Bless my soul, the Public is on a role. After two successful Shakespeare productions in the Park, the Public Theater decided to raise the bar with Hercules.
Hercules? Hercules? The Disney movie? The greek epic? The musical? Yes.
For seven nights, the Public Theater partnered with Disney Theatrical Productions, hosted a live adaptation of Hercules at the Delecorte Theater in Central Park. This was a very cool show for a several reasons. It's the first ever live production of Disney's Hercules, it featured some theater legends, and it was a Public Works show.
First off, this was a stellar musical. From the first couple of minutes the stage is flooded with energy as the Muses enter and sing the Gospel Truth. The transformation of greek mythology to black gospel choir is even better live.
Go the Distance had as much emotion as ever, and the lead, Jelani Alladin, delivered. I also appreciated that they included Hera in all of the scenes that were originally just Zeus and Hercules. I thought this was a great update for 2019.
One Last Hope was very funny and included a lot of gyro, hero puns. I never thought I'd see James Monroe Iglehart share a role with Danny Devito (Phil). Interestingly, they downplayed the faun aspect of the character and dressed Mr. Iglehart in a tracksuit.
Zero to Hero was by far the best song in the musical. The entire cast came on stage (nearly 200 people); They even brought out a full marching band! Needless to say the entire crowd was clapping along.
Something I thought was interesting was the decision to remove Pegasus. In the original film, Hercules has a flying horse as a sidekick. This character was entirely removed from the stage production. Practically, it made a lot of sense. Bringing a live animal on stage would be challenging, and I'm not sure how else they'd have done it.
They did however, employ some brilliant puppetry for the titans. They brought to life three of them. Two were large creepy looking characters, the third was an array of pieces carried by different people to make up the lava titan.
I'd be remise not to talk about the fact that this was a Public Works show. Public Works bring in regular people to do professional theater. It's community theater meets off broadway production quality. They had actors ranging from 8 to 85.
I'm really grateful I got to see this limited run. I enjoyed it a lot, I hope Disney and the Public work on bringing it to Broadway for everyone to enjoy.