Review Roundup: Public Works' HERCULES in Central Park

By: Sep. 02, 2019
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Review Roundup: Public Works' HERCULES in Central Park

A new stage adaptation of the Disney classic film HERCULES is currently running (for just seven nights!) through September 8th at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The free Public Works' Hercules features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Kristoffer Diaz, choreography by Chase Brock, and is directed by Lear deBessonet.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

The Equity cast of Hercules includes Jelani Alladin (Hercules), Roger Bart (Hades), Jeff Hiller (Panic), James Monroe Iglehart (Phil), Ramona Keller (Thalia), Tamika Lawrence(Calliope), Krysta Rodriguez (Meg), and Rema Webb(Terpsichore), along with a special featured performance by Broadway Inspirational Voices and cameo group performances by 10 Hairy Legs and Passaic High School Marching Band. Hercules features over 200 New Yorkers from all five boroughs.

Jesse Green, The New York Times: Happily, the changes the creative team has instituted to make "Hercules" suitable today are entirely successful; much of the new material is better than the old, and the Public Works format is strong enough to transform even middlebrow mass entertainment into meaningful political theater.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: With Megara being the only major female character in the story, there seems to be an extra effort to expand her role into something more than a romantic interest, emphasizing that it's not enough for Hercules to love her; he has to respect her. Her character-driven song, "Forget About It," where she rolls her eyes at the childish ways men try to impress women, is a highlight of the new batch of songs composerAlan Menken and lyricist David Zippel have added to their bouncy and buoyant film score. Another is a slitheringly bluesy song and dance for Hades, "A Cool Day In Hell," choreographed by Chase Brock with a vaudevillian flare.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: The show really pulls out the stops for the rousing numbers "Zero to Hero" and the new "Great Bolts of Thunder," assembling the giant ensemble onstage with expert, traffic-management precision. Everyone in the cast seems to be having the time of their lives, and their enjoyment is so infectious that you can't help but feel the same way.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: Since this is a production of The Public Theater's Public Works program, the cast also includes scores of amateur performers, ranging in age from 5 to eightysomething and drawn from eight community groups from across New York City. There are some standouts here, including among the quintet of Muses who belt out gospel-tinged, exposition-laden tunes, but the production sometimes feels like souped-up community theater while still suiting the material - and its message.

Matt Windman, AM New York: The 100-minute production (directed by Lear deBessonet, with choreography by Chase Brock) is breezy, visually flashy and meaningfully inclusive. Personally, I prefer it over many of the shows that Disney has brought to Broadway over the past 25 years.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: As with all the Public Works musicals, every aspect-surely the acting by those with Equity cards and those without-is top-notch. That includes Dane Laffrey's set design on which two towers flanked by Doric columns predominate, Tyler Micoleau's lighting, Kai Harada's sound, and, especially, Andrea Hood's often glittering costumes, topped by Cookie Jordan's wigs.

Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: I can't imagine this beautiful production on Broadway. There's something so perfect about seeing this updated Greek myth in a modern-day Greek amphitheater and watching Alladin perform the inspirational "Go the Distance" with the trees of Central Park blowing in the breeze behind him. Remember that last year the Public Works' Twelfth Night returned as one of the full Shakespeare in the Park productions. Fingers crossed that the same happens for this supercool new Hercules.

Greg Evans, Deadline: Hercules, the Public Works' stage adaptation of Disney's so-so 1997 animated musical, improves on its source not so much on the strength of its characters or the charms of its leading man - though it accomplishes both those feats - but through sheer energy.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: The scope and local involvement inherent in Public Works means this stage show's future probably lies more in community-centric productions rather than on Broadway. The emotional impact of the show and its grading-on-a-curve kindness rests on this connection - not unlike the work Cornerstone Theater Company has done for decades. Minus that, though, it would still have many pleasures, just not the same purpose.

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