Mirvish brings the musical adaptation of the popular children’s book to the Toronto stage
Have you ever sat down to watch a show and suddenly felt your age? Going into The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, I only knew it was a young adult book about Greek Gods and their kids.
The Lightning Thief is an ode to its source material, zeroing in on its age-demographic, and its core audience. With an aim to please, I argue it only half-succeeds.
Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell) discovers he is half-human, half-Greek God. Sent to a summer camp for his protection with his friend, the Satyr Grover (Jorrel Javier), Percy is thrust into a world on the cusp of war if he doesn’t set out on a quest to find and return Zeus’s lightning bolt.
If you love the books, you’ll probably notice I am leaving out a slew of information. Don’t worry, Act 1 has you covered. With exposition set to twenty, there is no stone unturned.
Within one hour we meet his other quest companion, Annabeth (Kristin Stokes), daughter of Athena. His mother, played by Jalynn Steele, battles a minotaur. There is a centaur (played by Ryan Knowles), and a campfire, and–it just. Keeps. Going.
I guess I was expecting maybe some super catchy songs or some character development, but I felt like they were using the entire hour to set the stage.
The fun bits–which always involved Knowles and Javier in multiple, scene-stealing roles–were few and far between.
By the time intermission hit, I was sitting there, staring at the audience around me, wondering at the appeal. The families and the people who were kids when the books came out were clearly enjoying it.
It felt like it was made strictly for them.
And then there was Act 2.
Act 2 was action. Act 2 was adventure. Act 2 was catchy tunes and power ballads. It was all kid-charm and fun set-pieces.
I mean, I was wondering how I felt about a musical that felt like a book summary set to song and they went and turned it into a fun kids show.
And that’s an important factor in this whole review.The Lightning Thief is for a young audience. It doesn’t pander to adult humour. Which is kind’ve nice, but also difficult for someone who isn’t twelve and under.
Hidden behind the intermission, however, was some wonderful whimsy where the River Styx is an elevator ride, and Charon (Steele) steals the show with the rocking song D.O.A.
Or what about James Hayden Rodriguez, relegated to Hermes’s son Luke initially, he gets to flit from costume to costume, clearly having a great time as biker Ares.
More importantly, here we get the heart of the show: McCarrell, Javier, and Stokes as a bickering dynamic trio traversing the monster-infested United States and blowing up buses on the way.
It was so different. Even with its imperfections, like strange tonal shifts (there are a lot), I felt like I was watching the actual show, and not a summary.
Overall, The Lightning Thief suffers from its determination to be the book when it’s a musical, hiding all the good stuff away from prying eyes.
- The Lightning Thief runs until March 24th at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria Street)
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 1:30pm
- Ticket prices range from $39 to $95
- Tickets can be purchased at the Ed Mirvish Theatre box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, or online here
- Show contains strobe lights and fog effects
Photo of Jorrel Javier, Ryan Knowles, Chris McCarrell, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, James Hayden Rodriguez, Jalynn Steele, Kristin Stokes by Jeremy Daniels