Tag Archives: Greek

Theater Review: The Lighting Thief, The Percy Jackson Musical

Lightning Thief Marquee
Above Photo and Playbill Image By Gail. All Other Performance Photos By Jeremy Daniel.

You just can’t keep a good thing down. Nine years after it debuted as a major motion picture, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical – based on the New York Times best-selling book, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, is back with a national theater run. The two-act rock musical, written by Rob Rokicki and Joe Tracz (Be More Chill), first played in NYC in 2017 for a short run. Due to the show’s popularity, fans of the book series demanded that the play be available to a larger audience, and a National Tour was launched in January. This past week, the tour made a four-day stop at NYC’s Beacon Theatre, and I was able to check it out.

Fans of the book, and those who have seen the 2010 movie adaptation, already know how things play out, but for the sake of avoiding too many big spoilers for those who are coming into the story fresh, I’ll give you a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of the plot. Percy Jackson (Chris McCarrell) is a teenager from Long Island, NY who struggles with ADD and Dyslexia, has a knack for unwittingly causing drama at school, and can’t figure out why he feels like such a misfit among his peers (“The Day I Got Expelled”).

Chris McCarrell and Jalynn Steele Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Percy (Chris McCarrell) is Comforted by his Mom, Sally (Jalynn Steele)

Percy’s mom, Sally (Jalynn Steele), who has raised him mostly on her own, has a pretty good idea of what the issue might be, and it has a lot to do with who Percy’s father is. Unwilling to directly address the identity of her son’s progenitor, she encourages Percy to embrace his unique attributes (“Strong”), reminds him that “normal is a myth,” and signs him up to attend a special summer camp, which turns out to be Camp Half-Blood. Arriving at camp, Percy discovers that the one trait he shares with his fellow campers is that they’re all demigods – kids with one mortal parent and one parent who is a Greek god (“The Campfire Song”). That’s right; it’s heavy.

Annabeth Percy and Grover
Annabeth (Kristin Stokes), Percy and Grover (Jorrel Javier) Begin The Quest!

Requesting a sign from the Universe to reveal his divine parent, Percy discovers that his dad is not just some dude his mom hooked-up with on the beach, but Poseidon, god of the sea. While act one serves to set Percy up with his de rigueur epic quest (“Killer Quest”), the real action takes place in act two. Our hero is told that he must retrieve Zeus’s lightning bolt – which Percy himself is suspected of having stolen – in order to prevent a war among the Greek gods. Percy and his two close friends – Grover (Jorrel Javier), a satyr who is the son of Pan, and Annabeth (Kristin Stokes) daughter of Athena – set out on a cross-country journey (“Lost”), during which the trio must battle a variety of monsters on their quest to discover who the real Lightning Thief is. Eventually, they arrive at The Underworld, which just happens to be located in Los Angeles – appropriate! To find out how the showdown goes down, you will have to see the play for yourself!

As a testament to the degree of talent in the cast, each actor — except for Chris McCarrell, because he is in every scene — handles two or more roles in the play. On the technical front, this production of The Lightning Thief is creatively staged, making clever use of its minimal sets and lighting. Particularly visually impressive is a backdrop of programmed strip-lights used to recreate various environments, from the dripping walls of a damp cave, to the flames of lapping fire that fill The Underworld. Resourceful use of props to create fun special effects include using unspooled rolls of toilet paper and a leaf blower to simulate storms, which also elicits big laughs from kids in the audience. The show is also performed with the added energy of a live band, for a real Rock & Roll feel!

Ryan Knowles as Medusa
Ryan Knowles as Medusa

The Lightning Thief’s mythical theme lends the play a crossover appeal for fans of Harry Potter, and it’s a great companion piece to young adult-focused musicals with storylines more grounded in reality, such as Dear Evan Hansen and the off-Broadway production, Out Of My Comfort Zone. The Lightning Thief also offers a terrific crash course in Greek mythology (Percy is actually short for Perseus), which is always fascinating. Ultimately, The Lighting Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical conveys a strong message of claiming one’s own destiny. Even if, as the lyrics to “Campfire Song” suggest, “Things couldn’t be worse, when your parents run the universe,” the sins of the father are not necessarily to be laid upon the children. It’s possible to transcend the circumstances you were born into, no matter what “monsters” you may face.

Luke and Percy
Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez) and Percy Do Battle!

As an aside, I feel compelled to include information about a fan-driven campaign currently taking place on Twitter. When the show kicked off in Chicago this past January, there was great excitement created via social media. Fans were thrilled that the show was going to be seen by so many but, sadly, not everyone has the means to afford a ticket. A group of loyal fans stepped up and created #HalfbloodsHelpingHalfBloods, a campaign which has so far raised over $2000 to help dozens of Percy Jackson fans, who otherwise would not have the opportunity, to attend a performance. Here’s how it works: first sign onto Twitter. If you’re a fan (a ‘half-blood‘) in need of a ticket, tweet the city/date for which you need a ticket using the hashtag #HalfbloodsHelpingHalfbloods. If you’re a fan who can sponsor a ticket, reply to a tweet under the hashtag and pair up! This heartwarming grassroots effort speaks volumes about The Lightning Thief and its community of devoted fans.

Upcoming stops for The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical include cities in North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida, with performances scheduled through Mid-July. This play is suitable for all ages, and has a two-hour runtime, including a 15 minute intermission. Visit Lighting Thief The Musical to learn more about the show and purchase tickets at a theater in your area!

