By Amanda Steele
Turning pieces of pop culture into stage musicals is definably not unheard of. From the infamous Spider-Man musical to the highly successful Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, stage adaptations, especially musicals, are an exciting medium for many stories. While some of these productions are huge and crated by big companies with the aid of original creators, there are also many smaller, fan-made projects that have gotten success.
One of these was A Very Potter Musical, the YouTube hit that launched Darren Criss to stardom. Now, fans of middle-grade fantasy novels can see a new musical make its way to the stage with The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. This adaptation started out as a small Off-Broadway production and was successful enough to make it onto Broadway itself, which is quite a big deal.
At New York Comic Con on Thursday, Laura Heywood hosted “From Page to Stage,” a panel all about The Lighting Thief. I got the chance to sit in on the panel and hear about how the musical creators went about adapting Rick Riordan‘s popular middle-grade novels for the stage. The panel featured director Stephen Brackett, playwright Joe Tracz, composer Rob Rokicki, and most of the main actors from the production including the actors who play the three main characters: Chris McCarrell, Kristin Stokes, and Jorrel Javier.
The panel started off with a fun clip from the show, including a minotaur and some very musical-like singing. Then the panelists explained that Theaterworks USA started the production as a small show that traveled the country performing at schools; then this group convinced Riordan to turn the show into a big production. According to the creators, they wanted to have music that had a rock feel.
Jorrel Javier, who plays Grover, said there was a lot of excitement for him and many of the actors in being a part of this musical after reading these books in their youth.
When asked if he was worried if fans wouldn’t like Percy Jackson being turned into a musical, McCarrell (who played Percy in the Off-Broadway production and now plays him on Broadway) said he felt the transition to this medium made a lot of sense: “What better way to heighten a character and a story then to have them break into rock songs?”
Stokes, who plays Annabeth, has been with the production for the longest. She talked about the evolution of the show from a basic production to something worthy of Broadway and also how the character inspired her: “Annabeth as always owned who she is. She’s not afraid to speak her mind.” She said that the character’s confidence and strength was inspiring for her to break through her own conditioning as a woman in society.
Since The Percy Jackson Musical was created as a show that could travel in the back of a van, it had a lot of growing to do in order to make it to Broadway. This meant the show evolved and there are many more effects. However, the cast and crew also note that it’s still a show that relies on its audience to engage and use their own imaginations when watching the show. They wanted fans of the books to have the chance to use their own versions of things to add to what is featured on stage. Plus, there is a lot of ridiculous fun in the show where actors play characters from dolphins to horses, so you can expect a lot of humor.
The Lightning Thief also includes a diverse cast with multiple women and people of color, and the musical will introduce many of them to Broadway audiences, which is definitely an exciting thing to hear. If you’re a fan of this series, The Percy Jackson Musical is sure to be an entertaining show. While it’s definitely not the most extravagant-looking Broadway show you could see, it does look like a fun interpretation of the book that fans will enjoy.
If you love musicals, middle-grade fantasy, and a little bit of camp, you’ll want to check it out at the Longacre Theater. Currently in previews, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical opens in October and runs through January.