Picture Hell for a moment. I imagine you think of the classic version, ripe with torment, fire and brimstone. The devil is there decked out in blood red, perhaps with horns and a tail.
I bet you don’t imagine a factory-like underworld reminiscent of New Orleans, primed with smoke, metal and pizazz. Well, “Hadestown” flips a variety of expectations on its head.
“Hadestown” is the Tony Award-winning musical of the year, and now also the award-winning musical of my heart. The story revolves around two young lovers from Greek mythology, Orpheus and Eurydice, as they fight to stay together in a world growing cold. The other pair of lovers, Hades and Persephone, face their own challenges as they grow distant from one another due to Hades’ corruption and Persephone’s desire to be free.
Knowing the myths prior to seeing this musical helps deepen the storytelling and heighten the delicacy of the show. Creator Anaïs Mitchell draws on the myths to tell her story, but adds her own twists and turns to keep things fresh for a contemporary audience.
The design of this otherworldly show is something to revel in, because the aesthetic is exquisite and breathtaking. Everything hits the mark, from the costumes to the set, the lighting to the seven person orchestra on stage the entire show. The orchestra deserves an article of its own, because they created the perfect atmosphere for this snazzy production. In costume, the orchestra members are characters as well who add to the French Quarter-esque feeling of the show.
The score permeates genres while maintaining its dark vibe, going from folk balladry combined with jazz, with some gospel and blues elements fluttered throughout it. The musical is almost entirely sung through, and even in the sparse amounts of dialogue, they are accompanied with vibrant piano or trombone sounds. The story is carried with the music and intertwined with the action more than many other musical I’ve seen.
Lest I forget about the incredibly talented cast. Hades stole the show for me personally, played by the iconic baritone that is Patrick Page, with his rich, deep voice that will echo in both my dreams and nightmares. No one could’ve played a better Devil than this devilishly handsome star. He donned a killer pinstripe suit, an excellently evil black trench coat and gorgeous silver hair, making him the character I spent every scene hoping to see or hear from again, while simultaneously subverting my expectation on what Hades should look like.
Orpheus and Eurydice maintained a beautiful and powerful chemistry, yet also held their own as stand-alone powerhouses. The vocal chords on Eva Noblezada (Eurydice) are beyond what words can describe, as is the cuteness level of Reeve Carney (Orpheus), both of whom I got to take adorable pictures with at the stage door. Eurydice had attitude, spunk and spirit, and Orpheus showed sensitive, dreamy idealism, both of which I enjoyed as a refreshing taste to these centuries old characters. The entire cast was, of course, mind-blowingly good, with noteworthy performances from Andre de Shields (Hermès), Amber Gray (Persephone) and all three of the angelic-voiced Fates (Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad).
The show is not without political under and overtones, as is every piece of art today. However, this show pulls on the heartstrings of all of us no matter our affiliation. Persephone and her descent to the underworld highlights the misery of climate change, and we see Eurydice suffering the consequences of this as she starves and freezes, waiting for spring to return.
Also, the entr’acte number “Why We Build This Wall” inspires deeply political sentiments about the walls we build and why we build them, but was written ten years ago, prior to the Trump rhetoric. “Hadestown” is based on a concept album of the same name by Mitchell written in 2010, so its political sentiments from a decade ago are hauntingly more real in our world today.
I also have to mention that this show was created, written, composed, directed and developed by two women, Mitchell and Director Rachel Chavkin, which gives me hope for the future of theatre. Women creators are on the rise and putting out some of the best content we consume and winning big time awards. “Fleabag,” a play-turned-television series proves this as well, having been created by the phenomenal Phoebe Waller-Bridge and winning four Primetime Emmys.
To say that the eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, were well deserved is an understatement, because the blood, sweat and tears that went into this show are visible in every second of the performance. With a relatively small cast, the effort put in by all is palpable and creates a deeply intimate space in the theatre. The cast and crew created a show that allowed the entire audience to transcend their world and enter the world of myth, mystery and love, swept up in the sweet sounds and souls of New Orleans and ancient Greece.