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. In Hadestown, his first task is to introduce all the characters in a rollicking number “Road to Hell.”
Mitchell, the talented singer/songwriter who is responsible for the whole shebang, music, lyrics and book, has intertwined the myth of Orpheus (Reeve Carney), son of the God Apollo and muse Calliope and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada), wood nymph; with that of Hades (Patrick Page), god of the underworld and Persephone (Amber Gray), daughter of the god Zeus and goddess of the harvest Demeter.
The story that unfolds in Hadestown is that Hades falls in lust with Persephone and abducts her to the underworld where they fall in love and marry. Demeter is so distraught she declares that there will be no more growth or harvest until Persephone returns. Zeus brokers a deal whereby Persephone spends 6 months out of the year above ground and 6 months out of the year below, thus creating the seasons. So, Persephone rides a train back and forth between the underworld known as Hadestown where she’s the only living soul, and the world above. But Hades keeps shortening her time up above because he misses her. And the earth gets colder.
Meanwhile, Orpheus is trying to write a song that will restore order to the seasons when he runs across Eurydice, with a little help from Hermes and The Fates (Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Kay Trinidad), who is wandering around cold and hungry. She’s initially unimpressed until he starts singing. In the only off note in the production, they fall in love (unfortunately no chemistry between the two – Reeve Carney is a little too much of a hesitant milquetoast to be a believable love interest for the determined and charming Eva Noblezada) and marry. Whereupon Orpheus immediately goes back to songwriting and neglects Eurydice.
So, what’s a poor, once again cold and hungry girl to do? Where does she go to get warm? You guessed it, Hadestown. Where Eurydice becomes one of the poor lost souls in the underworld, trapped behind the wall Hades has erected. And explains in the Act One finale “Why We Build The Wall” that brings down the house. If I didn’t know that Mitchell wrote the score in 2010, I’d swear she wrote it within the last two years.
I won’t spoil the second act except to say that it’s about Orpheus’ trip to Hadestown to find Eurydice to try to rescue her. And that Michael Krass’ costumes for the Chorus in the underworld are outstanding, as is the visually stunning dance number choreographed by David Neumann done with headlamps and swinging lights. And if the love story between Orpheus and Eurydice didn’t smolder, Patrick Page and Amber Gray set the house on fire as Orpheus and Persephone. Their song “How Long?” and the dance that went with it had me melting in my second row seat when I saw both of them crying. Be still my heart.
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)
"All your favorite Greeks are heading somewhere in Hadestown, the sumptuous, hypnotic and somewhat hyperactive musical that opened on Wednesday night after its own twisty 13-year road to Broadway."
Jesse Green for New York Times
"It looks spectacular—thanks to Rachel Hauck’s set, which features three turntables in concentric circles, and Bradley King’s lighting—but it has a human scale; it feels less like a standard Broadway musical than a concert, a gathering, a happening. (The seven members of the excellent onstage band are called out by name for applause.) And, most important, it has Mitchell’s score: a joyful combination of folk, pop, Dixieland and blues that will make you want to rehear it as soon as the lights come up. You’ll be singing it again in your head for days."
Adam Feldman for Time Out New York
"Yes, composer Anaïs Mitchell’s musical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, which opened Wednesday on Broadway, sounds pleasant and looks more expensive than it did in 2016 at New York Theatre Workshop. But this classic tale of love — he looks back, she gets trapped in the underworld for all eternity — is still too slick and sterile for us to give a damn about her damnation."
Johnny Oleksinski for New York Post
"In "Road to Hell," the exhilarating opening number of the utterly fabulous Hadestown, Hermes, the conductor of souls into the afterlife, invites us to "Ride that train to the end of the line." He's played with seductive authority and knowing humor by the eternally elegant Andre De Shields, outfitted like a superfly pimp in a flashy silver suit, and it's hard to imagine anyone resisting his call. He sells a ticket to a bewitching journey that pays off at every turn."
David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter
"Hadestown triggered a lot of buzz when this wholly American show (which came to the stage by way of a concept album) premiered at Off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in 2016. Arriving on Broadway with its earthly delights more or less intact, this perfectly heavenly musical — with book, music and lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell — should stick around for a while."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety