There aren’t words to describe Hadestown! I saw it right before it opened and my first reaction was that I wanted to go see it again! For the uninitiated, Hadestown is an original musical by Anaïs Mitchell and directed by Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 / The Royal: A Play in Six Rounds) based on the myths of Hades and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice. But what makes it so good?
One of the most outstanding aspects of this production is an outstanding cast. Andre De Sheilds (The Full Monty / The Wiz) is a witty and beautiful psychopomp! His Hermes is a joy to watch and adds humor to this tragedy. Reeve Carney (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) is a muse on the “lyre” and a heartbreaking bard. Eva Noblezada (Miss Saigon) isn’t just a strong and refreshing voice, but a wonderful actress who is bringing life to her character that, in every other telling of the story, has no motivation or pathos. Patrick Page (The Lion King / Disney’s Beauty and the Beast / Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame) is sparking with energy and talent! And rounding out the cast is the lovely Amber Gray (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812); her Persephone is the definitive Persephone in my mind! Gray’s take on Persephone is an unorthodox but wonderful representation of this character, no doubt aided by Gray’s distinct voice and acting style. If I needed to sum up the cast in one word it would be just that: distinct.
But the cast would be nothing without its director “Chavkin the Great,” says Andre De Sheilds, and Anaïs Mitchell! Mitchell is the first woman in over a decade to be the only writer of the book, lyrics, and concept of a musical, and Rachel Chavkin is one of the few female Broadway directors. However, the partnership of Mitchell and Chavkin isn’t just a milestone in Broadway theatre; it is also a dream team. Chavkin and her creative team have managed to build a shocking and visually tantalizing world with staging that is captivating. A lot like Chavkin’s last project, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (another favorite of mine), the house is used to the show’s advantage. There isn’t a fourth wall but instead a thin pane of glass. Mitchell and Chavkin build a world not too distant from our own and deliver their political message subtlety, which is refreshing. In a handful of lines, Mitchell was able to show what’s at stake with climate change and populist “working class” movements without beating a dead horse. Mitchell has mastered the skill of putting the pieces of her message out there for the audience to put together, rather than forcing it, which lets the play burgeon and flourish past its message. This isn’t a show about climate change or rich oligarchs leading the working class to its doom; it’s a show about love, and all the political themes are subtext. All and all, Hadestown is a must see. It’s refreshing and thought provoking. It’s smart and sincere and comments on the art of musical theatre and the political climate.