Hadestown: Broadway’s Hipper, Cooler, Hamilton

Hadestown is an original musical that reworks the ancient story of Orpheus and Eurydice.

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Hadestown: Broadway’s Hipper, Cooler, Hamilton

The marquee for Hadestown on Broadway.

The marquee for Hadestown on Broadway.

The marquee for Hadestown on Broadway.

The marquee for Hadestown on Broadway.

Gianna Jirak, Fashion and Lifestyle Editor

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Those familiar with mythology can recall the familiar story of the ill-fated lovers: Orpheus and Eurydice. They marry, and Eurydice almost instantly dies from a snake bite. Orpheus subsequently goes to the gloomy underworld to retrieve her, and he irretrievably breaks the one fatal condition Hades had for Eurydice to be able to return to Earth. This leads Eurydice to die again. It’s an ancient romance that the modern world has made into various acclaimed movies, but Anaïs Mitchell’s original musical doesn’t compare to all the other versions that have been created.

Her unique creation is set in what is only described as “hard times.” We don’t know where we are, but we‘re definitely not in ancient Greece, as the costumes of the musical ensemble include beanies and plain white shirts. The sensational story begins with Hermes, the messenger god and our masterful storyteller, singing the title song Road to Hell. He properly introduces our principal characters, Orpheus and Eurydice, Persephone (Hades’ wife), Hades (the King of the Underworld), and the Fates (three elderly women who control the future and people‘s ultimate fate.) 

During this song, the lovers meet and Orpheus reveals what will end up being the core of the plot. He’s writing a song that will bring the seasons back into tune. In their world, it’s either freezing cold or blazing hot, and Hermes explains to us that it is like this because the gods who control the seasons, Hades and Persephone, are having marital strife.

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The actors playing Orpheus, Eurydice, and Hermes singing together.

Hades and Persephone, like Orpheus and Eurydice, are part of a familiar story of an ancient romance, although not as ill-fated. In the original version, Hades stole Persephone and took her to the underworld. In the time period she’s there it’s winter, but there is a six-month period where she returns to Earth for summer. In this version, it’s the same, but there is no underworld, Hades realm is simply called Hadestown. It’s described as an industrialized factory town of sorts where people come, sell their souls, and hop onto the assembly line.

The plot thickens when Persephone returns to Earth and summer begins, but it’s quickly ended by Hades coming to take her home, ending summer early. During this song, Hades and Eurydice meet briefly, but the impact is lasting, as they share a song minutes later. Hades invites Eurydice to come to Hadestown and work on the assembly line. She succumbs and accepts the invitation due to the harshness of the winter and lack of food, leaving Orpheus behind.

This gives our hero the start to his journey, and he sings the show stopping ballad “Wait for Me.” The performance shows Orpheus on his long and dangerous walk to Hadestown. He’s tormented by the Fates and other dangers that confront him on the road he follows. The performance includes strobe lights, smoke machines, and even the stage moving to signify that he’s now in Hadestown. It is a passionate song, full of longing and hope, that makes the audience root for him to accomplish his goal.

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An image of Reeve Carney, the actor who plays Orpheus, holding a rose and singing “Wait for Me”

Anaïs Mitchell transformed the old, straightforward story into a warmer, more complex one. She created dynamic characters and plot lines that keep the same fantasy as the myth, but also bring out the more modern elements. She created phenomenal, toe-tapping, jazz inspired music that compliments the story line and makes it more coherent. She created a musical, that after thirteen long years, has transformed from an indie concept piece into a full fledged Broadway show.

The music and the plot isn’t the only thing that makes Hadestown great; there are also its actors. The story is of ancient Greek origins, so one might assume they’d choose all white actors, but, they’d be wrong. Five of the main characters are people of color, reminiscent of Hamilton’s diverse take on our founding fathers.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Amber Gray, the Broadway veteran who plays Persephone. Her character is energetic, lively, and often heavily intoxicated. She’s the boozy comedy relief, as well as the character you’re hoping will receive a happy ending. Gray plays Persephone with an energy that can only be described as her truly becoming her character.

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Amber Gray, the actress playing Persephone, in full costume.

However, Gray can’t compare to that of her stage husband, Patrick Page. Page’s character, Hades, is a rather cold man on the outside with a warm interior. He plays him with intriguing complexity that has you question his characters’ true feelings about the situations that occur, as well as his marriage to Persephone. His voice is a deep alto, which perfectly fits his character and the songs he sings.

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Patrick Page as Hades in Hadestown on Broadway.

In addition to Gray and Page, there are also the three women who play the Fates with fierce and eerie dramatics, giving the illusion that they actually hold your fate by a thread and can cut it at anytime. Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad play their roles with such sincerity and sing their melodies with such honeyed voices that their casting was impeccable. To say the least, they were quite frightening on stage.

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The Fates, three women dressed in grey dresses and turbans, singing around Eurydice.

All in all, Hadestown is a transformative work of theater that I personally believe will change the way musicals to come will look and sound. It is a work of pure imagination, something Broadway, with its increasingly commercialized and unoriginal work, hasn’t had in a long time. Hadestown takes the diversity Hamilton has and supplements it with a fresh new take on how theater should look and sound.