Hadestown: A Broadway Review
“But brother, that’s the worst of him.
The dog you really got to dread
Is the one that howls inside your head.
It’s him whose howling drives men mad
And a mind to its undoing.” ~ Hadestown
The first time I saw Hadestown was the day after it began previews. It was already garnering buzz, and as a fan of Greek mythology, I was ecstatic to see it. I had no idea that I would not only fall in love right along side Euridyce and Orpheus, but that I would end up going back SIX times, before I gave up residency as a New Yorker. Much like Hadestown, the pull to the Concrete Jungle is strong and Broadway is a HUGE part of that.
I saw Hadestown a second time in previews before it officially opened on Broadway cementing the origins of the show forever in theatre history. They had made slight adjustments, but those changes only enhanced the show more, making me want to go back after previews were over. Which I did. Four more times. Their is a reason it is the most nominated show of the Broadway season with fourteen Tony’s. This is a show, at least for me, I could never get sick of. The cast, the music, the story, and for me the message, are all utterly captivating that I could watch it again. And again. And again. And yes even knowing how it ends.
Hadestown is a modern re-telling of the Greek myth about Eurydice and Orpheus played by Eva Noblezada and Reeve Carney respectively. Set in a dark and dreary New Orleans styled world, Orpheus is a dreamer and optimist who has a voice of that melts even the most bitter of hears. It certainly melts Eurydice who is down on her luck and been jaded by the hands life has dealt her. Yet, without meaning to she falls in love with Orpheus with help from Persephone who rejoins the world for six months bringing spring and summer with her.
It is here that things get interesting. In many of the stories Persephone (Played by the dynamic Amber Gray) is almost as naive as Orpheus is portrayed in this story, yet that is not the Persephone we get. She is older, having been married to Hades for years, perhaps even centuries. The time spent in the underworld has taken their toll on her. While she is still care-free and bringer of the sunshine and flowers, she also brings the wine which she uses to medicate her melancholy soul.
She and Hades (played by Patrick Page), who is much more suave and charismatic resembling more of a made man, then the diabolical Disney portrayal, are not happy. They have become almost complacent, even bitter in their love for each other. As Orpheus and Eurydice’s story plays out, so does that of Persephone and Hades. What would someone do for love? How far would they go for it?
These are questions that are asked and the story narrated by the God Hermés who is played by the magnetic and quite spry for seventy-three years André de Shields. He gently guides young Orpheus as well as engages the audience making us laugh as well as making us think.
Much of Hadestown’s story and message is one that is incredibly prevalent to today’s climate. It is why I think the show has resonated with so many people and
Written by Anias Mitchell, Hadestown has been in the works for over ten years beginning with a concept album that evolved into work shops before transitioning onto bigger stages before FINALLY arriving on the Big White Way, making its home at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
The blood, sweat, tears, and time spent on this musical can be heard in every meticulously thought out lyric and beat. Each easy word is well placed to garner the most emotion and thought from the audience, without straining the performers voice. Inspired by her folk musical background, it seamlessly weaves that with chanting, Jazz, and African spiritual music. There is also a great appreciation for the musicians who play on stage the whole entire show, further cementing the camaraderie and chemistry the entire cast has with each other.
This is not a traditional musical but one that breaks barriers and brings a freshness to Broadway. In today’s political climate Why We Build the Wall, a song that has been in the works well over ten years, is both jarring and effective in its prevalence to todays political climate. It is Hade’s call to arms of those who live in his electric city and his misguided sense of righteousness and power only driven by his love for Persephone. It parallels the chants of the underground rail road while heavily embodying what that phrase has now come to mean in a very segregating political climate.
Wait For me which is a stunning ballad in its own right, takes the audience on a journey with stunning lighting and choreography which leaves you gasping in awe and craving more. It is a performance unlike anything we have ever seen on Broadway. Wait For Me II, which would be considered a reprise of sorts in other shows, isn’t visually as eye catching as the first version, but vocally it sears the soul of everyone listening. Eva Noblezada’s voice is truly a gift to the gods and it is a song I want to listen to over and over again on repeat.
The Set and Choreography
The sets are rustic with an almost simplistic apocalyptic feel. Yet, they are still eye catching. Their is no curtain, but the savvy use of lighting helps signify when each song is done, garnering more impact then if they had used one.
The lighting is especially impressive, as is the use of the turntable which seems to work over time constantly in use, showcasing the actors nimble dexterity and further enhancing the well thought out choreography.
You WANT to go underground
As the only women run team on Broadway, Mitchell and director and choreographer Rachel Chavkin, have seamlessly created a depressing yet hopeful world. They expertly tell a thousands year old myth translating it in a way that makes it incredibly prevalent to today.
Hadestown is by no means an in your face political show, but the underlying tones are ones we can not ignore. If this show had debuted on Broadway even ten years ago, it’s reception might have been very different, but this IS the show that Broadway, and on a bigger scale the world, needs NOW.
Hadestown is a show that gives us hope, while taking hope away from us in a spectacular fashion. And yet, as the charismatic Hermes says “We sing it again and again and again” despite knowing how it ends in the hope that next time will be different. We can be both the realist and the dreamer. Maybe something won’t change now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change the next time. That is why we fight. That is why we live. That is the power of Hadestown.
With one of the most diverse and talented casts currently on Broadway, Hadestown pushes boundaries and common Broadway convention, much like Hamilton did. But dare I say it, Hadestown is better then Hamilton. Mitchell and Chavkin make us WANT to go down underground. They take us on a journey, making us think, while still being entertained. It is the ultimate Broadway experience with the end result being we never ever want to go above ground again.
Several tracks have dropped, but the original Broadway Cast Recording comes out fully on July 26 with tracks dropping until then.
The Tony’s air tonight on CBS
Have you seen Hadestown? What is your favorite Broadway Show? Will you be watching the Tony’s tonight?