James Hayden Rodriguez Plays Luke in a Musical “WORTHY OF THE GODS!”
By Kate Clemenz
Many people have read and enjoyed the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, written by Rick Riordan. In 2010, the first book was made into a movie; however, many fans did not approve of the way the directors adapted the book for the big screen. The creators of “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” worked hard to please fans by sticking to the plot of the book as much as possible. James Hayden Rodriguez, who plays Luke in the musical in Chicago, assured fans that “We refer to [The Lightning Thief] often and it has been instrumental in creating all of these characters,” and said they wanted to honor the fan base as much as they could.
Rodriguez’s mom and dad lived in Northern Virginia and New York City respectively, so he grew up in both of those places. He was involved in sports for most of his life and grew up assuming that that was what he would do for a living. However, his friends knew that he was good at singing -- in his freshman year of high school, one of them even convinced him to try out for the school musical. He made it into the ensemble and said “I knew almost immediately I was in the right place. I had found my people.” His new friends embraced “all of my eccentricities” and made him feel welcome.
Rodriguez believes that his love for theater stems from his love for music in high school and said that he had “been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember.”He was involved in plays and musicals all throughout high school, both at his school and in community theater productions. For college, Rodriguez went to Shenandoah Conservatory, a small performing arts conservatory in Northern Virginia. He was an acting major, and his passion for theater eventually led him to his current job in Chicago where he plays Luke at the Oriental Theatre downtown. Luke is a very important character in the story -- he is a friend and confidant of Percy, the main character. “Percy and Luke bond over their shared disdain for their Godly Fathers, and Luke ultimately leads Percy to finding his Quest,” Rodriguez says about the plot of the musical.
Although he acknowledges that it may not feel like work, Rodriguez puts in a lot of effort. He spoke of the battle scenes in the musical, which are difficult to plan and physically exhausting, but are well worth the work. He says, “The result is so spectacular, so you can’t help but to give 110% to everything you’re doing in rehearsal.” When asked about his favorite part of his job, Rodriguez immediately spoke of the people he works with. He recognized the great talent that each person brings to the table, and said it is inspiring to work with them every day. He said “No one is afraid to look stupid EVER! You have to be bold and fearless when creating a story like this one,” and raved about how great it is to be creative with the people he works with.
When asked about his goals for the future, Rodriguez said: “I try not to think too far into the future, better to live in the present.” However, he did say that he is very excited to bring the show to Chicago so that it can reach more fans. He said “My immediate goal is to do this character justice, and I hope people will be able to see a little of themselves in Luke.”
In his free time, Rodriguez likes to be active. He loves to go on runs with his dog and said that running is a reminder that “you’re capable of doing so much more than you think you are.” Another inspiring piece of advice Rodriguez offered was to always pursue the things you are passionate about. He admitted that the path to success for actors is very difficult, but he urged people to never give up on the activities that mean the most to them. He said “The theater changed my life. I can’t imagine a life without it, and so I feel like if you are that passionate about something and you can’t see yourself doing anything else in life, [then] DO IT!!!”
“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is a musical for all ages, according to Rodriguez. He said that “the monsters are terrifying, the battles are thrilling, and the message is a really important one.” He emphasized the that the musical’s message is one of acceptance and staying true to oneself. He said the musical is empowering and the themes resonate with everyone. The musical leaves the audience with the desire to “use [their] strengths, to go out into the world and fight for the world they want to live in.” “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is an empowering, exciting event for both old and new fans of the Percy Jackson series.
“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” runs from January 8 to January 13, 2019 at the Oriental Theatre. Tickets can be bought online at Broadway in Chicago, starting at $25. Recommended for ages 8+.