Gotta Catch “The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical” at NKU

This was one of my favorite series of books in ... Elementary school, so I hoped that this adaptation did the source material more justice than the film adaptation had. It does.  

By Daniel J. Eichler 

NKU has a stellar family friendly production of “The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical” now through March 6 at the Corbett Theatre.  Directed by Jamie Strawn with Musical Direction by Damon Stevens, the show has a multi-talented cast of triple threats, high-tech scenery and projections, solid fight direction, live music–and toilet paper guns. 

Percy Jackson (Alex Simpson) and cast in “The Lightning Thief, the Percy Jackson Musical” now at NKU

The musical (Book by Joe Tracz, Music and Lyrics by Rob Rokicki) is based upon the first of the Percy Jackson fantasy novels by Rick Riordon. This was one of my favorite series of books in Middle and Elementary school, so I had hoped that this adaptation did the source material more justice than the film adaptation had. It does.  

The story: Percy Jackson (Alex Simpson) a young teen who keeps getting expelled from school, goes to a special summer camp, Camp Half-Blood, where he discovers he is the son of Poseidon, meets other half-bloods (kids with one god or goddess as an absentee parent), and sets out on a quest to meet his father, rescue his mother from the Underworld, find a stolen bolt of lightning, and build friendships.  

Walking into the lobby, you’ll see a number of  lovely displays about ancient Greek gods and goddesses and how they might be viewed in the context of our more digital age, presented in partnership with NKU’s Elementary Latin II class. This attention to detail and knowing your audience without pandering is evident during the production. Set design in particular.

It is a modern welded metal multilevel level and bridged set (Tao Wang, Designer) making heavy use of realistic and nonrealistic background projections to set the scenes. The audience especially enjoyed the minotaur Percy fights in the middle of the first act. It is an animated projection instead of an monstrous old-school papier-mache construct, and is a pleasant surprise–I never thought of the theatrical application to gaming and animation techniques. Other strengths of the set and costumes (Ronnie Chamberlain, Costume Designer) include the Oracle of Delphis’ two story body and Medusa’s garden of statues, and some cool silver kicks. Lighting (Jo Sanburg, Designer) is bright and animated. 

The actors’ performances are another strength of the production. Although the script is formatted in a standard, main character, main characters friends and accomplices, and then side character character-hierarchy, I found that the most interesting character on the scene is not always the one with the most lines. In particular, Je’Shaun Jackson’s performance as Grover the Satyr. Jackson has impeccable comedic timing and manages to use his space incredibly effectively, delivering much more than expected (and from what the film adaptation turned into a one dimensional role). 

Percy (Alex Simpson) and Annabeth (Ellie O’Hara) are absolutely solid and compelling in acting and singing. “My Grand Plan” sung by Annabeth would be a great audition song, fyi. Other standouts included the centaur teacher Chiron (Field Oldham) and Clarisse, the daughter of Ares (Megan Carlson) who nails “Put You in Your Place” and both had a very high understanding of how their character fit into the story and played to that expectation perfectly. 

The rest of the cast members (Zachary Farmer, Ezra Crist, Gabby Casto, Chris Monell, Arianna Catalano, Jeremiah Savon Jackson, Ellie Bennet) are well placed in their multiple roles (most had 4 or more) bringing the silliness and passion befitting middleschoolers (of course there is some potty humor). in the fast past second act there are several standout numbers, especially “D.O.A.”– the journey into the musical underworld, “Lost!” and “The Tree on the Hill.”  Swordplay (uncredited fight director?) and choreography (Andrea Tutt) bring it all home. The five-piece live band seems to be having fun with the rock-style musical numbers. 

In summary, “The Lightning Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical”  is worth seeing, in particular anyone with any interest in the book series or Greek history. The Sunday matinee was sold out, and it is literally a show for all ages. Click HERE for tickets, ASAP. 

Daniel J. Eichler is a guest reviewer for LCT.  He is a graduate of Miami University’s Emerging Technology program, an esports coach and caster, film buff and supportive member in a theatrical family. He last trod the boards in his 5th grade production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

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