A sweltering weekend is upon us so here’s how to escape the record-breaking temps outside and see what’s hot onstage!
THE LIGHTNING THIEF: The Percy Jackson Musical. After flaming out onscreen, this global best-seller by Rick Riordan is now a hit musical onstage which just opened in Boston at the Huntington Avenue Theatre! I saw it last night and was remarkably entertained by this funny, hip, warm-hearted tale of a misfit HS kid named Percy Jackson (a cool yet earnest Chris McCarrell) trying to find himself. Percy has ADHD & dyslexia, has never met his real dad, and has just been expelled from his fifth school for being a troublemaker. Come to find out– and we do in some swiftly rolled out exposition– that Percy possesses superpowers (heretofore unbeknownst to him) because he is the son of Poseidon! His dyslexia’s merely a symptom of his brain being hard-wired for ancient Greek; his ADHD a function of his battle-ready reflexes! Turns out a slew of gods and goddesses have set their sights on him, and Percy’s “quest” is to find Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt and head off a battle of the Greek gods!
The show is simple and slick, with many of this talented cast easily playing multiple roles, lyrics baldly conveying themes for young adults: self-reliance, facing life’s real monsters, having compassion for oneself and others. You would not mistake it for art, but it is a well-made entertainment with solid performances within the limits of the characters as drawn. My biggest problem was the generic score, loads of notes– all delivered with high energy by excellent singers–but no music. Beware the biggest thief of all– Ryan Knowles who steals every scene he’s in with vocal cords so resonant they should be insured by Lloyd’s of London.
The best thing about the show? The audience it attracted!! I never saw so many families, especially fathers and sons, together in the theater, singing the songs, and glued to this 2-hour extravaganza involving Greek mythology! I would not want to see superhero fantasies completely take over the theater the way this material now dominates mainstream movies. But a few good bolts from the blue that introduce kids and families to the power of theater is most welcome. Through July 28!
And here are some light classics onstage: THE SOUND OF MUSIC now onstage at The Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham featuring Elliot Norton Award-winner Aimee Doherty as that wayward postulant Maria who takes the starch out of Captain Von Trapp (Mark Linehan), delighting both him and his adorable, musically inclined children. An escape from the Nazis, with the help of an angelic chorus of nuns, caps off this splendid Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, which finds a warm, charming home at Reagle. Most of the voices are lovely, especially Doherty, Linehan, Mara Bonde who climbs every mountain and note as The Mother Abbess, and a winning Emma Heistand as eldest daughter Liesl. Through July 21 only!
Cool off in Gloucester at THE 39 STEPS, the hilarious comic thriller based on the book and Hitchcock film, and references many of Hitch’s iconic movie moments. An onstage foley artist– Marblehead’s Malachi Rosen– creates all the sound effects before our very eyes, and joins a deft cast of 4 who transform themselves scene by scene into more than 150 characters. Lewis D. Wheeler plays debonair but bored bachelor Richard Hannay who goes to the theater one night and suddenly finds himself wrapped up in a murder, a mystery, and international mayhem which propels him from the British boards to the Scottish moors.
My one quibble? The pace dragged a bit which left “The 39 Steps” a bit short of a flight, but the cast rises above: Paul Melendy enters mustache-askew and proceeds to swivel his hips almost out of their sockets and into a variety of uproarious turns. Amanda Collins captivates as a sultry black-satined femme fatale and a prim and proper English lady. But it was the hilariously deadpan Gabriel Kuttner who stole my heart as a dour, sour wife and many other roles which, no matter how ridiculous, were always somehow grounded in reality. Through July 28!