Review by: Matias Sifontes The Lightning Thief amazed audiences on an electrifying opening night on Wednesday the 16th of March. This marked the return of the Leeds Amateur Medics Musical & Performance Society (LAMMPS) to the stage in front of audiences for the first time since 2019.
Pictures by Robert Palin. Courtesy of LAMMPS
The opening night of The Lightning Thief felt like a huge opening. The audience was euphoric during the different numbers and claps and roars followed almost every performance. LAMMPS’ return is the sort of event that would have normally been covered by a Leeds micro celebrity of the stature of the Scribe’s own Rebecca Harrison. However, by a simple twist of fate, I had the opportunity to review this wonderful musical. Maybe the gods are in my favour! The story, an adaptation from the first novel of the Percy Jackson saga, will be familiar to many of the viewers. It follows Cameron Mullin’s Percy, an awkward teenage boy whose life is turned upside down when discovers he is the son of Poseidon and that he is being hunted by mythological creatures who believe he has stolen Zeus’ lightning. The musical was partly funded through the society’s GoFundMe campaign and was directed by the one and only Ruth Rusnak. The production of this musical is something to be amazed by. The props were truly surprising and range from toilet-roll-based aquatic effects all the way to Medusa’s haunting snake hair (a prop so fantastic it is impossible to describe and whose impact would have been much lesser under the hands of a less iconic actor than Sewa Sangowawa, heavy is the head that wears the crown and all that). The meticulous work of Leeds’ own Backstage Society’s is at the forefront in this production. By the same token, the choreography, organized by Niamh Robinson, shines in epic ensemble numbers and just as brightly in more intimate pieces that allow the LAMMPS’ cast to show their skills.
Pictures by Robert Palin. Courtesy of LAMMPS
Mullin plays a caricaturesque version of Percy and he delivers at every stage without ever becoming goofy or idiotic. We definitely laugh with Percy and not at him, bear in mind the difficulty to consistently land jokes like “Dyslexia not cool”. The play’s material addresses this almost directly: “you can’t act that stupid unless you are a brilliant actor.” He can! He is! Additionally, he holds his own in multiple numbers throughout this musical. However, Mullin’s performance is only heightened by the work of those around him, particularly Lane’s Grover and Hall’s Annabeth. Lane amazes as the satyr in some of the play’s most endearing moments: think, talking to a squirrel in the middle of New Jersey and asking it for a favour whilst demanding that your demi-god friend apologizes for offending your new fluffy friend. Lane’s joyful and quirky portrayal of Grover is wonderful and a welcomed dynamic to Mullin’s gloomier and “I don’t know what’s happening” form of comedy on this play. Mullin and Lane’s performance would not be as compelling without the grounding presence of Hall’s Annabeth. Hall excelled on some of the most challenging musical numbers and her vocal ability was greatly noted by the audience through multiple cheers and “whoo’s”. Her acting was just as impressive in her portrayal of the neglected daughter of Athena which saw the actress opposite to CJ Proctor’s Clarisse commanding an impressive choreographed fighting and dancing sequence in the ‘capture the flag’ number, one of the largest choreographies of the musical.
Pictures by Robert Palin. Courtesy of LAMMPS.
Nevertheless, The Lightning Thief’s greatest strength is in the ability of actors with less stage time to absolutely steal the show, even within the space of a single appearance. Of note are Henry Marshall’s Mr Brunner, whose tonne and voice as a wise old centaur drew laughs on every single line. Yet, his comedy was even stronger when it relied mainly on his physical demeanour. Also, Abraham Sondhi’s suave portrayal of Poseidon and his on-stage chemistry with Leah Greenman’s Sally was one of the funniest moments in this adaptation. That being said the two performances which were most memorable on the night were those of Cara Staniforth’s Mr D. and Adele Kirby’s Charon. Staniforth’s embodiment of Dionysus was witty, funny and had one of the most iconic musical performances of the first act. Staniforth even had a fan section on the stands (which I was seating in front of and would like to think I became a member of in the end). Meanwhile, Kirby’s Charon had the most charismatic performance of the musical and probably the most impactful number of the entire play, certainly my favourite. Robinson’s complex and mesmerizing choreography shinned brightest on Charon’s number. The Lightning Thief is the perfect play for all university students to experience. It does not take itself too seriously, remains funny throughout, and most importantly it showcases how truly impressive the production and talent at university can be. The LAMMPS musical will be showing for another three dates: the 17th, 18th, and 19th of March, and I would encourage all to students to attend if you can. Tickets can be bought here.