The Magic of The Lightning Thief
It was my eighteenth birthday. I was waiting in line in front of Broadway’s The Longacre Theatre, which was fancier than any building I’d ever been in. The sky was dark, the line was short, and I was ready to see the musical of my dreams.
When the theater doors finally opened. and my mother and I followed the crowd inside, I was taken aback by the beauty. There was classical architecture, classic red Broadway seats, beautiful gold walls and hanging chandeliers. When we managed to find our seats—they were so close to the stage, the third row!—we were handed the playbill: “The Lightning Thief: the Percy Jackson Musical,” the gold silhouette of a lightning bolt on a blue background.
The “Percy Jackson” series is the most important media I was ever exposed to. At the time, I was the book’s target audience: twelve-years-old, the same age as Percy during “The Lightning Thief,” with an ongoing curiosity about Greek mythology and a love of reading. I was able to escape to a world with quippy protagonists and middle-school adventures, and I could still relate with the embedded tragedy of absent adults and betraying friends.
Percy Jackson always tried to be good, even when he failed, and he will always be my hero because of that. Getting to see a real-life depiction of his journey was surreal. After years of gazing at Broadway like a dream too far to reach, my mother surprised me with tickets to a show literally hours after my birthday. It felt like destiny.
The show opened with “Prologue,” and the moment the words, “Look, I didn’t wanna be a half-blood,” were sung, I got chills. Finally, years after the disappointing movie adaptation, Percy Jackson’s story was being done justice. I was twelve-years-old again, hearing my hero speak to me.
One of the most magical elements of the show was how they handled Percy’s powers. Being a son of Poseidon, he essentially waterbends, using water as his weapon. In “Put You in Your Place,” he met Clarisse, a bully who tried to dunk his head in a toilet. To save himself, Percy exploded the toilets, but instead of splashing the actors and the audience with water, the ensemble sneakily pushed a giant fan onstage and put a roll of toilet paper in front of it. Paper went flying into the wind and into actors’ faces. After “Drive” and a fight with Ares, the god of war, they break the fourth wall. Percy faced the audience directly for a glorious second and released toilet paper into the fan for us to catch.
For me, the most important moment of the musical was Percy’s solo song, “Good Kid.” We got to hear Percy’s emotions, his thoughts, everything that had been internal until that very second; the thoughts of a child who’d been put in the position of a hero. It was heartbreaking to hear the lyrics, “I never try to do anything / I never mean to hurt anyone / I try, I try to be a good kid / A good kid / A good son. / But no one ever will take my side / All I ever do is take the fall / I swear, I swear that I’m a good kid / Guess I’m good for nothing at all.”
Chris McCarrell’s performance as Percy was so raw, so real to the character, that I cried; full on tears, holding back sobs. I found myself reassuring that fictional character that I loved him.
Art by Alex Moon