Review: 'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Storms Off-Broadway With A Splash

Review: 'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Storms Off-Broadway With A Splash

The musical adaption of Rick Riordan's best-selling novel is an instant hit with fans.
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Picture this: Chris McCarrell slides down to the edge of the stage, hair disheveled and lips curled into Percy’s infamous, troublemaking smirk, sits eye-level with his audience, and sings his opening line with a cutting combination of snark and weariness: “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” When “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” was first announced in January, fans of the series were both excited and understandably anxious, worried that Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki’s production might indulge in the abounding inaccuracies the movie adaptions’ interpretations of the characters and plots offered. Once McCarrell’s Percy runs onstage, spinning sharp, playful cheek into every line and making faces at the audience throughout the show’s opening number, “The Day I Got Expelled,” though, all fear of a repeat of those mistakes floods away. His entire performance as Percy completely captures every aspect of Percy’s personality, from his anger to his gentle compassion, from his sarcastic and confused sense of humor to his often self-deprecating dejection. His characterization makes its way into his posture and into every word of dialogue, and got so deeply to the core of the character that I found myself crying as he leaned precariously from the second level of the set’s scaffolding during “Good Kid,” despite having heard the song on repeat since its release when the show was first announced.

This deep understanding of the source material extends to every part of the musical, from its characters to its DIY aesthetic and set design to the way it moves its plot. George Salazar’s performances as Grover and Mr. D were equally amazing, the former hitting every aspect of the character’s combination of excitement and nerves, and the latter inducing countless laughs throughout the show. Kristin Stokes, who has only gotten better since the show’s first run back in 2014, portrays all of Annabeth’s pride and drive while still emphasizing Annabeth’s sharp-witted, high-spirited side. Every character Carrie Compere plays is astounding, though the standout is her interpretation of Sally, who is kind and resilient and every bit an echo of the text as the rest of the show. Jonathan Raviv captures Chiron and Poseidon hilariously, Sarah Beth Pfeifer somehow manages to move seamlessly from playing Clarisse to playing woodland creatures, and James Hayden Rodriguez’s Luke is instantly charming. Every character is carefully crafted to match their novel counterpart, an aspect of the show that even extends to their interactions with other characters. The fact that this show goes out of its way to show moments like Luke, Annabeth, and Grover sitting together and talking in the background of a scene, a familiar girl in a floppy hat and braids telling Percy that she and her brother arrived at the Lotus Hotel in 1939, or Silena joining Clarisse’s capture the flag team all show just how involved with the text not only the actors are, but the show is as a whole.

This attention to detail is also found in the dialogue and plot, as a good amount of the lines are lifted directly from the books. A large part of the movies’ failure to please fans was in the fact that they used the base the books created and created their own stories out of them, completely deviating from what the heart of the series was actually about. Many will be happy to hear that this musical tells the story of “The Lightning Thief” from start to finish (which shouldn’t be that hard a feat, but apparently is). It's important to note that the show isn’t just a word-for-word reading of the book, though. It uses the musical form to its advantage to tell a loyal and yet unique version of the story, craft its own hilarious sense of humor, and use music and action to emphasize some of the characters' most important traits. I’ve written before about how a musical is the perfect medium for adapting the Percy Jackson series because of the ability it offers to fluidly blend inner monologue into the story through song, and this musical used that power to its full extent. Since Percy’s actual dialogue in “The Lightning Thief” is normally a bit more biting and angry than the humor found in his narration (See: Percy’s comical opening chapter leading up to his first line of dialogue, “I’m going to kill her.”), the musical is able to use its tone to create the light-hearted atmosphere of Percy’s narration and provide him his inner thoughts through song, both while staying true to the way Percy genuinely speaks. The show’s more stylized moments, like Annabeth and Luke’s arms forming Thalia’s tree as she sings quietly and Grover tells Percy her story with tears in his eyes, (an effect that had me crying for the third or fourth time that night), Annabeth’s choreography during her “I Want” song, “My Grand Plan,” being incorporated into her battle training with her dagger, and Luke singing a twisted reprise of “Good Kid” during the musical’s climax, all take scenes and characters from the novels and heighten them through the unique qualities and opportunities theater offers to create emotions and images that cannot be crafted on paper alone. Additions and changes to the story and moments deleted from the book are done with care, especially for the tone of Percy’s narration, from new scenes like Annabeth teaching Percy how to hold his sword to alterations like Cerberus becoming a DJ for Charon’s incredible introduction to the Underworld. The creators of this show clearly understand the advantages they have working in theater and know how to use them to tell their story effectively.

