Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Chicago

The Lightning Thief: A Percy Jackson Musical
MadKap Productions
By Karen Topham

Also Christine's reviews of 1619: The Journey of a People and Three Sisters and Karen's reviews of The Importance of Being Earnest and The Kite Runner

The Cast
Photo by Phillips Photography
On the way to the Skokie Theatre to see MadKap Productions The Lightning Thief: A Percy Jackson Musical, book by Joe Tracz and music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki, my very excited 15-year-old son informed me that all "young zoomers love Percy Jackson," and my 9-year-old chimed in that "Gen Alpha's do too!" I, on the other hand, had some trepidation about the evening's performance. I had taken my oldest son to see a pre-Broadway production in Chicago about five or so years ago and did not enjoy the show. MadKap's production completely changed my mind–The Lighting Thief is a fantastically fun musical and I'm now officially part of the Percy Jackson fan club!

The musical takes the very popular 2005 children's novel by Rick Riordan and sets the story of half-blood Percy Jackson to music with a lot of fun, energy, and cheesy effects, all of which are embraced by MadKap's amazing ensemble. What's a half-blood you ask? A half-blood is a child who has one human parent and one Greek Godly parent and as you may imagine, half-bloods are not like the rest of us. Percy's story takes them first to one of the coolest summer camps on Long Island where they meet all kinds of unique friends and then on a quest to find Zeus' lightning bolt and prevent a war between the Gods–which would not be good for us normal mortals.

The ensemble is phenomenal. According to a Concord Theatricals casting note, "We...encourage you to look beyond traditional casting 'types' when it comes to the characters' race, gender, and physical ability. Above all, the characters in The Lightning Thief are gods and heroes–and gods and heroes can look like any of us." I love that about this show and love director Miranda Coble's casting choices. While Percy (P-Jay Adams), Annabeth (Isha Singh), and Grover (Joey Prette) play the same character throughout, the six actors in the ensemble play the many other characters of Percy's story. Singh and Prette are believable as a youthful half-blood and Satyr and carry the show with their energy. Adams, while having an amazing voice that fills the theater with its power, is a little less convincing as a youthful Percy. There is something lacking in Adam's acting performance that their vocals don't quite make up for. Anna Seibert (Sally Jackson/ensemble), Margaret Higgins (Clarisse/ensemble), and Patty Roache (Chiron/ensemble) are also impressive with their characterizations and songs. However, the person that would make me go back for a second viewing is, hands down, Zach Moore, who plays Mr. D. The laughter was non-stop during "Another Terrible Day" and my boys and I have decided we wish we had Moore's version of the song to listen to rather than the Broadway version. Go see the show just for this performance alone.

One of my initial criticisms from several years ago concerned several low-budget special effect attempts, which seemed lost in the giant downtown theater as viewed from the balcony. MadKap's production embraces the campy nature of the show and in the intimate space of the Skokie Theatre, I laughed and appreciated these "low-budget" special effects. Rokicki's songs are upbeat and catchy. The cast as a whole look like they are having a lot of fun throughout. Overall, it is a really fun night and show for all ages of Percy Jackson fans, from Gen Z to Gen Alpha and even us old Gen Xers. Be sure to get your ticket to Camp Half Blood soon!

The Lightning Thief: A Percy Jackson Musical, presented by MadKap Productions, runs through July 28, 2024 at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie IL. For tickets and information, please visit Skokie Theatre.