By Luke Richards

The Western Michigan University Theatre Department launched its first show of the year, “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” in York Theatre on Sept. 23. The show runs every weekend through October 8. This show highlights the talents of students both on stage and off with a unique display of costumes, lighting design, and theatrical performances.

WMU puts on four to five shows per semester, but few are presented in the York Theater. The black box theater is typically used just for classes, but this theater is now being “pushed to its limits,” says actor Zach Gonzalez. The show sold out of tickets after the opening weekend.

WMU student Emma Belew takes on the leadership role of the show as the stage manager for “The Lightning Thief,” in September 2022 for the first show of the season.  Belew was suddenly the stage manager and in charge of the show when Covid infected the director and assistant director of the show days before the performance. “She has handled everything like a god,” said actress Aniya Thompson ironically since the play deals with Greek deities.

The costume rack backstage displays the hard work of staff and students months before the show begins. Rehearsals began for the actors on Aug. 15 but the costume and lighting and stage crews began work in the spring.

Theatre student Keeley Robinson played the character Medusa in the production as she takes on her evil role in York Theatre on September 22, 2022. Robinson has only one scene in the show as Medusa, and this performance had much of the audience laughing along.

Lead actors Tommy Glodo as Grover (lower left), Chris Graham as the title character Percy Jackson (upper middle), and True Chin-Parker as Annabell (lower right), as well as Zach Gonzalez as Ares (lower middle) perform the song “Drive.” 

The show has over 1,100 lighting cues. Lead actor Chris Graham performs in the background in York Theatre during dress rehearsal on September 22, 2022.

The cast performs the opening song, “The Day I Got Expelled,” during a dress rehearsal on September 22, 2022. The purple light seen here is part of an involved lighting design that uses five different lighting combinations to make a set in what is otherwise a minimal stage scenery.

Costumes are essential cues to audience members. Here, the shoes for the son of Hermes, the Greek messenger god are shown. They are worn by actor Teddy Huff. “You’ll know his sign by his shoes with those wings,” Huff says during the Campfire Song in Act One.

The title character Percy Jackson, portrayed by Chris Graham, holds a gift from his father Poseidon during a dress rehearsal in York Theatre on September 20, 2022. The masks were worn when Covid infected some of the cast and crew prior to opening night. Masks for a musical were “a bit frustrating but nothing that we couldn’t get through,” says Aniya Thompson.


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