The entire experience of the show, from the way the theater is absorbed by the sound of thunder overhead in the time before the show starts to the orchestra being left a mess of confetti and toilet paper once it ended, absolutely got to the heart of Percy Jackson’s unique tone, story, and characters. The show is still in previews, so it may change a bit before its opening night on April 4th, but from what I’ve seen, I completely trust this production with the story and cannot wait to see what’s in store for the musical once it solidifies into what I’m sure will be a spectacular final product that will be loved by fans for years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Playbill

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Picking Passion Over Pressure Is The Answer To A Fulfillng Life

Don't crack under pressure, flourish with passion.

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What motivates your actions? The answer to this critical question can determine whether or not you are living a fulfilling life. Many of us follow a social script as if we are reading lines from a play. We succumb to the influence of those around us and roam aimlessly in the direction of the masses.

The concept of living within the confinement of certain "norms" is an expectation society calls us to uphold, and it is not an entirely negative idea. But when life becomes "a series of motions to go through", this expectation can become problematic. When you find yourself stressed out about doing whatever it is you think that you have to do, stop and ask yourself if it makes you truly happy. Are you pursuing your passion or are you just performing under pressure? To find true contentment in your life, pick passion over pressure.

Be an individual before an identity.

When people first introduce themselves to a new friend or group of people, they are quick to jump to aspects of their life that compose their identity. Many of us define ourselves by what it is we do, and not necessarily who we actually are. For example, this can include identifying as a member of a club or sports team or even defining yourself based on accolades and accomplishments you have achieved. While these are definitely adequate ways to distinguish yourself from others, have you ever stopped to look beneath the surface? It is important to know what unique qualities make you an individual and not just a part of a larger entity.

By viewing yourself as an individual, you will find your passions in life more easily and find genuine enjoyment in all that you do. Taking on an identity will only hold you under unnecessary pressure to fulfill a role that could leave you feeling unsatisfied later on.

Become self-aware.

To find out what makes you truly happy, you need to establish a clear sense of who you are. Fostering self-awareness is a journey, and it can be discovered through life experiences. In order to figure out what you love doing, push yourself out of your comfort zone to figure out what you don't love doing. This can mean joining a new club, taking a challenging class, or working in an environment that you are unfamiliar with. Once you begin to discover how you react in certain situations, use these personality traits to your advantage.

Don't make the same mistake twice, and avoid taking on a position that you know would not be compatible with your lifestyle. By becoming self-aware, you will discover your passion more easily and will be able to take on realistic opportunities that will prove to be fulfilling. When you try to become someone you are not, it will seem like there is always a lingering pressure to "keep up the act", and it will be harder to accomplish tasks because you don't truly enjoy doing them.

View outside opinions with a filtered lens.

Don't let others dictate your future. When you make life decisions based on what other people think is best for you, you will be pleasing everyone except yourself. Consciously decide whose opinions are valid, meaningful, and constructive to your life. This can include the wisdom of close friends and relatives, professors, or a boss that has known you for years. By finding out who knows you best and who truly desires the best for your life, you can tune out the background noise and hone in on the few voices that actually do matter.

Place value in what these people have to say, and take the words of others with a grain of salt. Avoid letting irrelevant or negative opinions linger in your mind. If you allow the influence of others to infiltrate your decision making, you will find yourself in many regrettable situations and unsatisfied with the outcome of your choices. By subscribing to the helpful advice shared by those closest to you, you can foster your true passion.

Practice positive thinking. 

You can't find out what makes you happy in life without actually experiencing what happiness is. To discover your passion, adopt a positive mindset. Get out of the habit of mentally putting yourself down, and take the word "can't" out of your thought process. The more mental blocks you put on yourself, the less likely you are to have good experiences. Release your inhibitions and train your brain seek positivity in any situation.

Don't allow minor inconveniences to disturb you, and remind yourself of the saying that "it is only a bad day, not a bad life." In doing so, the positive choices you make will lead you in the direction of your passion so that you can live a fulfilling life.

Be open to new ideas. 

Keeping an open mind will allow you to experience life from a new perspective. Even when something seems foreboding, treat it as a lesson. If you cannot think of a positive quality for the situation you find yourself in, then don't assign your circumstances any qualities at all. If you keep a neutral mindset, you will eliminate the possibility for disappointment. This will encourage learning and growth, which are essential in your journey to finding your true passion.

Being open to new ideas will help you avoid sticking to the status quo. By taking part in something you have never done before, you are less likely to find yourself confined by what others expect you to do.

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