Imaginations soar on Percy Jackson’s killer quest

Kids who think they don’t fit in or often feel out of place can find a champion in Percy Jackson and his tiny band of demi-gods in Chicago this week.

“The things that make you different are the very things that make you strong,” sings Percy, played by the talented Chris McCarrell in the national tour launch of “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” playing until Sunday at the beautiful Oriental Theatre. The show was a sell-out on Off-Broadway for good reason. “Normal is a myth. Everyone has issues they are dealing with.”

And oh how Percy has issues.

Not only will it give you something to talk about together long after the show leaves Chicago, it is simply a spectacularly fun adventure that will thrill everyone in the family. It features enough funny innuendos that will go over kids heads to keep grownups laughing, great songs and special effects—the lightning makes you jump in your seat—that keep everyone’s attention focused on the sparsely built, but ingenious stage. The two hours felt like minutes.

Percy Jackson fans will revel in the fact that The Lightning Thief sticks so closely to the book. For those who haven’t yet read the bestseller, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon who finds himself with difficulty fitting in, with powers he can’t control and monsters on his trail. After Percy and his mom are attacked by a uber-scary Minotaur, he finds himself at Camp Half-Blood with other half-human, half-God kids who rail against their absent parents. Percy finds his place with his pal Grover (the hilarious Jorrel Javier), a satyr, and Annabeth (Kristin Stokes), the beautiful, tough daughter of Greek goddess Athena, team up for a quest.

They hit the road—in a Greyhound bus no less—that takes them to New Jersey where their bus explodes, then they hop a train to Los Angeles and a bunch of places in between (including St. Louis and the Underworld) to find Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt.

As they set out, Stokes stole a real moment opening night with her shiver-worthy vocals that carry a lesson everyone can appreciate: “The most important choices are the ones you make for yourself.”

The ending song, Bring on the Monsters, promises Percy and gang will return to Camp Half-Blood in the summer. If only they would return to Chicago this summer to give even more Chicago families a chance to experience this killer quest.

Just in case that wish doesn’t come true, the full cast album is on Spotify for streaming. 

If you go

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

Runs through Jan. 13

Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago

Tickets start at $25

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