Joe Tracz is having a pretty good week. The first season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” the Lemony Snicket TV adaptation on which he served as a story editor, bows Friday on Netflix — and then on Monday, rehearsals start for a new Off Broadway production of his musical adaptation of Percy Jackson tale “The Lightning Thief,” newly expanded from its one-hour origins to a full-length, two-act evening.
That makes two back-to-back adaptations of YA sensations: “Unfortunate Events,” novelist Snicket’s hit series about the unlucky Baudelaire kiddies, and “Lightning Thief,” the first novel in Rick Riordan’s megaselling “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” about a teen who discovers he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon. Both are also series that have received previous screen adaptations — “Unfortunate Events” in 2004 and “Lightning Thief” in 2010 — that never caught fire in the way the books did.
“They’re both properties that had movie adaptations that didn’t capture what people loved about the books,” Tracz said.
On stage, it’s take two for “Lightning Thief,” which Tracz and co-writer Rob Rokicki first wrote in 2014 as a one-hour musical for TheatreWorks NYC’s free, all-ages theater programming. (Stephen Brackett, who’s since had an Off Broadway hit in “Buyer & Cellar,” directed.) Having toured for the last two years, the show has proven successful enough that TheatreWorks, in an arrangement with Riordan and the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, are bringing it back as a full-length show for a run of about six weeks.
The new version, once again directed by Brackett, will have the same DIY aesthetic of the initial staging, but the expanded running time allowed the writers a little more breathing room in adapting a 350-page, plot-driven fantasy for the stage, including the addition of a number of new songs and two more actors who play multiple characters. Chris McCarrell (“Peter Pan Live”), last on Broadway in the revival of “Les Miserables,” stars as Percy in a production that begins performances March 24 at the Lucille Lortel Theater.
“Unfortunate Events,” meanwhile, stars Neil Patrick Harris (as the dastardly Count Olaf) in an eight-episode season that adapts the first four Snicket novels. Snicket himself — the pseudonym of writer Daniel Handler — was in the Netflix writers’ room to help nail the gleefully macabre tone.
After those first four books, there are still nine more novels to go. “We’re all hoping that we’ll be back working on season two soon,” said Tracz.