Lightning Thief Program

Modern Art Monday Presents: Max Ernst, The Nymph Echo

Nymph Echo
Photo By Gail

The diminutive nude female figure in the upper right area of  The Nymph Echo (1936) is often identified as Echo — a mountain nymph of Greek Mythology. Far more dominant, however, is the monstrous green vegetal creatures —  or is it creatures — in the foreground. This wildly imaginative hydra-headed creation may represent Narcissus, whom Echo loved.  Famously, Narcissus fell in love with his own beautiful image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed into a flower. The various delicately colored floral effusions in Ernst’s painting recall this moment of metamorphosis.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC

 

Cooking With Gail Presents: Chicken Stifado

Kaldi Sauce and Bag of Rice
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome to another exciting installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a delicious dish from whatever I already have on hand in my apartment! Today we are making something I call Chicken Stifado, mostly because it features the Stifado variety of Kaldi’s All-Natural Mediterranean Cooking Sauces, which I was turned on to at a recent Editor Showcase.

Kaldi Olive Oli

Shortly after meeting the nice folks at Kaldi, they sent me a care package of sauces, and a bottle of both their lovely Extra Virgin Olive Oil and also one of their Organic EVOO. Excellent.

Kaldi’s Stifado cooking sauce, made from a traditional Greek recipe, contains a delicious blend of Red Wine, Onions and Allspice, along with other natural ingredients, and while it is generally suggested that this sauce best compliments a Beef dish, we are using chicken because that is what I had in the freezer.

What’s really great about these Kaldi sauces is that you just add meat or vegetables, and it makes an authentic tasting dish that people will think you slaved over instead of just opening a jar — which is my kind of cooking! So, this is how we do easy Chicken Stifado ala Gail!

(Note: before you even start your chicken, put a pot of rice on to cook, because that takes about 45 minutes, and you want the dishes to be done at the same time. Time management!)

Raw Chicken

Whatever type of chicken you are using, make sure it is washed, thawed and ready to go in the oven. I cut up a chicken breast into a few pieces, sprinkled some salt on it and put it in a 425 degree oven in a pan with a little EVOO in the bottom to prevent sticking. I let the chicken spend about 10 minutes in the oven before I took it out and then poured the sauce on it. No particular reason, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Chicken with Sauce

This is what the chicken looks like with the sauce on it. That’s right: yummy. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to cook a piece of chicken, but for this dish I stuck to about 30 minutes (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your cut of meat) in a 425 degree oven, turning each piece at the halfway mark and basting it with more sauce. It smelled amazing!

Chicken with Green Olives

Garnish with sliced green olives, if you like, and throw it on the plate with some brown basmati rice, or the starchy side of your choice.

Chicken Dish on Tray

And don’t forget a glass of wine! I like a Cab-Shiraz myself.

I want to add that the way the allspice mingles with the tomatoes really gives the sauce, and whatever it cooks with, a fantastic, old world gourmet taste. I want to try it next with beef, because if it tastes this great on chicken, Beef Stifado would probably be mind blowing. Each jar holds 16 ounces of sauce, so that’s enough for a few meals at least!

Find out more about Kaldi Products, get recipes and shop their 50% Off Greek Sumer Sale at Kaldi Tastes Dot Com!

Video Clip of The Week: Baby Guru, “Especially When”



There is so much to love about the video for “Especially When” from retro-rock trio Baby Guru, who come to us from Athens, Greece. If you’re all about a cohesive storyline, I’m not sure what images of a fast girl driving a fast car, a wall of flame and troops in gas masks — interspersed with performance shots of individual band members filtered through 80’s-era kaleidoscope special effects — is supposed to say. But the song is a stone groove of surf rock with discernible time changes and a prog rock keyboard solo that just doesn’t quit. Win Win!

Baby Guru’s third album, Marginalia will be out on Inner Ear Records by the time you read this. Visit their website at This Link for more information on the band! Enjoy!

Baby Guru Marginalia CD Cover

Video Clip of The Week: The Noise Figures, “Out of Your Mind”



Proving once again that you can make a big sound with just drums and guitar, The Noise Figures, a power duo from Athens, Greece, bring a sweet rockin’ groove to today’s Video Clip of The Week. I hear a Sixties-era, San Francisco/Garage Rock vibe is this tune about losing one’s mind, and the band’s label, Inner ear Records, seems to concur. They describe the duo’s music as combining, “deceptively simple chords and patterns with hazy walls of feedback” and “Restless fuzz guitars flirting with old-fashioned garage [rock], but also with contemporary blues, amps with plenty of spring reverb and dirty over-driven vocals.” All that sounds right on to me, and I admit it’s refreshing to read a press release that isn’t all full of bullshitty buzzwords and hype. I also liked this recommendation that, “The Noise Figures is best listened loud and is the ideal soundtrack for escaping the urban boundaries by car.” Agreed!

The Noise Figures sing in English-as-a-second-language-stye English and the Asian subtitles are confusing, but you’ll get the gist of the song after just one listen. Hopefully, you’ll hit repeat a few times. Also, if you live in an area where it is currently very cold, this video features the guys driving around in an RV with lots of images of the beach, the desert and swimming pools, so that might make you feel a bit warmer. Find out more about The Noise Figures, and buy their music, at This Link. Enjoy!

Noise Figures CD Cover