In this Summer's stage adaptation of Hercules at New York's Public Theater, the actor playing Hades has some big shoes to fill, but there's no one better suited. Why is actor Roger Bart a perfect fit? He was the original singing voice of Hercules himself in the 1997 animated feature, singing the now-classic song "Go the Distance." Here's how Bart went from zero to hero to villain.
The stage version of Hercules isn't your typical Broadway production, like recent versions of Frozen, Aladdin, and more. Instead, it's part of the Public Theater's Public Works series, which brings in hundreds of community members alongside theater pros. The main cast, however, includes Broadway pros such as Jelani Alladin (as Hercules), Krysta Rodriguez (as Meg), Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (as Phil), and Bart, who's switched from playing the earnest hero to the snarky villain. In the years since singing Hercules's songs in the animated movie, Bart has kept up his musical chops, often with comedy roles on Broadway including Young Frankenstein and Disaster!. He's also appeared on TV in recurring roles on series such as A Series of Unfortunate Events and, most recently, Good Trouble.
Fans of the original Disney film will remember that Hades (then voiced by James Woods) never actually got to sing, but all that has changed onstage. Original songwriters Alan Menken and David Zippel have returned to write a handful of new songs for the stage version, including a jazzy, classically villainous tune for Hades called "A Cool Day in Hell." For his part, Bart is thrilled to be returning to Hercules from a new perspective.
"I got a call from Alan Menken, which is always an amusing thing. Within a half an hour, I was listening to Alan sing a Hades song (of course there isn't one in the movie). So here I was 20-whatever years later and learning one of his tunes for this show from a whole different perspective," he told TheaterMania ahead of the stage production's opening night. "It's a whole new world — to quote a great Disney song — as far as ways you can play the devil."