Everything you need to know about 'Hadestown' on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre
Here's all you need to know about Broadway's 'Hadestown'.
It’s been a long and winding “Road to Hell” (or Broadway, in this case), but the wait was worth it. Anaïs Mitchell’s celebrated folk opera Hadestown is the most acclaimed production of the 2018-2019 Broadway season, earning 14 Tony Award nominations.
Born in Mitchell’s home state of Vermont in 2006 as a “D.I.Y. theatre project”, a concept album was born in 2010. Shortly after, Mitchell and Broadway director Rachel Chavkin co-developed the Hadestown musical. Following its Off-Broadway premiere at New York Theatre Workshop in 2016, its Canadian premiere at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre in 2017, and its London premiere at the National Theatre in 2018, Hadestown finally put down roots at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre on March 22, 2019. But, how is it so successful?
Find out more about Hadestown on Broadway below.
What’s the story of Hadestown?
Hadestown is an innovative retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, inspired by a post-apocalyptic New Orleans French Quarter-style setting. Infused with Blues, Jazz, Dixieland and modern American folk music, the show begins with Hermes, whose task it is to guide us through the tragic tale of these poor young lovers. After true love blossoms despite the bleak poverty of their circumstances, Eurydice is seduced by Hades to work in his underground factory (aka Hadestown) that would offer ‘comfort and stability’. On discovering her cruel fate, Orpheus decides to journey to this industrial underworld to face Hades and retrieve his soulmate. The only problem is that Eurydice has signed a contract and now belongs to Hades. However, Persephone, who spends part of the year above ground issuing in the summer and the other part of the year as Hades’ lover and Lady of the Underground, is moved by Orpheus and Eurydice’s love for one another and persuades Hades to let Eurydice leave.
Faced with the dilemma of either making a martyr of her or risking his own authoritarian control over Hadestown, Hades agrees to let Eurydice go… but on one condition. Orpheus must lead the way above ground and Eurydice must follow behind. But if Orpheus gives in to doubt and insecurity and looks behind at any point to see if she still follows, then she will belong to Hades and remain in Hadestown forever.
Who was in the original cast of Hadestown on Broadway?
Patrick Page and Amber Gray originated the roles of Hades and Persephone respectively. They've been in Hadestown since the 2016 world premiere at New York Theatre Workshop.
Reeve Carney played Orpheus, who you may know as Dorian Gray on the Showtime series “Penny Dreadful” or from his well-documented turn as Peter Parker in Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, and Eva Noblezada, who shot to fame as Kim in the 2017 Broadway revival of Miss Saigon, as Eurydice. Finally, adding some eccentric class as Hermes was Broadway legend André De Shields.
Why should I see Hadestown on Broadway?
We’re not sure Broadway has ever seen anything quite like Hadestown. Here's just a few reasons why you need to see Hadestown on Broadway.
Hadestown won eight Tony Awards, including best musical and best original score. In a review for New York Theatre Guide, "Going to hell has never been as much fun as seeing a performance of Anaïs Mitchell’s musical Hadestown, now playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre. And don’t let its origins in Greek mythology scare you off because there’s a built-in narrator in the form of the god Hermes (André De Shields) whose job was to guide souls into the afterlife."
Rachel Chavkin and Anaïs Mitchell’s production is as genre-defying as it is emotionally charged. The New Orleans-style band is constantly present on stage, frequently part of the action and members are even introduced individually by Persephone during her “Our Lady of the Underground” number, rather like a traditional concert. Then, just to remind us of the show’s ingenious theatricality, there’s a breath-taking coup-de-théâtre involving Rachel Hauk’s magnificent set design, atmospheric lighting effects galore from Bradley King and imaginative choreography by David Neumann that encompasses everything from the rigid, harshness of the soulless factory workers of Hadestown to the dreamy, romantic sequence of Orpheus and Eurydice's dance and all that's in between.
There’s also a scarily prophetic aspect to the musical with its “Why We Build the Wall” number, which mirrors President Trump’s current separatist agenda, even though the song predates it by a number of years. A special mention also goes to the utilization of The Fates, the voices in the heads of both gods and men, brilliantly portrayed in the original Broadway company by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad. This theatrical device is as entertaining as it is effective, thanks to these marvellous young women.
It certainly isn’t every season that Broadway is graced with something as original and as inspired as this production of Hadestown and it just goes to prove that when you take your time and you nurture and enrich a project over many years, the result is that much more satisfying when you finally get to experience it in all its seasoned glory.
Who would we recommend Hadestown to?
Whether you’re a theatre aficionado or not, whether you’re at all familiar with Greek mythology, it simply doesn’t matter. Hadestown is spellbinding for any age group and its score is as infectious as they come. The show already has a dedicated fan base that we predict will only continue to grow and grow. Hadestown, we raise our cup to you.
When is Hadestown reopening on Broadway?
Hadestown is reopening at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway from Sept. 2, 2021. Hadestown will be the first Broadway show to reopen since the Coronavirus pandemic forced theatres to close in March 2020. Find out more about Hadestown on Broadway here.
(Photos by Matthew Murphy)