You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘The Lightning Thief,’ The Musical

Chris McCarrell, Ryan Knowles, Kristin Stokes, Jorrel Javier, Jalynn Steele, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, James Hayden Rodriguez.

2 hours 10 minutes

“It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run.

You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy (Chris McCarrell), who discovers he’s the spawn of a Greek god — literally. But he’s not exactly sure which god. And, oh, by the way, Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen and the gods are pissed because they think Percy took it and a battalion of monsters, minotaurs and furies are hot on his heels. But first he has to deal with some mean kids at summer camp.

The packed narrative may be child’s play for fans of Rick Riordan’s 2005 book — and there were plenty of enthusiasts in the audience on a recent night at the Longacre Theater, where the musical is having a limited run — but others will find the show and the bare-bones production simply myth-begotten.

The story is propelled by the clever premise that “the gods are real and they have kids and they have issues.” The eternal struggle between hapless youths and their all-powerful parents is given Olympian dimension here, as sung in a lyric in the campfire ditty:  “All things couldn’t be worse/when your folks run the universe.”

The show joins the fast-growing genre of youth-angst musicals (“Dear Evan Hanson,” “Be More Chill”) that tap into that early Spielbergian vein of kids tormented by absent parents, learning disabilities or general geekiness. Percy suffers from all of the above, but copes thanks to a low-key, self-deprecating, super-nonchalant “whatever” spirit that can have its charms, even as it becomes a millennial cliche.

McCarrell’s believable boyishness, sweet vulnerability, gangly posturing and off-handed humor is appealing, and he manages to keep you engaged even if you’ve long lost interest in the details of the plot. His singing is sure, and in “Good Kid,” the best number in the musical, he shows in a heartbreaking way the pain of trying to fit in before he discovers that “normal is a myth.”

The rest of the mostly rock-pop songs are tuneful — especially “Strong,” “The Last Day of Summer” and “Drive” — but there are a few misses, too, especially with the character of Mr. D. (Jorrel Javier) — as in “Dionysus” — who is unfunny and overplayed, and has a god-awful song. (Javier is better as Percy’s BFF, Grover, a satyr.)

Kristin Stokes is solid as Annabeth, another ”half-breed” teen at the summer camp for demigods. Annabeth completes the young posse on its Poseidon adventure— though this trio bears no small resemblance to the Harry Potter threesome of fledgling heroes.

Also impressive in the cast is Ryan Knowles, as Percy’s centaur mentor, Chiron. Knowles’ sonorous voice, sly comic assuredness and cool trot brighten the production and bring a welcome adult into the room. Jalynn Steele also has her moments as Percy’s mother, though the multiple roles the seven-member cast is asked to perform prove not so much wondrous as exhausting. The bare-bones look of the show and its not-so-special effects were no doubt the result of touring necessity. (The leaf blower and toilet paper bit is fun — once.) For a Broadway production, however, there’s a thin line between resourcefully inventive and cheap.

Stephen Brackett — who, with “Be More Cool” and “A Strange Loop,” has earned this year’s title for kinetic staging — is here assisted by Patrick McCollum’s choreography, and both collaborators keep things moving to a fault. Joe Tracz, who also scripted the overstuffed “Be More Chill,” inserts plentiful bits to distract from the crammed narrative. But platitudes like ”The things that make you different make you strong” only reinforce the impression that Y.A. musicals need something extraordinary to make it to the adults’ table.

Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

Longacre Theater; 1069 seats: $159 top. Opened Oct. 16, 2019; reviewed Oct. 11. Running time: TWO HOURS, 10 MIN.

Production: A Martian Entertainment, Victoria Lang, Lisa Chanel, Jennifer Doyle & Roy Lennox, Van Dean/Meredith Lucio, O’Hara/Rae/Zurcher, Wei-Hwa Huang, Tosha Martin, Cara Talty, Fisher/Jacobs Baker/Masotti/Prince, Sjgh Productions and Theaterworks/USA presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Joe Tracz and music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki, based on the novel by Rick Riordan.

Creative: Directed by Stephen Brackett; choreography, Patrick McCollum; sets, Lee Savage; costumes, Sydney Maresca ; lighting, David Lander ; sound, Ryan Rumery; puppetry, Achesonwalsh Studios ; music director/supervisor, Wiley DeWeese; orchestrations, Wiley DeWeese and Rob Rokicki; production manager, Brian Lynch; production stage manager, Veronica Aglow.

Cast: Chris McCarrell, Ryan Knowles, Kristin Stokes, Jorrel Javier, Jalynn Steele, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, James Hayden Rodriguez.

More Legit

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

  • West End celling collapse

    Ceiling Collapse at 'Death of a Salesman' Leads to Theater Closure, Boycott Threats

    The West End revival of “Death of a Salesman” has moved into a temporary space after parts of the ceiling of Piccadilly Theatre collapsed during a Wednesday night performance. Five audience members sustained minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals. The theater will remain closed for the rest of the week. In the meantime, [...]

  • Tina review

    Broadway Review: 'Tina'

    “Now, that’s what I call a Broadway show!” That’s what the stranger sitting next to me at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater yelled into my ear at the roof-raising finale of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” I’d say he nailed it. Call “Tina” a jukebox musical or a bio-musical or anything you want to call it, but [...]

  • Cyrano review Peter Dinklage

    Off Broadway Review: 'Cyrano' Starring Peter Dinklage

    It’s pride and not panache that drives this overly spare and gloomy musical adaptation of that classic tale of unrequited love and honor, “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Despite a mesmerizing performance by Peter Dinklage, hot off “Game of Thrones,” and a haunting score by members of the band The National, this “Cyrano” is so reductive — [...]

  • Armie Hammer

    Armie Hammer, Jessie Mueller to Star in Broadway Production of Tracy Letts' 'The Minutes'

    Armie Hammer and Jessie Mueller will lead the cast of “The Minutes,” the Broadway production of a new play by Tracy Letts. The play seems tailor-made for these politically polarized times. It dissects a particularly contentious city council meeting, one in which the hypocrisy, greed, and ambition of various community members bubbles up to the [...]

  • Lightning Thief Broadway musical

    Listen: How 'The Lightning Thief' Creators Aim to Diversify Broadway

    “The Lightning Thief” doesn’t look like most Broadway musicals. And according to its creators, that’s a good thing. Listen to this week’s podcast below: After all, the musical based on Rick Riordan’s hit series of YA novels can count itself as one of a number of new shows (“Slave Play,” “Be More Chill”) that are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content