By Zita Lam
It is never easy to recreate a fantasy film/novel like Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief onto a musical stage, but The 5th Ave Theatre’s effort to connect with young adults this season is what really makes a statement—it provides a platform for youngsters to unleash their imaginative power.
Based on the best-selling Disney-Hyperion novel by Rick Riordan, this musical follows the adventures of demigod Percy (Chris McCarrell), who often seen as a troubled kid in school, to prevent the wars between the Greek gods. He discovers his power as a son of Poseidon at the Camp Half-Blood where he meets Grover (Jorrel Javier) and Annabeth (Sarah Preifer). After being accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt, these three go on a mission to save Percey’s mother, as well as to prove his innocence. On their journey to the underworld, they must put on their brave faces to defeat the monsters.
In this adaptation, playwright Joe Tracz manages to showcase the lively moments from the original storyline without losing its theme and momentum. Audiences are able to experience a variety of emotions as the story goes on: the tension between the characters, the exciting battle scenes, the heartfelt conversations, and the genuine self-discovery moments. The opening scene exceedingly set the beats for the production and it draws audiences’ attention immediately.
As much as the pop-rock songs are intriguing to the audiences—thanks to Rob Rokicki—the stage effects effortlessly bring joy and energy to the theatre. In order to create a thrilling ambiance, the production’s strobe lights and smoke effects reach a level of artistic conception where CGI-less fantasy can also be vivid on the stage. The fact that it doesn’t rely on flashy mise-en-scene to achieve the film-like result, it maximizes the room for audiences’ imaginations.
Another notable of the show is certainly the talented casts. For instance, Javier’s characters—Grover and Mr.D—have two distinct personalities, and it is remarkable that he shows his skills in singing and acting. McCarrell’s vocal range is wide, not to mention his capability of performing different types of songs with strong emotions.
However, unfortunately, there were some flaws at the opening night that might make this musical look like anything but professional production. First of all, the volume of the live band was way too loud and the casts’ voices were buried in it the majority of the time. It seemed like the casts needed to make a strenuous effort to be heard; and as an audience, it was displeasing. In addition, the intensity of the strobe lights was too high at some points. The brightness became a distraction when our eyes were too sored to concentrate the actions on the stage. Lastly, the immature composition led to a mess in the fighting/dancing scenes. While this musical is rhythm-driven, the positioning and movement of actors didn’t live up to its potential. The lack of completeness created a chaos setting and missed an opportunity for the casts further shine through their musical talents.
Developed and presented by TheaterWorksUSA, Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief overall is a vibrant production. After performing at The 5th Ave Theatre last week, the musical continues its North American Tour and on its way to different states. For more information, visit: https://www.lightningthiefmusical.com