Stormy skies and divine beings are heading for Proctors. “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” opens at the theater on Friday and runs through Saturday.
For those who didn’t grow up reading Rick Riordan’s middle-grade series, it follows Percy Jackson, a troublesome middle schooler who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon. He’s tasked with finding Zeus’ lightning bolt, which will take learning how to control his newly discovered powers, and battling monsters that seem to be constantly chasing after him.
But it’s not just about Percy, who is played by Chris McCarrell. It’s also about Annabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and battle strategy, who is one of Percy’s first allies. She’s whip-smart, with a dry sense of humor, and a fierceness that’s been honed by years of training.
“I feel like Annabeth, that I’m five steps ahead of everybody,” said Kristin Stokes, who plays Annabeth in the musical.
She’s been in the role since its first iteration five years ago and has grown with the character.
“When I first started to play Annabeth I tried to soften her up a little bit and not [make] her so harsh and demanding. It’s so easy to make her sound like a know it all. She’s taught me that you don’t have to be a know it all and annoying, you can just speak the truth and be confident about it,” Stokes said.
Annabeth does have a lot to be confident about. She’s been training for a quest her entire life and feels more than prepared, which makes it frustrating when Percy Jackson, the new kid, is tasked with finding Zeus’ lightning bolt to prevent a war between the Greek gods. In other words, the quest of a lifetime.
“In the show we get to explore this feminist perspective,” Stokes said, “[Percy] gets to roll in and get a quest and be the leader without literally any credentials and [Annabeth is] like ‘Um, I have been training my whole life and I’m coming on your quest.’”
Throughout the production, their relationship strengthens, along with that of the comedic Grover (Jorrel Javier), who happens to be a satyr and their quest-mate.
Because the series has such a dedicated fan base, Stokes said that they tried to stick to the book in this production. “The Lightning Thief” was adapted to the big screen in 2010, with a 2013 sequel, and into an Off-Broadway musical in 2017. It debuted at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, where it was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards, according to Playbill.
Joe Tracz, who wrote the book for the show, is a big fan of the series.“He [put] little easter eggs inside the show that are nods to the other books, to things to come, to some of the favorite jokes from other books for the fans,” Stokes said.
Part of staying true to the original series is done with the set, which combines elements of modern-day America with Greek architecture: think spray paint, but in the ancient Greek language. There’s construction scaffolding, which always seems to be popping up around New York City, where Percy is from. Then there’s also a few Greek columns that evoke a sense of ancient Greece.
“We loved the idea of bringing this modern story and connecting it back to its origins of ancient Greek theater,” Stokes said.
The music, which is mostly rock, also harkens back to Greek mythology, even as the actors are singing about insecurities and struggles that kids can relate to today.
Stokes’ solo song in the show is one example. “ It’s a journey of self-doubt, it’s the time in the show when you get to see Annabeth as vulnerable for the first time,” Stokes said.
Another is the finale, which all the cast members come together to perform.
“We all feel like demi-gods by the end of the show. It’s so physical, the vocals are demanding and so we all join together in this finale called ‘Bring on the Monsters,’” Stokes said, “It’s such an anthem. Every time [we sing it] we all get goosebumps.”
Whether everyone in the audience has read the books or watched the movies, or whether the musical is the first time audience members are hearing about it, there’ll be something to relate to.
“I think whether you’ve read the books or not, what really binds [everything] together is this idea that the things that make you different are the things that make you strong,” Stokes said.
Percy’s story is one of self-discovery. He goes from thinking of himself as an extremely flawed person to understanding how he can use those supposed flaws to impact the world.
“Those are the things that we want everyone to do. Find out what makes you unique and don’t downplay it and see how you can contribute to this society, to this world because we need people from all walks of life with all different viewpoints to make it a better place,” Stokes said.
“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Fri, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sat.
MORE INFO: proctors.org