THE LIGHTNING THIEF – Music and Lyrics by Rob Rokicki; Book by Joe Tracz; Directed and Choreographed by Nick Sugar; Music Direction by Andrew Fischer. Produced by the Aurora Fox Arts Center (9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora) through June 23. Tickets available at 303-739-1970 or 

Based on the popular Percy Jackson Young Adult series of books by Rick Riordan, this is definitely a family friendly production. Sitting in an audience of twenty-somethings during a recent performance, it was obvious that they had grown up with these books and these characters doing these adventurous things. For someone not familiar with the stories, it’s a sort of complicated plot involving a young man who knows he is different but doesn’t know why. Finally, his mother confesses that he is a demigod – half human (from his beloved mother) and half God (from his father who he has never met). As soon as he discovers this, his life is changed forever. He is accused of having stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt, he becomes friends with other demigods, he is accosted by a minotaur, he is warned of betrayal by an oracle, and off on a quest to clear his name and return the lightning.  

You can begin to see how this jumble of Greek mythology and magic would make a good story. That’s exactly how the whole thing started. Rick Riordan had a son that because of his ADHD and anxiety felt isolated and “different” – just exactly what a preteen kid doesn’t want to feel. So, he started telling his son about the Greek gods as bedtime stories. When he ran out of ancient stories to tell, he started making up a story about a boy who was a demigod who just happened to be the same age as his son. And Percy was born. And grew like Topsy into a series about 30 books deep. 

In this musical version, Percy (Chase Ralston) is helped by his friends, Grover (Sean Johnson), Annabeth (Antigone Biddle) Clarisse (Jamie Molina) and Luke (Nick Rogers). They are all in the same boat as far as parents are concerned, but the friends have known of their origins for a long time and are able to guide Percy through the whole discovery process and aid him toward understanding. It’s one of those “friends for life” situations – like Harry, Hermione and Ron. The young actors telling this story bring enthusiasm and energy to their parts – in some cases, jumping from one character or monster to another. 

The adults in the mix include Faith Angelise Goins-Simmons as Percy’s mother (and the Oracle) and the very funny Brian Watson as almost all the other characters including a centaur. He’s a graduate of the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks and plays half a horse with pride and dignity. He also jumps into the role of the Hawaiian-shirted beach bum Poseidon who ends up being Percy’s errant father. 

The tech crew for this production deserves a separate round of applause for their work on creating the special effects for the show. Especially impressive was the round of puppets of all sizes and characters who became part of the story. From an aggressive little squirrel who pointed the way for the group to the threatening and truly scary Minotaur. One particular character changed from a badly behaved woman on a field trip to a bat-like creature with wings and the head of a mouse right in front of our eyes. The evening was ripe with mythical characters jumping out of the scenery unexpectedly. So, congratulations to Brandon Phillip Case, Casey Burnham, Adena Rice, Wesley Schwarz, Olivia Kong, Amelia Mindlin-Leitner and Colby Bleicher for all their hard work on making the magic come alive. 

Want to get your kids excited about live theatre? This would be an excellent way to do it. A story they are familiar with, characters both scary and silly, music that’s easy to follow, kids their own age as the actors, and adults acting funny. What more could you ask for?? 

A WOW factor of 8.5! 

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