photo by T Charles Erickson
Best musical at the Tony Awards. Best Musical Theatre Album at the 2020 GRAMMY awards. If you still haven’t been to the Kimmel Cultural Campus this season, now is absolutely the time to go. Philadelphia- one of the most unique pieces of theatre ever created is here at the Academy of Music through February 20th. Hadestown is unlike anything you’ve seen before. I rarely use the phrase “run, don’t walk”…but I mean it this time. Get yourself to the theatre to see this show.
Hadestown tells Anaïs Mitchell’s version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades (king of the Underworld) and his wife Persephone. This journey began for Mitchell, a singer and songwriter, way back in the early 2000s as theater project in Vermont. The music was turned into a concept album in 2010, then the musical debuted at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016, followed by runs in London and Canada before landing on Broadway where it won eight Tony Awards.
What’s so special about Hadestown is by far the music. Mitchell, along with her artistic collaborator Rachel Chavkin, created a world of songs that aren’t your usual Broadway showtunes. Genres like American folk blend with New Orleans-inspired jazz and blues to enhance this mythological tale. Hadestown is also notable because, for the first time in over a decade, we get to see a piece of theatre where a woman has been the solo author- writing the music, lyrics, and book. Only three other women in Broadway history have accomplished this feat.
Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch), Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green), Hermes (Levi Kreis), Persephone (Kimberly Marable), and Hades (Kevyn Morrow) are beautifully brought to life in a way that anyone familiar with their original Greek counterparts couldn’t even imagine. Hermes moves the story along, and in true New Orleans fashion, welcomes in the audience to be a part of the show with a big band number to get everything rolling. He introduces the characters to great applause and Kreis brings so much to this role with his tone and mannerism. I enjoyed watching him react to the scenes around him. He doesn’t miss a beat. Morrow gives us an honest Hades, radiates energy, and really gets the audience to feel for the character.
Both Green and Barasch have strong vocals. If certain scenes between the two of them don’t give you the chills, their voices certainly will. Barasch is pure and honest as Orpheus. If you’ve listened to the cast or concept albums without seeing the show, I think Barasch’s Orpheus is exactly how he should be imagined. “Wait for Me” in Act 1 is haunting and I would see the show a million times just for this scene. I’d see it a million more times for the reprise in Act 2. The dark stage, the bright lights hanging down, the journey through the Underworld- you’ll shiver. It’s that good. I felt the same way watching Green as Eurydice, especially in “All I’ve Ever Known”. She is really bringing out Michell’s vision of the character.
Marable is the perfect Persephone. She’s worth highlighting simply because of her intro in act two with a lively “Our Lady of the Underground”, breaking the forth wall to get laughs and cheers. Don’t wander too far from your seat during intermission, or you’ll miss this fun! It’s here that she also introduces us to the band- they’re on stage the entire time rather, as part of the show, rather than in the pit. The tour features Philadelphia-based Maria Im on violin. You can read our interview with her here.
Hadestown also features two groups of characters that are pivotal to the plot. The Fates are a trio of women who narrate what the characters are thinking (or should be thinking). Their voices harmonize so well. The Workers are bound to Hades and work underground in his factories. The five of them help highlight some of the themes of the show with unionization, the power of the wealthy, and even climate change. Eurydice is determined to bring The Workers back “on top” and escape the hands of Hades. With the help of Orpheus, of course. Hadestown is their love story and they’re the bright light in the Underworld.
Hadestown has a wonderfully diverse cast, in vocals and appearance. Together, they create a gorgeous, sad, hopeful story that is meant to be heard again and again. See it now. Tickets are available here. And then tell your friends and go back again.