How the Lightning Thief Musical Changed My Morals by Beckett Smith

(Warning: so many spoilers)

Some advice from a former Percy Jackson kid: if you haven’t seen or listened to this musical yet, do it. It’s so worth it.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Lightning Thief from a Hathaway Brown theater camp. From the minute I sat down, I was hooked. The music, the writing, the costumes. It was everything I had expected from the movie adaptations that failed so spectacularly.

I have been a rabid fan of the popular kids author, Rick Riordan, for as long as I can remember. His characters and stories walked me through my hardest times. Especially during elementary school, when my social issues reached their peak, Percy Jackson and his cast of misfit friends were there when no one else was. That being said, this obsession had mostly died down in the last few years, but after watching this musical, it came back with vengeance. Almost every night after work, I would drive home, screaming along to the soundtrack, re-living that experience of reading the books for the first time.

Aside from being one of the most accurate adaptations to date (fingers crossed for when the show starts releasing), the musical brings a new sense of depth to the characters. Maybe it’s because I read the books so young, but songs like My Grand Plan or Good Kid bring a new understanding of the characters and their motivations. I mean, the music is so damn good that it nearly turned me into a Luke sympathizer.

If you know nothing about the Percy Jackson books, here’s a crash course on the life and death of Luke Castellan. Luke was born to May Castellan and the god of messengers, Hermes. Shortly after his birth, his mother undertook a ritual become the next Oracle of Delphi. Because of a curse placed on the Oracle, she was driven insane by visions she couldn’t control. Since he’s a god, Hermes could do nothing to help her or his son, and left them behind. Luke was raised by an unstable mother and her terrifying visions until he ran away when he was 9. He joined up with a couple of younger demigods, Thalia and Annabeth. In their journey to reach Camp Half-Blood, the only safe haven for Greek demigods, Thalia was killed. Thalia was 12, Luke was 14, and Annabeth was only 7. For the next three or four years, Annabeth and Luke grew up in Camp Half-blood. Eventually, Hermes sends Luke on a quest that ends horribly, leaving him with an ugly scar and an even uglier, simmering resentment of the gods.

A year or so later, Percy comes to Camp Half-blood when Luke is 19 and Annabeth is 12. Percy and Annabeth are sent on a quest to recover Zeus’s stolen weapon, uncovering a plot to overthrow the gods in the process. At the end of the Lightning Thief, it is revealed that the real thief was Luke the entire time, that he had been conspiring with Kronos, the gods’ father, and that he had betrayed them all. The next four books detail the battles between Kronos and the demigods, culimating in a massive battle in New York City. In the end, the war is won by the demigods when Luke sacrifices himself as he realizes that he’s gone too far.

In The Last Day of Summer, Luke sings a reprise of Percy’s song, Good Kid. In the song, you can feel his pain and anger as if it’s your own. In that short verse, everything you need to know about Luke is revealed. His bitterness, his father’s abandonment. Paired with the knowledge of his mother that’s revealed in The Battle of the Labyrinth, you can understand perfectly how Luke ended up the way he did, and the utter tragedy of his death is all the more apparent.

As an added layer of pain, the musical makes it obvious how similar Luke and Percy are. From Luke reprising Percy’s song, to their shared bitterness towards the gods and their fathers, it’s no secret that Luke is who Percy could have become. However, there’s one vital difference between them. Their mothers.

Percy’s mother was present and sane. She cared for him, and he never questioned whether he was wanted or loved. Luke had no such reassurance. Despite the fact that they were both abandoned by their fathers, Percy has no solid resentment towards his father. Nothing that would let him fall for Kronos’s manipulation the way Luke did.

Obviously, there are aspects of Luke’s character that are utterly unforgivable, particularly his treatment of Annabeth. For those reasons, I will never truly consider myself a Luke sympathizer. But the tragedy of his story will never be lost on me.

One thought on “How the Lightning Thief Musical Changed My Morals by Beckett Smith

  1. Beckett,
    I am no fan of musicals (shocking, I know), but your passion for this one makes me want to see it! Have you considered suggesting it to our Theater department? I also enjoyed reading the Percy Jackson series with my kids when they were in elementary school, and showed The Lightening Thief to my 9th graders (about a decade ago) when we studied Heroes, Gods & Monsters. You capture this affinity for a band of “misfits” so well.

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