From the moment the lights go down in Walter Kerr Theatre, the audience is captivated in a story of love, loss, greed and a whole lot of excitement. Hadestown is a brilliant musical with a convoluted backstory, eerily timed political tones and a story as old as time.
The musical phenomenon follows Greek mythological characters, Orpheus (Reeve Carney); Eurydice (Eva Noblezada); Hades (Patrick Page); and Persephone (Amber Gray) on their personal journeys of love and to the dreaded Hadestown, which is all narrated by Hermes (Andre De Shields).
Eurydice is a poor girl looking for a ticket to a better life, and she’s convinced to go to Hadestown by Hades himself. Her love interest, Orpheus, would do anything to keep her safe, so he decides to travel to Hadestown and bring her back to the living world. Orpheus has a song in his heart that, when sung, can free people from Hades’ lair and bring Hades’ soul kindness as well. The problem is, Orpheus just can’t seem to finish it.
Meanwhile, Persephone, Hades’ wife, is itching for her designated six months in the living world, where she provides spring and summer for everyone to enjoy. Hades has been selfish by making her leave for the living world too late and then bringing her back too early. Despite once being madly in love, it’s clear their marriage is in disarray.
When Orpheus makes it to Hadestown to save Eurydice, it’s clear it’s up to Orpheus to save the people of Hadestown and brighten Hades heart, which would bring life back to Hades and Persephone’s marriage. But he’s unsure if he’s the man for the job.
Though the stories of some of the most famous Greek mythological figures date back to ancient times, the inspiration for the musical was created at a more recent date. The musical is based on a 2010 folk opera album of the same name by Anaïs Mitchell. It was adapted into a musical and premiered in 2016 off-Broadway, then it traveled to Edmonton, Canada, and London and finally it found its home on Broadway in March 2019. The musical was nominated for 14 awards at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards and ended up winning eight of them, including Best Musical.
Hadestown is a thrilling, genius and unexpected gem of a musical. The show features prominent personal themes of self-confidence and putting emphasis and effort into romantic relationships, but it also has timely political themes which, even though written back in 2010, are more relevant than ever.
The show touches on the struggles of poverty and the disadvantages from being in a lower working class, which quite literally results in Eurydice’s main conflict. The show also highlights the idea of political dictatorship with Hades’ rule, and it shows great relevance to today’s climate with the song “Why We Build the Wall,” where Hades is implanting the idea into his workers minds that building the wall is the key to their freedom and it must be done — when in reality it’s the job of building the wall that keeps them trapped and takes away their freedom.
Hadestown also makes history behind the scenes, with it being the second Broadway show ever to feature an entire female creative team. From producers to stage managers, women are in charge for this Broadway spectacle.
The cast of Hadestown is phenomenal, from the leads to every chorus member. Carney gives an adorably nervous and passionate performance, really channeling the self-doubt and inner-romantic of Orpheus. Khaila Wilcoxon, who filled in for Noblezada on July 6, gives a zealous and fiery take on Eurydice, keeping with the theme of powerful women in Hadestown.
It’s a privilege to see Page’s take on the toxic masculinity within Hades, hear his incredible lower register and to watch him be paired up with the fabulous and comedic relief that is Gray, who on- and off-stage is the epitome of a bright spot. De Shields, who took home the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a musical, is the perfect choice for the narrative role of Hermes, who is the eye in the sky and the man with all the answers.
The fates are important to note as well, portrayed by Jewelle Blackman, Kay Trinidad and Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer. The three women mind everyone else’s business, and they provide some of the best three part harmonies in Broadway history. The entire cast is phenomenal and deserves every bit of praise they receive.
Hadestown has not only been deemed the best musical of the year, but it’s a heartbreaking and honest musical that’s filled to the brim with talent, and everyone should see it. If you have the opportunity, make sure you go “way down to Hadestown.”
Photo provided via THR on Twitter.