They can go the distance!
A phalanx of non-professional actors from two Brooklyn community groups will make up a Greek chorus for a new mythical musical on the distant isle of Manhattan. The theatrical adaptation of the 1997 Disney film “Hercules,” opening at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater tonight, will feature 61 Brooklynites making their Off-Broadway debuts.
The Public Theater, known for its popular “Shakespeare in the Park” series, recruited more than 200 amateur actors from across the five boroughs to play minor parts in the all-singing, all-dancing tale of a Greek demi-god going from zero to hero. Among those new thespians are a Sunset Park dad and his two daughters, who were recently bitten by the acting bug.
“If you would have told me that I would be in ‘Hercules,’ I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Marvin Romero. “This is really the first theater that we’ve done. We’ve never done anything like this and to be a part of it is amazing.”
The show follows the plot of the animated Disney film, and features six songs from its Oscar-nominated score by composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel, who wrote several additional songs for the performance. Romero found himself transported back to his childhood by hearing the original music, which he would sing with his daughters on the way home from rehearsals.
“We go home every day singing it. It’s stuck in our heads, we’re in the train singing,” he said. “I felt like a kid again.”
Romero and his two daughters, Isabelle, 8, and Mayiah, 5, took up acting classes at the Sunset Park social services organization Center for Family Life at the beginning of this year. Public Works held auditions at the 39th Street Center, and Romero and his two kids secured parts at the beginning of June. Isabelle will portray one of the Three Fates, while her dad and sister will play townspeople of Agora.
The organization also sourced thespians from a weekly acting workshop at the Brownsville Recreation Center. One participant at the Brownsville site, who studied to be an actor but ended up in a different field, says that getting a part in the show has rekindled her love for the art form after more than a decade away from the stage.
“For me this is like a second chance, I’m getting a second chance for real,” said Kariyma Jo Ann Nelson, who was cast as a townsperson of Thebes.
The Bay Ridge resident moved to New York City 36 years ago to work as an actor, but could not make a living in the field. “Hercules” has given her another chance to be on stage again, she said.
“To be able to come back to theater again — I miss it,” she said. “I need this, and I wanted to just get back involved.”
“Hercules” at Delacorte Theater in Central Park [enter at Central Park West and 81st Street in Manhattan, (212) 539–8500, www.publi
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