I’ve been a fan of epic romance, fairy tales, and mythology since I was a child. A true fan of hope. I got two epic love stories for the price of one with a beautiful twist in “Hadestown,” the bold, radical and somewhat avante garde musical…rock opera.—And now the most Tony nominated show with 14 nominations— that opened on April 17th.
“Hadestown” was written by Anaïs Mitchell, developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin tells the tale of both Hades and Persephone, Orpheus and Eurydice. In Ms. Mitchell’s telling, Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) winds up in hell because of the frost and famine that follow when Persephone (Amber Gray) pays Hades her annual drunken visit. (Eurydice dies of a snake bite in the original tale) And because Hades (Patrick Page) now has his eye on Eurydice, it’s the empathetic Persephone who convinces him to let Orpheus (Reeve Carney) take her back.
Eurydice descends to the underworld; Orpheus follows to retrieve her. Persephone spends six months aboveground living the good life of summer and drinking like a juke joint performer before returning for six months below with her husband, Hades. Hermes, who was not present in the original of either fables, narrates the tales while the Fates assert themselves into everyone’s business.
Watching “Hadestown” come alive so beautifully at the Walter Kerr Theater, I found myself longing for more tales of epic mythological thinking characters; those that despite tragedy can still inspire faith and hope.
The show becomes torturously and emotionally haunting, and evocative; especially in Orpheus’ travels back from hell, freed by Hades on the condition that he never look behind him to guarantee that Eurydice is with him. As Orpheus drags himself along the path, paranoid with fear, Eurydice and the liberated workers continue to appear and disappear in the smoky lighting, while the Fates sing “Doubt Comes In,”infecting Orpheus with a lack of faith and increasing fear, causing Orpheus to look back. Without “spoiling” the ending I can say “It’s a sad song”— Hermes tell us reprising his opening number. But even though it ends on a note of desolate loss there is also a reminder that if we keep trying there is always hope.
As long as we never give up, the adventures aren’t over, there will always be more love and loss. A lot of these characters were left off in such a way that they are still there. They are going to continue living their lives in that forgotten corner in “Hadestown.” This isn’t the end, but it leaves room for interpretation and there is always hope. I have faith and hope that “Hadestown” will get the ending they deserve at the Tony’s…a joyous victory lap.
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Venue: Walter Kerr Theatre, New York
Cast: Reeve Carney, Andre De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Kay Trinidad, Afra Hines, Timothy Hughes, John Krause, Kimberly Marable, Ahmad Simmons
Music, lyrics & book: Anais Mitchell
Director: Rachel Chavkin
Set designer: Rachel Hauck
Costume designer: Michael Krass
Lighting designer: Bradley King
Sound designers: Nevin Steinberg, Jessica Paz
Music director and vocal arrangements: Liam Robinson
Orchestrations and arrangements: Michael Chorney, Todd Sickafoose
Choreographer: David Neumann