The Lightning Thief – Upper Darby High School

photo by Ryan Stone

The Lightning Thief by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA

April 12, 2022

Review submitted by Anya Durand of Academy of the New Church

In a world in which fiction becomes reality and imminent death and failure are approaching, a young boy is thrown into a world in which he is ignorant and afraid. Upper Darby High School’s performance of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical sheds a unique light on the childhood favorite.

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, based on the book by Rick Riordan, originated its run off-Broadway for limited performances. It has since been most notably touring nationally in the United States and is set to return for another return post the quarantine of the COVID-19 virus that ended its last showing.

The story follows young Percy Jackson, played by Phoenyx Hawkins in Upper Darby’s production, the half-blood son of Poseidon who is thrown into the world of gods and monsters after being attacked on a school field trip. He is then forced into a quest in which he must prove his innocence in the debate over Zeus’s missing thunderbolt to stop a war between the gods. Hawkins was challenged with an unforgiving script and a complete lack of blackouts throughout the show, yet managed to carry almost the entire show’s energy. They were on stage nearly the entire show and not once broke character or faltered in keeping the audience interested. Their tone and breath support during both their mix and falsetto were clean, well thought out, and nothing short of masterful.

Notable among Percy’s leading performances was that of Kenneth Bruce as Luke and Alana Gangadeen as Annabeth. Bruce’s technical execution of his stunningly rich vocals and well-thought-out mannerisms were a thrill to watch, and Gangadeen’s clear and supported mix had both smoothness and fierceness necessary to pull off the character. In addition, Clarisse’s (Sara McGrenra) poignant and powerful mix and belt and Mr. D’s (Jeremiah Ortiz) hilarious portrayal of a sour middle-aged man who desperately needs a drink were shining gems within a chorus that lacked energy and enthusiasm for most of the show.

The orchestration backed up a chorus with standout performances from featured dancers and ensembles, such as Emma Gonsalves or the D.O.A. ensemble.

The technical aspects of the show included a creative and well-executed series of lighting cues as well as an efficient stage crew whose only faltering was through moving loud sets that challenged the actors on stage.

Upper Darby High School’s performance of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical was a unique and memorable performance of a childhood favorite, and served as a humorous work of childhood nostalgia.

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Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School

Translating a childhood fantasy to the stage is no easy feat, yet, Upper Darby High School’s production of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical did the unthinkable: they brought the Greek gods to real life!

Based on the best-selling novel by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical tells the tale of an outcast, fatherless, teenager, Percy Jackson, who wants nothing more than to be understood. When his substitute teacher turns into a raging Fury, a demon from the Underworld, Percy’s life turns upside down as he learns about his true identity–he is a half-blood. After arriving at Camp Half-Blood, Percy and his newfound friends, Annabeth and Grover, set off on a quest to retrieve Zeus’ missing lightning bolt while coming into his own.

Upper Darby High School’s production of The Lightning Thief was impressive because of the talented leading and supporting characters. Although the ensemble dipped in energy at times, the leading actors consistently delivered enthusiasm and captivating performances.

Phoenyx Hawkins, who played the iconic Percy Jackson, stole the show with their melodic vocals and childhood charm. Their portrayal of Percy was genuine and nuanced, filled with humor and snark when needed. Their comedic timing and dedication to the role was evident and admirable.

The rest of the supporting cast was as entertaining and talented as well. Kenneth Bruce (Luke) quickly became a crowd favorite with his jaded persona, refined tapping skills, and soaring vocals. Bruce’s stage presence was undeniable as he captivated the audience’s attention throughout the production. Meanwhile, Alana Gangadeen (Annabeth) was a stand-out vocalist. Her incredible vocal technique and thoughtful performance in “My Grand Plan” was a memorable and show-stopping moment in Act II. Other performers, including Josh Atkinson (Mr. Brunner/Chiron), Sara McGrenra (Clarisse), and Jeremiah Ortiz (Mr. D/Dionysus) displayed phenomenal talent in dance, vocals, and comedy, respectively. 

The technical aspects of the show, supported by the prepared stage management duo, Briona Kelly and Evelynn Deus, was nothing short of amazing. Most notably, the lighting design, by John Troy, helped to dramatize moments and convey the varying atmospheres and places the story takes place in. Whether it be the disco-land of the Underworld or the fauna of the woods, Troy’s thoughtful designs were effective and visually appealing.

Upper Darby High School’s production of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical showcased many talented and electrifying performances and made audiences want to scream “Bring on the Monsters!”

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