The Lightning Thief, the Musical

A spectacular musical satisfies Percy Jackson fans


Kaitlyn Romanger

Reader of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, Sumaya Khoshnobish ’20, could not help but initially doubt the quality of ‘The Lightning Thief’ the musical due to her negative feelings about ‘The Lightning Thief’ movie.

Subha Laskar ’20 fondly remembers waiting months for the next book in Rick Riordan’s series to come out in middle school. After what felt like years of anticipation, she got her hands on the book and couldn’t bring herself to put it down. At the time, the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series was popular in many middle schools. Now, the first book of this beloved series has hit the Broadway stage. 

Although I was excited to see one of my favorite books play out before my own eyes, I couldn’t help but shake my skepticism. After all, the movie adaptation of The Lightning Thief  was the most disappointing and non-canonical display of the series that I had ever seen, a sentiment that is shared by many Percy Jackson and the Olympians fans. 

Certain students at Bronx Science believe that the movies are an abomination. “Most readers are skeptical of their favorite books turning into movies to begin with, due to the inevitable changes in both characters and plot,” said Sumaya Khoshnobish ’20. “But to go so far as to the point where the author himself admitted to having nightmares about them is taking it to another level.” 

Laskar was not any more impressed. She argued that the movies were incredibly inaccurate, containing changes that destroyed the plot of the movie. “There was just too much [in the movie] that didn’t match up,” said Laskar. “It became something I don’t associate with the books at all.” On that note, I walked into the theater as dubious as ever, expecting a worse rendition of the book than that of the movies. 

I’m delighted to report that my initial judgments proved to be unfounded.

Cast as Percy Jackson, the series’ young, male protagonist is twenty-eight-year-old Chris McCarrell. Although more than a decade older than the character he is cast as, McCarrell’s age takes little away from his memorable performance. McCarrell captures the essence of Percy Jackson with ease due to his keen ability to make snarky comments and awkward pauses placed in the dialogue distinctly his own. 

Another noteworthy performance was that of George Salazar. Salazar’s depiction of both Mr. D (Dionysus) and Grover Underwood (satyr and Percy Jackson’s best friend) is as spotless as it is challenging. Not only are the personalities of the characters Mr. D and Grover utterly conflicting, but they also play major roles in consecutive scenes. Salazar’s aptitude for switching quickly and seamlessly between two characters, costumes, and scenes is a testament to his abilities as an artist. 

The roles of Chiron and Luke were also very well played (by Ryan Knowles and James Hayden Rodriguez, respectively). The role of Sally Jackson (Percy’s mother) is played by the lovely Jalynn Steele. As impressive as the emotions conveyed in her lines are her strong vocals. Her voice never falters throughout the many musical numbers she participates in, including “Strong,” “The Minotaur/The Weirdest Dream,” “The Campfire Song,” “Son of Poseidon,” and “Bring on the Monsters.” Steel sings with a clean melody and purpose, her impact on the audience spiking with each song. 

As wonderful and surprising as the musical was, there were times where its momentum faltered due to the inability to capture action-packed scenes completely. The monsters for example, which were made to be as realistic as possible, were lackluster in their graphics simply due to the fact that it was a play and not a screenplay. It was clear, however, that the costumes of monsters like the Minotaur and the Harpy were very carefully crafted, which preserved a large chunk of both the storyline and believability of the musical. Another crude example of the play’s natural downfalls is that the “powers” Percy Jackson possesses over water were portrayed through the use of a roll of toilet paper attached to a leaf blower. The first time the toilet paper became a  substitute for water in the musical was quite confusing. 

Clarisse (demigod child of Ares who has it out for Percy) taunts Percy in the restroom where he hides from a fight. That is until Percy retaliates by using the water in the toilet to push Clarisse backwards. This water is symbolized by lines of toilet paper whipping her way by the use of the aforementioned machine. Although later in the musical, the toilet paper is used to represent water more clearly, this first scene allows for some uncertainty pertaining to the meaning of the toilet paper due to the fact that toilet paper is not uncommon in a bathroom. By this standard, the toilet paper that is meant to represent water, is just toilet paper.

The issues with the depiction of the monsters and the symbolic use of toilet paper are simply pedantic on my part. Without considering the topics discussed during my nitpicking, as there was nothing that the director could have done more to rectify these issues, I believe that the musical is most definitely worth watching for one’s own eyes. The Lightning Thief the musical undoubtedly surpasses readers’ expectations and effortlessly gets the audience on their feet with applause.

There was just too much [in the movie] that didn’t match up. It became something I don’t associate with the books at all,” said Subha Laskar ’20.