage by embarking on a quest to clear his good name, save his mother from the underworld, all with the help of newfound half-blood friends.

This musical is an adaptation of Joe Tracz’s book, published in 2005. Hardcore fans of the series may be disappointed from certain elements that were modified from the original, but Orchestrator Rob Rokicki wanted to make the show family friendly.

He wrote the musical in a way that sprinkles the childlike aspects of adventure, curiosity, novelty and all the challenges youth faces growing up. Even for the adults you find subtle innuendos akin to Disney masterpieces. Those inside jokes made me chuckle out loud and I appreciate how thoughtful Rokicki was avoiding any throw-away line.

Lines like, “What belongs to the sea can always return to the sea” foreshadowing future events to unfold.

The cast is small for a musical, so actors wear many hats throughout the show. All of them are impressive in their contrasting transformations.

At the focal point driving the story is star protagonist Percy Jackson. A wimpy kid with low self-esteem frustrated with his inability to fit in, Percy is angry that his dad abandoned him and his mother. McCarrell is a spectacular actor, owning the teenage deviant with humble inhibition. His sensitive and protective nature mount a gradual revelation as the plot develops.

Percy’s mother Sally (Jalynn Steele) encourages him in “Strong” and by the end of the show we see how capable and courageous he’s become in “Son of Poseidon”. McCarrell engages with his fellow cast members, living in the moment. He stares out to the sea, mesmerized by the waves cascaded in the audience. Its satisfying to share in his thoughtful reprises, especially when he tries to relate “The Weirdest Dream” to his friends.

An interesting insight in Percy’s character is his ability to inspire and lead people to change their own behavior throughout the show. His potential love interest Annabeth Chase (Kristin Stokes) takes ownership of her own destiny after he guides her to be rebellious with his statement, “we are impertinent.” Percy is the catalyst of motion, due in no small part for his supporting cast.

Annabeth meets Percy at Camp Half-Blood after his fight with the dreaded minotaur. She is the daughter of Athena, a lover of knowledge and books with the patience of a thousand strong. Stokes embraces her teenage soul to be the perfect daughter and win her mother’s approval with extrinsic perspiration.

I love Stokes’ number “My Grand Plan”. She has a commanding presence making use of the stage space, imposing her will and wooing Percy and the audience with a moment of vulnerability. With such a beautiful voice, Stokes is an angelic warrior with all the grace and power of a mountain summit.

To accompany Annabeth and Percy on their travels is the loyal and peppy satyr Grover (Jorrel Javier). A man of many quips, who’d take a peanut butter bullet and protect those he loves, he is a truly reverent friend.

From his furry bottom to squirrel chats, Grover enamored us all with his big heart. Anytime Percy got in a jam, Grover was there. Like when they got lost in the woods… guess who got them unlost?

But Javier didn’t just play a Satyr. His talent as a character actor bled into Dionysus, the god of wine & theatre. In stark contrast, Dionysus was the annoyed camp manager, trapped with a bunch of kids. His overinflated fury made the audience roar in laughter at the absurdity of his personality, eerily similar to Danny Devito.

Speaking of celebrity imitations, actor Ryan Knowles hits home with many familiar scenes. His initial introduction as Chiron, the schoolteacher, paints a respected and dignified mentor. Can I just say how much I love his deep voice? Someone beside me even asked if that was his real octave.

It just so happens his range is blessed from a bass all the way to a tenor—as evidenced with a diverse set of memorable characters like Medusa and Hades.

Knowles was clearly having fun and I loved every moment of it. From the way he kicked his lanky centaur legs to his ineligible moans of excitement, the man earns the star MVP award for best actor.

Adding to the mix of talent is the unsung hero, (or villain, depending on which side of the coin you are) is the rocking lady Clarisse (Sarah Beth Pfeifer), half-blood daughter of Ares. Her physical ferocity sparked the blood in my bones with a frenzied fervor.

I love how much Pfeifer embraced her role as the hot-headed redhead, cornering Percy in the bathroom with a look of sadistic glee during “Put You in Your Place”.

Against the grain, we find the defeated camp counselor Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez). Given into despair after a terrible quest gone wrong, Luke is faced with bitter sadness he carries everywhere he goes.

I knew something felt off when he first joined the show but couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the very end. For all the characters in the show, Luke lacked the most personality—however Rodriguez played a really festive Ares. Mirroring his daughter in intensity, Ares battled the three teenagers and kicked some serious butt.

Finally, there’s the foxy Jalynn Steele, playing Percy’s mother Sally. Her soft-spoken nature and motherly tenderness are what every young boy craves for. I love how I could feel her warmth all the way in the audience.

And Steele only got hotter as the show progressed. When Percy’s crew arrived at the underworld, or the “D.O.A.”, they got a show of their lifetime. With passionate energy and exuberant vibrancy, Steele fed us with some soulful music.

The music is a key ingredient to this amazing production. Music Director Wiley DeWeese serenades us with a compilation of genres ranging from rock in “The Day I Got Expelled”, folk lore with “The Campfire Song” and even country vibes with “Drive”.

All the musicians never missed a beat, and I was especially impressed with Yuka Tadano’s bass rifts. There was no shortage of variation to set the mood for some incredibly mysterious scenes. I even felt a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme at a certain point in the dark.

Themes and moods shone brightly with the set design brilliantly crafted by Lee Savage. The stylized paintings of lightning from the backdrop to the walls created a dynamic range of motion. It’s organic and dirty blend with the stage made everything seem so alive. I particularly liked the graffiti spattered all around and how the back structure was GLOW-IN-THE-DARK!!!

All the beauty of the show couldn’t have been possible without lights. Thank you Lighting designer David Lander for paying the electricity bill, because Wow! What a light show. From the moment the show begins, BAM! CRASH! KABOOM!

You are temporarily blinded by white streaks only to be met with soft hues of yellow in ambient worker fixtures, akin to the mining equipment found underground. In strategically placed areas of the stage, the shape language of lighting matches eccentric themes. I loved the Vegas rainbow makeup. I loved the underworld flames. I loved the ocean kaleidoscope. I loved it all.

Perhaps the most exciting and exhilarating parts of the entire show were the epic fight sequences against powerful beings both big and small. Both the attention to detail in costuming for otherworldly beings must have taken weeks to put together. The audience shrilled in genuine fear when the Minotaur erupted from the smoke. I practically fell out of my seat laughing when DJ Cerberus made its debut. Their glowing red eyes added a nice touch!

For the character outfits, Costume Designer Sydney Maresca decided to go with simple modern-day attire. Teenagers wore relaxed graphic T-shirts with light jackets, jeans and sneakers. To contrast the half-bloods, we find a variety of designs from the motorcycle biker gear on Ares and a gold flecked skintight dress of Charon.

Considering the amount of dance and fight choreography throughout the show, hats off to Rod Kinter for coordinating everyone in the big group scenes. Action moved quickly and never once felt fake or forced. All the actors put their hearts and souls with blood sweat and tears to deliver heated sequences in synchronized succession.

I had not heard of Percy Jackson until I saw this show. And now I want to see the next installment in Percy’s adventure. I hope Riordan writes the next script soon, because he’s killing it with an insanely funny and touching story about a modern-day mythological masterpiece.

Bring your kids. Bring your family. You will be showered in bright red confetti and the story of a lifetime, filled with fantastical energy. I would recommend Percy Jackson’s “The Lightning Thief” to anyone.

The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical
May 21 through May 26, 2019
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
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