Hercules is not an accurate representation of Greek Mythology, which is fine. Disney usually gives a gentler version of classic stories. Amongst Disney fans and mythology nerds, it remains a pretty beloved classic of late 90s Disney.
One of the reasons is, simply put, the music. The mixture of Gospel music, pop, and a bit of Motown is just really an excellent blend for the story, if a bit strange. “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)” remains one of the best songs that Disney has probably ever did. You can fight us on this.
Now Disney is bringing Hercules to the stage for a free two-week run as part of the Public Theater’s Public Works program. Roger Bart, who provided the singing voice for Hercules in “Go the Distance”, will return for the stage production, as Hades.
The Tony award winning actor talked with Entertainment Weekly about his return to the material after two decades. As it turns out, it was Alan Menken who encouraged him to go for the part.
“Since the time of recording the singing voice for Hercules oh so many years ago, I’ve seen Alan occasionally throughout the years at different shows. I sang for him recently at Carnegie Hall in celebration of his career, and I sang “Go the Distance,” which was a trip, singing that at Carnegie Hall with an orchestra. It was hair-raising but really fun and meaningful. And according to him, they had done a few readings of the show, and when he saw me singing that song, they thought it would be a wonderful thing to have me playing Hades. So he called me early one morning, and when you get a call from Oscar winner Alan Menken, you pick up. So that’s how it came to be.”
The show, which will be directed by Lear deBessonet and star Jelani Alladin (Frozen) as the title character, will also be held outside for its performance run. It definitely presented its own challenges, according to Bart.
“Any time you take something and put it on stage, it’s always interesting to see how you can inventively create an effect. We’re dealing in this case with monsters and titans and hydra multi-headed dragons. It’s obviously much easier to draw them than it is to put them on stage. You have to put on a different kind of creative thinking cap when you do. They’re still being revealed to me, but everything [I’ve seen] so far seems to be magical. I’m really excited for people who are fans of the movie to see how we’ve replaced things that you can only draw.
And we also are outdoors, which is both beautiful in the sense that we are dealing often with heaven and hell and these places that are very outdoorsy feeling. It’s not a living room drama, for sure. So it’s beautiful in a way, but with that, we don’t have the opportunity to be able to create the effects you could do if we were in a proscenium theater in the dark. So Lear is incredibly inventive and so is the Public Theater.”
Alan Menken returns to add new songs for the stage production along with David Zippel, who provided lyrics. Bart is excited for audiences to hear what they’ve got.
“Oh, they’re great. I’ve listened to them, and I am a part of one. It’s fantastic. Can you imagine? I’ve heard these songs and watched this movie so many times over the years, and I know it very, very well, and now I get to rehear it live.”
Hercules will run from Aug. 31 through Sept. 8 at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park.
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