With The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical making its way to Schenectady, NY on Friday February 22 and Saturday the 23, James Hayden Rodriguez took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the performance. Rodriguez was very excited to be touring again as one of the four original cast members from when the show debuted in 2017 Off-Broadway. With a wonderful attitude and a humble down-to-earth personality, the conversation was fluid with a few laughs. To Rodriguez, acting in a show like this or any musical is second nature and something he always knew he was meant to do.
NYS Music was able to speak to James Hayden Rodriguez via phone on February 14 as he was just reaching his next stop of tour in D.C, before the cast and crew make their way to Proctors in Schenectady. Rodriguez plays Luke and Others in The Lightning Thief.
Shannon Marie Palmo: In the musical you are said to play Luke and others. What are the other characters you play aside from just Luke?
James Hayden Rodriguez: My main two characters that I play are Luke and Ares, who is the god of War, who ends up being one of Percy’s biggest villain in the show.
SMP: I read that you guys used the book as your bible, how do you articulate the books on stage? How does that fuse with who you are as an actor, and the freedom that comes with being an actor?
JHR: With Luke specifically, I really have a lot of freedom to just use a lot of my own personal experience. We are all children of Greek Gods, but we are also still human and we have human qualities so we are able to use our personal experience to create these characters which is pretty cool. We have a lot of freedom.
SMP: What do you think are the disadvantages or advantages? What do you like/dislike about doing the tour verse being at one venue in NYC?
JHR: I don’t think there are disadvantages, I think it’s very exciting for us to be just doing the show again at all and the fact that we are able to bring it to all of our fans who were unable to see it in NYC because our fanbase is really massive and its spread and not just in the United States. We are even surprised by coming to these cities and selling out houses and the kids in the audience have read the books and seen the movies and know these characters. They are just really excited that we are bringing it to them. The great thing about the movie is that it has reached a lot of people, so we have a lot of people who are coming to see the show because they have seen the movie. We have the young book fans, but also the people who are new to theatre. They saw this really awesome film so they want to check out how we put this on the stage.
SMP: What is the balance between stage production between dialogue, there’s fighting scenes and it’s also a musical. So how would you say that balances out because some musicals are non-stop music with very little dialogue.
JHR: There’s definitely a lot of dialogue, and Percy is thrown into this world where he is learning this completely new universe to him. He is also dealing with the fact that his mother was just killed by this monster that he didn’t know existed. But when he gets to these really emotional parts in the story, it turns into these big rock numbers, which is really cool. I think we have a good balance from music to dialogue. There’s definitely a lot of scene work which helps us develop the characters and tell the story.
SMP: What is something that goes through your mind when you’re on stage performing whether it’s an actual performance or rehearsal?
JHR: I try to be as present in the story as I can and actively listening to everything on stage. I can’t concern myself too much with who’s in the audience because then it will throw you out of the world and the more you can focus on what is actually happening on the stage the better the performance will be. I don’t like to know if there’s press, or family, or casting directors in the audience.
SMP: With a show being about Greek Mythology, what’s it like being thrusted into such a world as Percy Jackson trying to portray that world on stage because like you said, you guys don’t have CGI as the movie did.
JHR: Yeah, it definitely allows us to be more creative with how we tell the story and that’s what has always been so exciting about theatre in the fist place, and why I got into theatre. You have to use your imagination to tell stories like this and we have been doing this with puppetry, which is cool this time around. We have a puppet team who has really elevated our storytelling. They are scary when revealed. People in the audience scream when they come out.
SMP: So, what’s it like playing an antagonist like Luke or a character like Luke. When I saw the movie, and who Luke really was, I was completely shocked – without giving too much away.
JHR: (Laughs) Ares is more of the antagonist of this story. I don’t like to think of Luke as the antagonist because he starts out in the show with really good intentions and he’s just really misunderstood. He’s just dealing with his own insecurities and resentment issues because of the relationship with his dad. He’s a teenager as well and coming of age and learning all these new things and starting to have to make choices for himself. And Luke ends up going down a darker path than the rest of the characters. He doesn’t start off this way so you really get to see his journey from being a really good kid to more of a bad kid. I don’t think Luke is an antagonist, I just think he’s trying to make his own path.
SMP: How do you keep up with the physical demands of the show?
JHR: All of us are pretty good at making sure we are going to the gym, doing physical warm ups and stretching so we are not hurting ourselves in the show because the fights are pretty intense.
SMP: Did you guys have to go through fighting boot camp to train?
JHR: Oh yeah, we have a really great fight choreographer who has helped us through our process, and I’m also the fight captain in the show. I take the fights a little more seriously, making sure everyone is safe and doing what they are supposed to do because our choreographer was only here for rehearsals, he doesn’t travel with us.