Barbara Pasternack, a theater producer, remembered waiting for a train to the Hamptons in 2007 when she stepped into a bookstore at Penn Station and picked up “The Lightning Thief,” the best-selling young adult novel by Rick Riordan.
By the time she arrived at her destination, she had finished the 300-plus page book about Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old boy who discovers he is the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
“I fell into it,” said Ms. Pasternack, the artistic director of TheaterworksUSA, which produces shows for young adults and families. She was not alone. Mr. Riordan’s Percy Jackson books have been New York Times best sellers.
Now, 12 years, an original rock score and a 32-city North American tour later, “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical,” is coming to Broadway. The show is scheduled to begin performances Sept. 20 at the Longacre Theater for an Oct. 16 opening. A limited run, it will close Jan. 5, 2020.
Stephen Brackett (“Be More Chill”) is directing the rock musical and Joe Tracz (also of Be More Chill) wrote the play. Rob Rokicki composed the original music and lyrics.
The script follows the plot of the book. Percy is a clever sixth-grader who has trouble in school. After discovering his father is a Greek god, he is sent to a supernatural summer camp where he meets others like himself. They set off on a journey, battling monsters along the way, to end a war and rescue his mother.
“It’s a story about people who are different,” Ms. Pasternack said in an interview.
“But they also find a place where the things that make you different are the things that make you strong,” she added, “where their individuality is celebrated and where inclusion is welcomed.”
The production was originally staged in 2014 as a one-hour performance geared toward children. An expanded version debuted at the Lucille Lortel Theater in 2017 designed for all audiences. The production toured nationally in 2019, with a limited run at Beacon Theater in New York. There have also been two films based on the books, and on social media, fans — many displeased with the movies — are begging for another film or TV show.
An online fan base does not guarantee success on Broadway, however. “Be More Chill,” a sci-fi musical about a teenager who swallows a pill that promises to make him popular, came from the same creative team behind “The Lightning Thief,” and also had a devoted following online. After a promising opening at the box office, the play closed on Sunday.
But Ms. Pasternack believes the fantasy world of “The Lightning Thief,” will appeal to a broad audience looking for an escape.
“I don’t think it is a niche story,” she said. “I think the inclusive nature of it is what is going to make it stand out. A family can see it together, and all take something away from it.”
Katie Van Syckle is a senior staff editor at The Times. @KatieVanSyckle
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