‘Hercules’ Review: New Mythical Musical Is A Mixed Bag
As Disney fans continue to clamor for Guy Ritchie’s live-action Hercules adaptation, there’s a brand new stage production of the classic animated film that has just premiered at New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse.
Nostalgia and talent greet the Playhouse in Disney’s Hercules. Based on the 1997 Disney film, Hercules tells the story of the titular god turned human who needs to prove himself worthy to return to Mount Olympus, where he belongs with the other gods. This production of Hercules displays amazing Broadway talents and nostalgia for movie fans; however, these cannot mask the poorly reconstructed script and terribly executed costumes.
The talent in Hercules is comparable to the 90s film and honors it. Hearing the Muses, played by Charity Angél Dawson, Tiffany Mann, Anastacia McCleskey, Destinee Rea, and Rashidra Scott, sing of “Gospel Truths” and proclaim who put the “glad in gladiator” send pangs of nostalgia. These five women flawlessly encompass the attitude and power required to play the Muses. Not to mention, they looked great doing it too! Bradley Gibson is a delight to watch as he brings the titular character’s hero journey to life. Gibson warms hearts with his rendition of “Go the Distance”. He leads with hope and optimism in every choice he makes as Hercules. Thankfully, casting directors found a worthy opponent to go against Danny Devito’s Phil in James Monroe Iglehart. Iglehart breathes so much life into the role of Phil and his talent explodes on stage. His joy and humor are infectious every time he takes the stage.
Although the cast’s talent proves worthy of bringing Disney’s Hercules to life, the reworked script and terrible costumes hold the production back from being a well crafted homage to the film. One of the main issues with the script is how it botches Hades. In the film, Hades can be best described as a jaded New Yorker: cynical and sarcastic with sass that goes as far as the underworld and back. Film Hades brings an air of intimidation and fear (he’s the god of the underworld for crying aloud!) These added corny lines and songs dismantle this once perfectly crafted villain, causing him to become a joke of an adversary and not a true foil to Hercules. Also, the addition of songs brings on an anticlimactic ending.
In the film, the fight against Hades and the Titans has so many different sides displayed that full round it out to be a truly climatic ending: Hades vs. Olympus; Hercules vs. the cyclops; Hercules vs. himself; Hercules vs. Meg; the list goes on really. The script fails to showcase all of these events fully which leads to a less than satisfactory ending to the hero’s journey we’ve been on for two hours at this point. Lastly, some costume choices made sense with the setting of the story (i.e. EVERYTHING on the Muses), but most of the costume choices transported the audience to the 2010s with the ensemble’s tie dye athleisure attire rather than ancient Greece. Costumes are meant to add to a production/character, not a distraction.
In short, Hercules hits the talent and nostalgia mark dead on, but the script and costumes leave more to be desired for movie fans.
Disney’s Hercules at the Papermill Playhouse will run through March 19th, 2023.