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Hercules review at Delacorte Theater, New York – ‘community musical staging of the Disney film’

UK audiences were introduced to the Public Theater’s Public Works programme through Kwame Kwei-Armah’s production of Twelfth Night [1] at the Young Vic last year. Uniting community groups with professional actors on stage, these theatrical pageants typically are musical adaptations of Shakespeare or classic texts. But their newest venture, Hercules, is adapted from the Disney film.

With a new book and additional songs, the result combines a joyous jolt of gospel, a dash of swashbuckling, and a celebration of community. But though this production does some things well, it lacks some of the warmth and heart of the scrappier Public Works shows.

Hercules (Jelani Alladin) was born a god but made mortal, so he struggles to find a place on earth where he fits. He thinks becoming a hero is the solution. During his quest, he falls for Megara (Krysta Rodriguez), a self-possessed woman who is also an operative of Hades (Roger Bart). Hades sets out to destroy Hercules as part of his plot to rule all.

Lear deBessonet’s production boasts precise costumes (designed by Andrea Hood), fantastical puppets, a terrific ensemble, and enthusiastic group participation – including a marching band and a kick-line – but the staging is flat in places and the emotional investment is belated.

The cast of the Public Theater’s production of Hercules at the Delacorte Theater. Photo: Joan Marcus

With cartwheels and a megawatt smile, Alladin charms in the title role. Rodriguez makes Meg complex and commanding. But Bart (who provided Hercules’ singing voice in the film) never fully chomps into his devious role and makes disappointingly little of Hades’ funky new song. Jeff Hiller, however, as comedic sidekick Panic, provides a non-stop stream of laughs.

Despite the solid performances, this streamlined staging of Hercules feels more Disney-on-a-budget than community extravaganza.

Verdict
Community musical staging of the Disney film that falls a little flat despite dynamic gospel numbers, strong design and solid performances

Production Information

Production
Hercules
Venue
Delacorte Theatre
City
New York
Starts
August 31, 2019
Ends
September 8, 2019
Press night
September 2, 2019
Book
Kristoffer Diaz
Music
Alan Menken
Lyrics
David Zippel
Director
Lear deBessonet
Choreographer
Chase Brock
Set
Dane Laffrey
Lighting
Tyler Micoleau
Sound
Kai Harada
Costume
Andrea Hood
Stage manager
Kristen Gibbs, Janet Takami
Cast includes
Jelani Alladin, Roger Bart, Jeff Hiller, James Monroe Iglehart, Ramona Keller, Tamika Lawrence, Krysta Rodriguez
Producer
Public Theater, Disney Theatrical Productions
Running time
1hr 30mins