‘Hadestown’ Musical Reaches an Expanding Audience

By Camryn Brakmann, Reporter

The constantly changing scene of musical theatre is paving the way for another upcoming hit: “Hadestown.”

Created by Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkins, the musical puts an artistic perspective on the Greek myth of the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, as well as Hades’ and Persephone’s story.

Orpheus makes his living as a musician, but his inability to provide for Eurydice during a time reminiscent of the Great Depression forms a schism between the partners.

Simultaneously, the famous myth of the god of the Underworld, Hades, and his wife, Persephone, evolves to show the cracks breaking their marriage.

The powerful singing from characters like Persephone gives an extra element to the musically diverse show. Photo courtesy of Hadestown via Twitter.

Only seeing each other for six months at a time causes the two to grow further apart with only loathing to fill the spaces.

In search of a life where she can rest and live in comfort, Eurydice makes a deal with Hades, who is also searching for someone to appreciate him where Persephone lacks.

Orpheus is stricken when he learns he has lost Eurydice to the hands of the industrialized Underworld and does his best to save her.

The strong cast of Patrick Page as Hades, Amber Gray as Persephone, Nabiyah Be as Eurydice and Damon Duanno as Orpheus brings life to Hadestown in the cast album.

Throughout the musical, a unique range of sounds were used to turn the folk opera concept album into a story fit for the stage.

In Playbill’s article, “Creating the Underworld of Downtown’s Hit Hadestown,” Ruthie Fierberg explores the unique show.

“It mixes the sensuality of jazz with the polished harmonies of Pointer Sister-like vocals, a punk rock vibe with an R&B smoothness—and a hint of Americana,” wrote Fierberg.

Songs like “Way Down Hadestown,” which drip with the energy of New Orleans style jazz, are juxtaposed beside lyrical songs like “Epic II” that are more reminiscent of ballads.

Additionally, while all of the performers are capable of a wide range of notes, the overall vocals do not align with the typical ranges seen in musicals.

Persephone tends to sing with a low, almost growl-like, rasp that reflects her sassy and independent nature, while Orpheus’ high and smooth melodies show he is a passionate dreamer with large aspirations.

Given the Great Depression-esque setting, Hades’ rule over Hadestown – the musical’s rendition of the Underworld – is a gilded paradise.

The theme of love is shown from multiple angles throughout the show, ranging from tumultuous to warm and caring, as seen with Eurydice and Orpheus. Photo courtesy of Hadestown via Twitter.

From the outside, it is a place full of opportunity and work, while the rest of the world is plagued with endless poverty; it is this false promise that lures Eurydice.

Instead, she is met with an industrialized prison described in “Way Down Hadestown II,” where the hours are endless and freedom is nowhere in sight.

“Mister Hades set you free, to work yourself into the ground,” sing the Fates in the song. “Free to spend eternity in the factory and the warehouse, where the whistle screams and the foreman shouts. And you’re punching in, and punching in, and punching in, and you can’t punch out.”

The industrialization of Hadestown and the wall Hades builds to isolate it from the rest of society, are key details in representing Hades’ emotional deterioration as Persephone points out the changes in “Chant.”

The musical is also a message warning against taking the easy route in life, as it can instead lead to even more hardship; Eurydice may have been gifted immortality in exchange for going with Hades, but that just means endless suffering.

The show is designed to have the audience and the musicians integrated into the stage in a way that complements the music’s importance to the plot; this unity was important to the creators of Hadestown as it established a stronger connection for viewers similar to a concert with more authenticity.

When Hadestown premiered off-broadway in 2016, it was nominated for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical, Best New Musical and seven nominations for the Lucille Lortel Award.

The show’s following is relatively small currently, but the music quickly draws in more fans with the diverse sounds.

Now, the growing musical is running at the National Olivier Theatre in London until Jan. 26, 2019.

Hadestown is set to open on Broadway April 17 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.