An Unexpected Hero Will Visit Central Park: Here Comes Hercules | Modern Society of USA

An Unexpected Hero Will Visit Central Park: Here Comes Hercules

An Unexpected Hero Will Visit Central Park: Here Comes Hercules

The Public Theater is known for its work with Shakespeare as well as many of the titans of contemporary theater.

This summer, it’s going to tackle a different corner of the canon: Disney.

The Public announced Wednesday that it would mount a stage adaptation of “Hercules,” based on the 1997 Disney animated musical, as part of its Public Works initiative for a short run in the days surrounding Labor Day weekend.

The production, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, marks the first time the Public, which as the birthplace of “A Chorus Line” and “Hamilton” is arguably the nation’s most successful nonprofit theater, will work with Disney, which is among the world’s most successful entertainment companies.

The adaptation will feature songs from the film, as well as new numbers, by Alan Menken and David Zippel, and a new book by Kristoffer Diaz; it will be directed by Lear deBessonet. “Hercules” is scheduled to run Aug. 31-Sept. 8.

Public Works shows are exuberant musicals featuring professional actors along with scores of amateur performers drawn from New York’s five boroughs; the format is rapidly expanding — it has already been adopted in Dallas, London and Seattle, and is about to add seven more American partners.

The Public said that the roots of “Hercules” in Greek mythology make it a good fit for the Public Works program, which stages musical adaptations of classic works, and which previously featured a production of “The Odyssey.”

“Its populist musical treatment of a classical story about a hero’s journey felt very specific to Public Works,” said Ms. deBessonet, who founded Public Works.

“I saw buried in the story these elements that subvert a traditional narrative of what a hero is, and what strength is,” she said. “The thing we externally celebrate as being heroic is not real strength — there’s a much deeper journey.”

“Hercules” will be the sixth title adapted by Public Works over the last seven years. Ms. deBessonet said she had been thinking about attempting to adapt a Disney title since the start of the program, after realizing that Disney musical films told stories universally recognized by the program’s participants.

“There is this shared American canon that cuts across all kinds of demographics, and it is Disney musicals,” she said. “I grew up in Baton Rouge, La., and Disney musicals were my intro to musical theater, as well — I didn’t have any exposure to other professional theater until I was 17.”

The “Hercules” production will follow two Shakespeare titles that will make up the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park series: “Much Ado About Nothing,” directed by Kenny Leon, from May 21 to June 23, and “Coriolanus,” directed by Daniel Sullivan, from July 16 to August 11.

Both the Shakespeare in the Park titles and the Public Works show are free to the general public; tickets are available in person or by digital lottery.

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