Review: ‘The Lightning Thief,’ a Far Cry From Olympus

A musical adaptation of the popular fantasy novel comes to Broadway and goes to Hades.

Comments: 22

  1. I'm getting to like Jesse Green's reviews more and more. We need a critical and cynical eye on Broadway now that ticket prices are averaging $200. Especially with most shows there recycling [80s] movies and [60s] jukebox musicals. I LOVE Carole King but do I really need to pay hundreds of dollars to hear her songs which I have literally been listening to since birth? I'm sticking to Off-Broadway.

  2. @mvs - "Beautiful" with the songs of Carole King and Mann & Weil is so much more than that. And we paid $79 by going on a Sunday night, when theater traffic was somehow low. The $79 section was on the side, but full view, no surcharges since we went to the box office. It may have helped that my teenage cousin was excited because they'd done a Carole King medley at her school in Scranton - or maybe they just gave us the best available. (But this cousin, now an adult in college, has been a magic touch - at the stage door of "Memphis," she asked a friend in the chorus as we were walking away if they could say how an incredible costume change was done; the friend checked with the doorman, and got an OK - we all were walked in for a tour that ended with the set for that incredible "wow" costume change being so ingenious and low-tech. At "How to Succeed," the line for Daniel Radcliffe was too long, so while my older cousin and I were kvelling over how warm Aaron Sorkin was to lots of fans after all we'd heard while he seemed to be waiting for an Uber, the teenage cousin stood next to a photo of Radcliffe outside the theater that was just her height, and her brother took five poses on her phone - and if I hadn't been there, I'd think it was the star himself posing with her.)

  3. @mvs strange comment for on an article about an original Broadway musical that debuted Off-Broadway where tickets are advertised on banner ads on this very site as starting at $39. As for Mr. Green's hit piece . . . let's just say, he's no Ben Brantley.

  4. "Has all the charm of a tension headache": worthy of John Simon. I'll have to remember that one.

  5. Value and expense aside, the show's initial appeal to fans of the Percy Jackson series or shows like 'Be More Chill,""Dear Evan Hansen" and the like, is evident. Otherwise the producing team wouldn't have taken the show to Broadway at all. Fresh audiences may be turned off by the show's attempt to take it a step up in a bigger house. It's the way of things these days, so thanks, Jesse for calling it for what it seems to be - a miss.

  6. @Michael - It's so interesting, that I know I saw some Theaterworks young audience classics like "Emperor's New Clothes," "Class Clown," and their young audience "Phantom" atTown Hall, which may even be bigger than many Broadway houses in capacity, and it all felt rally good. I admit we paid $25 plus fees, but each was six people like a troupe switching roles and telling the story. There was a royally entertaining "Les Miserables" that came out of BMI writers that got a loving joking name of "Junior Miz." I think anyone who saw the YA "Phantom" atTown Hall (I was way upstairs) forget the "teasing" by the actor in the Herculean title role in a 60-minute show, a character that became an event all by himself, will he take off the mask or will he not; finally he takes off the mask at the end of the bows and - of course he's a regular nice-looking New York actor, but the lights cut brilliantly at that "reveal." And his head shot was there in the lobby, too. (It was like Mad Magazine teasing readers with how awful Liz Taylor will look after make-up in "Virginia Woolf" - "uh, oh, don't get scared, shudder, here it is - we wouldn't want our mothers to look like that - our girlfriends and wives, sure, but our mothers - no way.")

  7. A few things it's worth noting re: this review. One, while I'm sure ticket prices do get up to $199, they also start at $39, which is actually a very reasonably priced ticket, and have a lottery going. Two, it seems like this reviewer also didn't like the original book this musical was based on, which is fair, but also probably makes him more likely to not like a fairly faithful adaptation. Three, it's also wild to me to group this plot in with "normalize the idea that actually quite privileged youngsters are victims of social or parental neglect". This musical is a story about kids who are marginalized for a variety reasons (including learning disabilities, something not represented very often), trying to save the world. While I understand why someone may not like this show, for a bunch of the reasons mentioned, it seems unfair to classify the entire show as 'teen angst', when that really isn't the point. You want to know the battle the end song is talking about? It's the one a lot of young, sometimes marginalized people are going to have to face while fighting for their future, whether on the topic of climate change, LGBTQ rights, or female reproductive rights. I have no problem with a show that is meant to demonstrate that young people have the power to change things.

