As with all Disney movies that have made the jump from the screen to the stage, the story of “Hercules” is a little different than the source material. A few characters, like Herc’s best friend/faithful winged steed Pegasus and his adoptive father Amphitryon, have been omitted. Phil is still a trainer of heroes, but he’s no longer a satyr. And Hera’s involvement has been elevated from a grieving mother and background character to wise and regal queen, standing right alongside her husband Zeus as they offer guidance to their demigod son when he visits their temple.
But the biggest change in the plot comes from the addition of new themes such as civil engagement and the value of failure. And while they are worthy of exploration and certainly have a place in this story, the execution isn’t carried out in the best possible way. Instead, the climax of the second act is muddled with confusion that could have been avoided if one small detail carried over from Disney’s original retelling of this legendary myth.
This may technically be a spoiler, but it’s mostly for the 1997 feature rather than the new musical: When Hercules and Hades make a deal to save Meg, it should only be valid if Meg is unharmed. In the movie, when Meg sacrifices herself, that makes the agreement null and void, then Hercules is able to save the day. These events play out a little differently in the stage version in a way that doesn’t make sense. While it’s great to see the citizens of Thebes rally behind Hercules on stage and offer their assistance in his time of need, this scene could have benefitted from some clarity that would have made the moment more logical and less Hallmark card cheesy.