Creative team behind ‘Be More Chill’ brings ‘Lightning Thief’ back to NYC

"The Lightning Thief" returns after a sold-out, Off-Broadway run in 2017.
"The Lightning Thief" returns after a sold-out, Off-Broadway run in 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Simmons

Another musical ripe for the young adult audience comes to New York City this weekend.

“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” returns to the city where it made its sold-out, Off-Broadway debut in 2017 for a six-performance run at the Beacon Theatre, starting Thursday. The limited showing is a part of the production’s national tour, which began in January.

Based on the best-selling novel by Rick Riordan, the drama is brought to life onstage by the same creative team behind the Broadway sensation “Be More Chill”: creator Joe Tracz and director Stephen Brackett.

“It’s been a crazy couple of months, but luckily these two projects sort of dovetailed into each other pretty beautifully,” Brackett says of balancing his directorial duties between his record-breaking teen musical and the Percy Jackson tale.

"The Lightning Thief" plays at Beacon Theatre through Sunday. 
"The Lightning Thief" plays at Beacon Theatre through Sunday.  Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

“The Lightning Thief” and “Be More Chill” have their similarities. Both based on novels, their stories allude the interchangeable vibrancy that comes along with the responsibility of embarking on a heroic journey.

“With ‘Percy Jackson,’ I get to tell this epic story about a boy who is figuring out what it means to be a responsible person and advocate for the world he wants to live in,” Brackett says. “It’s the same thing that attracted me to ‘Be More Chill.’ I get to tell a story about a boy taking a supercomputer pill who ultimately talks to all ages of audience about how to advocate for your best self.”

Fans of one will easily find something that appeals to them in the other.

Both stories, at their core, leave the audience with a relatable feeling of finding “a better you.” The specifics along the way, however, differ.

While “Be More Chill” follows a sci-fi script, “The Lightning Thief” plays with Greek mythology. Percy, the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, discovers he has mystical powers shortly before setting out to single-handedly stop the warring gods.

"The Lightning Thief" brings mythical creatures to life onstage. 
"The Lightning Thief" brings mythical creatures to life onstage.  Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

The mythical plot leaves much to unfold before the viewers’ eyes. Percy’s journey takes fans through intricate set displays built to evoke the feeling of traveling throughout the country.

“We have a pretty bombastic lighting design for this show that has a lot of tricks and bells and whistles up its sleeves that really do help transform the space into all these different locations,” he says.

The mythology also translates to a little set magic as actors evolve into centaurs (half-human, half-horse beings) and minotaurs (part man, part bull) without leaving the stage. The secret: actors sharing stage time with massive puppets.

“This is a show that really relishes in the joys of live theater and the kind of ingenuity that goes into making something spectacular happen with very, very little,” he says.

The show keeps its focus on the first novel in the five-book series by Riordan. Brackett says he and Iconis have “no plans at the moment” to adapt the rest of the series for the stage. But, the production does have "a couple of Easter eggs hidden in for the audience who has read further."

For now, the creative team looks to appeal to fans of the first novel and pick up new ones along the way. The traveling production has dates set through July with stops in Dallas, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia and Tampa, Florida.

“We knew from early on that this had a really specific fan base that was really loyal to the books,” he says. "What we have kept in [the script], is extremely faithful to them." 

IF YOU GO: “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” plays a limited run at the Beacon Theatre March 28-31. Tickets are available at lightningthiefmusical.com.