  8. I caught the pre-Broadway touring show with my two preteen Percy Jackson fans who are rapidly developing into theatre fans. Having heard the music for weeks in advance of the show, I expected overly dramatic teen angst. What I saw was a delightful show that used its minimalist set pieces creatively, and talented actors who played multiple roles with wit. To my adult eyes, the "angst" was played with humor, not the type of seriousness that would warrant an eye roll. No, this is not a fancy Disney production with the huge cast and special effects you would expect from those spectacles. Still, my kids loved this more than they did Aladdin, because it brought one of their favorite books to life. The fact that they produced such an entertaining show on a low budget--creatively using mundane objects like a shop lamp--was part of theatre magic to me. I have taken my youngsters to nearly a dozen theatre shows in the last few years. I want them to see that creativity can entertain as well as expensive special effects. I want them to think of theatre as a realistic avenue for artistic expression--not something only grown-up professionals do with the backing of a huge production company. Hopefully that's happening... My middle schooler chose theatre as an elective this year.

  9. Spot on. I saw it Chicago with my kids. I enjoyed it way more than I expected and the whole tone/vibe was goofy fun.

  10. DEH is morally dubious at best, yup it teaches a great lesson "the ends justify the means". LT might be a poor production but DEH teaches that no reason to worry, doing the crime results PLOT REVEAL ahead! losing the girl. DEH opened before our liar in chief was elected perhaps it was the canary in the coal mine.

  11. @person of interest. - I don't see how "Dear Evan Hansen" is seen as teaching anything like that any more than "Gypsy" teaches isn't it great to be a stage mother trying to live through your kids by hook or by crook, or then "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" teaches that self-delusion is the road to dealing with marital discord. Is there anything about "Dear Evan Hansen" that suggests to you that the authors and stagers are saying there's anything good in the choices the characters make? ( I'm bothered by the marketing, like Evan polo shirts which suggest the wearer might want to identify with the damaged character. I hope the models wearing those shirts won't be offended, but the Playbill spread looks like a Forbidden Broadway "Dear Evan Handsome" spoof, as if the ad people listened to the CD without seeing or reading the show.) I'm not happy, to say the lest, with the show's producer. or dramaturg. who found having compassion for characters makes money even while they chew up and spit outing dispose of real people; but if we must have premium at all, that such a show went white hot premium seems like a good thing, and gives hope for other thoughtful work since it's proven that can make money - and when the movie comes, parents who see their kids in Conor or Evan will likely be moved to talk and maybe save a life or two.)

  12. @Freddie DEH is about a lonely white boy who stalks a girl for a year, fakes a friendship with her dead brother in order to get in her pants, faces absolutely no consequences at any for his actions, and that storyline is even framed as romantic. That's why the show is considered morally dubious by many, especially now in our current culture.

  13. @EmilyK - well, I guess I liked "Dear Evan Hansen" more than you did. There was a parody "Dear Evan Manson" that was going around. I only lasted 20 seconds with it. It didn't go viral, but it may at least have gone bacterial. Maybe ...

  14. Ouch! Glad to see, though, someone is calling out these dollar-candy shows with their $200 a ticket. Nothing more than a scam.

  15. @Rosie What do you want to take the kids to see? "A Doll's House?" "Cherry Orchard?" "Godot?" Give me a break. And what is a "dollar-candy show?"

  16. $200 does not accurately represent most ticket prices for The Lightning Thief. Only the very close seat surpass $150. Tickets can be as cheap as $59. I do understand this is still expensive, but special nights (such as student night, November 11th) offer even lower prices. After all, this is now a Broadway show in which utility/operating bills to run the show must be through the roof. This has to be why some tickets are very expensive.

