"The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical" condenses the book's fictional world and distills it into a live performance without detracting from any of its original meaning.
Percy Jackson is no ordinary teen. His father is a Greek god, literally. Sure, he battles raging hormones, sudden mood swings, and those momentary lapses in judgment like all adolescents. But throw in struggling to control his demigod powers and trying to prevent a war between the Greek gods by returning Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and Percy finds himself caught up in an epic adventure of mythological proportions.
You may have read the book. You may have even seen the movie. But you’ve probably never witnessed gods, monsters, and half-bloods battle it out in song and dance in this action-packed Broadway production of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. Being hailed as “electrifying” (Newsday) and proof that “lightning can strike twice!” (TheaterMania), Tulsa audiences have a limited engagement, three performances, to catch the musical adaption of The New York Times best-selling novel by Rick Riordan.
“The millions of half-bloods on Twitter ravenously follow the musical because it adheres so closely to the material in the book,” says Ryan Knowles who plays Chiron, the teacher to a group of teenage demigods. “The fact that there’s a musical of Percy Jackson is a benefit, not a detriment.”
It’s not just the plot and characters that are true to the book, but the heart and spirit of the series shine through in the powerful lyrics and emotions brought to the stage.
“Though the story is fantastical and mythological, like every teenager, Percy is faced with accepting who he is, who he wants to be, and doing what scares him because it’s right,” says Knowles. “The music gives the audience an opportunity to look into the mind of an adolescent and experience Percy’s struggles. We get to hear these incredible lyrics that speak to the thoughts of teens and what we all have all gone through.
“The show has everything audiences want in a theatrical production: action, adventure, drama, grief, and comedy. It’s a wonderfully mixed bag of features.”
And a mixed bag of features not only happens in the show but in the very characters Knowles plays.
“Some of the nine characters I play are strictly comedic,” explains Knowles, who knows a thing or two about being funny, having done a stint as a stand-up comic earlier in his career. “My favorite character I play is the god Hades who is not exactly the giant, fearsome demonic monster you might imagine.” Instead, Knowles plays Hades as a flamboyant man in a silver sequined jumper with tons of bling. “He’s just put out that people are bothering him in the underworld.”
Another favorite character Knowles plays is Poseidon. “He’s a Jeff Lebowski beach bum type with no care in the world,” says Knowles. “Would you have a care if you were a Greek god?”
Although Knowles can’t choose just one of the nine characters he most relates to, he had no doubts about the role he least identifies with: Medusa.
“She’s a bitter lady like the heiress Miss Havisham from Great Expectations,” explains Knowles, whose costume includes a skintight snakeskin dress, high heels, and a fur coat. “She’s locked away and lonely, and then she turns into this seething monster. I’m not an angry guy and I’m perfectly happy in my life, so I can’t relate to her being so demonically angry.”
What Knowles finds unique about the show and what makes it a rewarding experience not only for the audience but for the actors is that all the characters are a collaborative effort.
“You have a script with incredibly fleshed out characters, and you have an actor with ideas who brings them to those characters, then you have a director who helps mold and prunes those ideas,” explains Knowles. “They always say it’s easy to perform certain roles if the script is good because you don’t have to work hard. That’s the case in this show. The characters were all there; they just needed to be nudged to life.”
While it’s true that comedy is sprinkled throughout the entire production, so are the multi-roles and dozens and dozens of costume changes. With only seven actors in the touring show, two of them playing the leads — one role each — that leaves 30-plus roles for the other five actors to perform.
“There’s a lot of costume changes and traffic backstage,” says Knowles who jokes about selling tickets to that show. “I’m only off stage for 30 seconds to a minute at a time.”
In addition to playing different roles, the cast is changing sets, operating puppets, and in charge of props. “Everyone is running around for two hours,” says Knowles, who only gets a break to use the bathroom at intermission.
Whether you’re an adolescent or the parent of one, there’s entertainment value and takeaways for all. “Percy constantly calls himself a loser, a failure, and a disappointment,” says Knowles. “He feels inadequate for the task, and that’s a common struggle with everyone in life.”
But in the end, he learns that the things he viewed as obstacles were pluses. “He just needed to view it that way to turn the corner and find his way with success,” Knowles says. “Or in his case, a triumphant hero of the entire world.”
The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St. | Tulsa
May 31: 7:30 p.m.
June 1: 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
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