Theater – The Lightning Thief

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Many years ago – nearly 8 according to Goodreads – I picked up a series of young adult books about a modern boy who finds out he is a demigod. That is, son of an ancient Greek God with a human mother. His name was Percy Jackson, and it turned out there was a whole series of books about him, and they sort of follow various stories pulled from the Greek myths. The series became insanely popular, Hollywood made a movie (and then a few years later, a sequel) and this was all years before I read the books.

So when the Boy began reading this series to the girls as their bedtime reading, I was excited for them. It was a fun story, and having read it before, I figured they would enjoy going on the journey together. They’re still not quite finished with the whole series, but there’s not much left.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Fast forward to this past December. E has the unfortunate circumstance of having a birthday close to Christmas. This is bad first for her, because there will probably always be people in her life who think it’s ok to combine Christmas and Birthday gifts/well-wishes, and that’s just a crappy thing to do. It’s not that she will need a ton of “stuff” to have love proved to her, but the occasions are different, and it’s basic politeness to distinguish the two events. But for those of us who need to do the distinguishing, it’s difficult. Mainly because having to come up with two different sets of gifts (or two big gifts) that are both thoughtful and wanted is HARD.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Luckily, because apparently the Facebook algorithm knows me and what I want (beyond just food videos), it happened to serve me an ad for the Kennedy Center, and an upcoming production that still had tickets. And it was for a musical version of “The Lightning Thief”, the first book in the Percy Jackson series. I excitedly told the Boy about this, and we decided that a family outing to the theater would be a great gift (partly because it has the added benefit of not being “a thing” to clutter the house), and so we made it happen. And that’s how a couple weeks ago we found ourselves in the plush Kennedy Center seats with a thousand other kids and parents waiting for the show to start on a Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The show was fine. The music was perfectly serviceable, the acting was expectedly over-the-top (also appropriate in this instance), and the stagecraft was pretty impressive. The set was minimalist, but with the addition of lights and props on wheeled carts, the scene was easily changed in the blink of an eye. Additionally, the cast was minimal – beyond our title character of Percy and leading lady Annabeth, the other five actors all had at least 2 roles, if not taking on multiple characters and bit parts through the show. It was a testament to the fact that you don’t need a sprawling cast, and that if you are a writer for a musical or play, it’s sort of like a puzzle figuring out where parts can be paired, and which types of voices will work best in different situations.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Is this a super-great show? No. I mean, it’s definitely enjoyable, and was nominated for a few different awards back when it was an off-Broadway production. But I think the show’s producers really were smart in this case – the number of people who go to New York and see a Broadway show aren’t necessarily going to choose a middling production based on a book that’s very clearly targeted at children. There are lots of other kid-friendly shows that are more prestigious and well-made than this one, and that will make for better stories when visitors return home. Instead, this show went immediately on tour, because it’s people like me and my family who are going to see this show. There are swaths of young people and families out there who have read and loved the books. So it makes perfect sense to take advantage of as many of those potential audience members as possible, since the number of them who would make a special trip to New York to see this show is minimal.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

So if you’ve read this book, this is a show you would enjoy. If you like easy, contemporary-rock musicals that don’t make you think too hard, this is a show you’ll enjoy. If you don’t mind childish humor (because, YA book), or you’re really into anything about the Greek Gods, this would be your kind of show. If you’ve got kids – this is your show. But if you’re looking for something serious and thoughtful, with music that you’ll remember and be humming to yourself days later…this is maybe not your show.

Details: The Lightning Thief. Touring the US through Summer 2019.

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