It’s uncommon for 200 people to be turned away at Zoellner’s doors for a student production, or for an additional performance to be added to a busy play schedule.
However, such was the case for The Mustard and Cheese Drama Society’s production “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.”
“Turning that many people away is such a strange thing for me to comprehend,” said Julian Abregas, ‘24, publicity chair of the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society. “There was a lot of love for this show.”
The student-led club is the second oldest drama society in the country, founded in 1884. Their most recent production, which debuted from March 23-26, is the first full musical at Lehigh since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The musical rendition is based off of the young adult fantasy series “Percy Jackson,” which follows a young boy named Percy who finds out he is a demigod — meaning part human, part divine. The two-and-a-half-hour performance featured rock music and a storyline following Percy Jackson and his crew.
Abregas played the lead role of Percy Jackson.
“Playing Percy was a process,” Abregas. “I had to learn what emotions and what mentality I can have as this character. How do I take Percy’s energy and apply it to myself?”
Abregas was also the musical’s fight choreographer. He likens dancing to fighting — he said he drew inspiration from Star Wars, action movies and material arts films, which he watched as a child.
Lauren Shultz, ‘24, co-president and treasurer, said the club was looking for a smaller scale, high-energy show that would draw people in. The club saw this show, a rock musical referencing a book most of the members had read as kids, as the perfect choice, and they took the lead.
“This was the first production that the drama society has put on in recent years that was sponsored by us, rather than the department of theater,” Shultz said. “Even though the department helped with the production, it was spearheaded by the club.”
She said auditions and castings took place before 2022 winter break. The Mustard and Cheese Drama Society had been rehearsing the show since the start of the spring semester until their opening night.
Although the production was mostly student-led, director Nick Conti was asked to come back to Lehigh to assist the show. Conti was the music director for the musical “Godspell,” which was put on by the theater department March 2022.
“Nick is extremely supportive and definitely puts the students first and makes sure that everybody is doing what they would love to do, and enjoy the process,” Shultz said. “The first person we thought of was him.”
Conti is an active director in the Lehigh Valley area and started Third Mask Theater Company in 2011. He said he directed the music for the show, but the students arranged it.
The students leased the show, got rights to perform it and managed each department. Conti said he was happy to take input from the cast and had fun collaborating with them.
“I wanted to maintain the magical elements of the production,” Conti said.
He said the show included fog, special effects, fight choreography, puppetry, costumes and various mediums to enhance the performance.
The musical was held in the Fowler Black Box, which has a maximum capacity of 86 persons. Conti said part of the production honored the Fowler family, the namesake of the theater.
“The students had the ambition and smarts to really get on the show,” Conti said.