MHS Theater returns to stage April 7-9 for spring musical ‘Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’
In December 2021, Milpitas HS theater teacher Kaila Schwartz was approached by two of her senior students who wanted to put on a spring production.
Schwartz was admittedly a bit apprehensive due to the uncertainty of COVID, which had forced the cancellation of the last play, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” just two weeks before it was set to premiere.
“They just said they wanted to do another musical before they graduated,” recalled Schwartz. “I listened to them and their arguments for doing one, and I couldn’t disagree with what they said.”
That very evening, Schwartz applied for the rights to “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.” She had seen it on Broadway and thought it would be fun to do with her students.
“It’s a celebration of differences and overcoming obstacles and friendship,” said Schwartz, who then surprised her students with the news after her application was accepted. They will have three performances at the MHS Theater: Thursday, April 7 at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
There was a catch, however, with this particular musical there is no online streaming allowed so it would be solely an in-person performance. With COVID lingering in our midst and wanting her students to perform without masks, Schwartz then met with colleague Jenn Hutchison and came up with a safety plan. All students involved in any facet of the production are tested weekly.
“We are the most ‘negative’ crew around, and we love it,” said Schwartz of the COVID testing results. “It’s been a joy working with the kids. Everyone is so excited about doing the show. They are all very supportive of one another. For some, this is their first time in a play.”
Nearly three dozen students are involved in the production as cast members, stage managers, tech crew members, and a five-person band. After the open auditions in January 2022, 17-year-old junior Noah Leabres was selected for the lead role of Percy Jackson.
“It’s so awesome and scary at the same time. It’s overwhelming but in a good way,” said Leabres, a first-time performer who also helped with building the set and even sewing shoes for the costumes. “Rehearsals have been great. The casting choices were perfect. Everyone fits their role really well.”
As part of the rehearsals, Schwartz brought in a professional sword fighter to work with the actors.
Junior Iris Chung, 16, who was disappointed after not being able to perform in Peter and the Starcatcher, is playing a variety of smaller roles for this production and is an understudy for Annabeth Chase.
“I’m so excited. …Everyone is like family. They are so nice and so funny,” said Chung, who re-read all of the Percy Jackson books after learning the news. “Ms. Schwartz is a wonderful teacher and director. It has been so much fun.”