  17. Mr. Green, I hope in some of your spare time, you take a chance to pick up the original source material- the book. It may clear up some of your misconceptions on the Harry Potter Narrative. While the series shares many similarities to Harry Potter, it also stands beautifully on its own. As for the show: Absolutely, this show is no way near perfect. It's cheesy and childish at times. But so are teens. But these characters are relatable. I recently reread the series, which I originally read at 12, which lead me to the musical adaptation. I fell in love with how, despite its imperfections, the musical was able to just be fun. And when I saw it on tour, I could see that fun. I understand that it being on Broadway is almost laughable, but Broadway is changing, as every form of art does. But if this musical is getting kids excited enough to see a LIVE show, that is something worth celebrating! We live in a culture where everything is available on a screen, and musicals are a way to escape that. For some, The Lightning Thief may just be the gateway into the world of theatre.

  18. This is simply not critique. Someone who has not seen the show would come away with no more knowledge than the fact that Jesse Green does not like it, or teenagers. I've seen him write great pieces on shows he very obviously disliked, so that fact that this review is so empty, condescending, and hateful is very disappointing.

  19. It's too bad many children probably missed out on this show due to this review. True, this wasn't Dear Evan Hansen, and I would have been annoyed if I paid $200 a ticket. But I didn't, and my kids (who are too young for DEH) loved it. Also his comment "normalize the idea that actually quite privileged youngsters are victims of social or parental neglect" well he missed the point. It's not about "whiny teenagers". Rick Riordan's books and the spinoff materials have given confidence to and made readers out of a generation of learning disabled kids. I applaud all of those involved.

  20. TL;DR: Ok boomer What on earth does he mean when he says that they aged up the characters? Unless he thinks that Percy started school at like 11 then he's clearly wrong, and if you're wondering what my (actual, unlike his) evidence is, in the song Prologue/The Day I Got Expelled, before he is officially expelled, Mrs. Dodds says, "Five schools in six years [...]" referring to the five schools he's been expelled from in his six years of schooling, and once again in Good Kid Percy says "Six schools in six years/been kicked out of every place". It is quite obvious that the characters are still the same ages as in the books, but are merely played by adults, this is something that even a child could have picked up on. And on top of everything else, he's clearly never actually read the books if he thinks that the "Teen angst" over having absentee parents was only added in for the purposes of the musical. As for the "illogical workarounds", I'd like to know what he'd rather them do, spray the stage and audience with actual water?

  21. I'd also love to hear more about how Percy, a 12-year-old who grew up not knowing his birth father, living with an abusive step-parent, having only his mother to listen to him, and being forced to move school every single year, and then had to see his mother die, and Annabeth, a girl who ran away from home at age 7 because her step-mother hated her, and whose father wouldn't defend her, and was alone on the streets for who knows how many weeks (at age SEVEN) while trying to avoid ruthless monsters trying to kill her, found a family, had to watch a member of that family die, and then had to watch the other member betray her and everyone she cared about, not to mention that fact that both Percy and Annabeth have ADHD and dyslexia, are privileged. I have plenty more but as I type this comment is already 407 characters too long and will likely be split in two.

  22. Honestly, I enjoyed this musical a lot. The songs as really catchy and nice to listen to, there are funny moments in this musical that actually made me laugh out loud, and the part where Luke reveals that he's working for Kronos legit sent chills down my spine, even though I've read the books and already know that he's secretly evil. Perhaps if you haven't read the books and watched the musical first, it may be a bit confusing. (I've heard about this musical through some of my friends who were also fans of the Percy Jackson books, so I already knew the plot of the musical) But considering this is an adaptation of a book based on half-bloods fighting monsters to survive, I guess it's kind of hard to adapt, so I'm quite glad with how the musical turned out. And as the review says: 'they have upped the characters' ages'. What??? And yes, while Chris McCarrell isn't a twelve year old, I think he did a really good job at acting the part. And finding actual 12-year-olds that can sing well and act well is pretty hard. By the way, the musical uses toilet paper and leaf blowers to represent water, and sure, that may seem kinda silly. But the way they improvised is actually pretty creative. What do you want them to do instead, drown the audience with a flood? Similar to one of the comments here, I will also be splitting up this comment into two parts, whereas the other half will be in the replies, because this thing's got a word limit.