Live Entertainment: ‘Hadestown’ Tour Review

Professional photo of Kevyn Morrow as Hades, Nicholas Barasch as Orpheus, and Kimberly Marable as Persephone. Photo by T Charles Erickson and copyright goes to Concord Theatricals.

Hey! Hallie here!

There’s so much to talk about right now. The first two episodes of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ just dropped, the first part of ‘Stranger Things’ season 4 is now out, and we’ve been given more episodes of ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’. We’ll be talking about at least some of it really soon on this blog, but today my favorite musical of all time takes precedent. I had the great pleasure of seeing ‘Hadestown’ yesterday! The past few weeks have been really rough for many of us and ‘Hadestown’ was a birthday gift that came at just the right time for me. I’ve also been dying to see it for around four years now, ever since I discovered it while pursuing my Theatre undergrad degree and clung to it during the harder parts of the program. Needless to say, I had extremely high expectations. This touring cast met those expectations and then exceeded them. I don’t think I’ve smiled so widely during an entire show in the way I did during ‘Hadestown’. The story, the direction, and the performances were nothing less than perfection. So strap in for a lot of praise because I have very little negative things to say about what I saw last night. WARNING: If you haven’t seen this show yet and want to go in blind, I would avoid this post.

The Story:

I’ve gushed about this story many times before so I’ll keep this relatively simple. ‘Hadestown’ is a retelling of the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology. For those who don’t know the story, it focuses on newlyweds Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, the main character, is the son of a muse and is known for the beautiful music he makes. Which comes in handy when Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus goes down to the underworld to retrieve her, and his music is so beautiful and sorrowful that all of the gods decide to protect him on his journey down. Once he arrives in the underworld, his music also wins over Hades and Persephone. Hades agrees to let Eurydice go, but she must walk behind Orpheus on the way out and he can’t turn to look at her or else she’ll return to the underworld forever. But this is a tragedy so, of course, Orpheus begins to doubt Hades and turns around, losing his only chance to rescue Eurydice.

‘Hadestown’ tells this same story. They even alert you in the first song that the ending is no less tragic than what we all expect. But it adds depth to the story and the characters. Orpheus is no longer a classic Greek hero, but is instead a nervous kid whose optimism endears him to all he meets. Eurydice is a world-hardened girl who falls in love with Orpheus in spite of her skepticism, but chooses to go down to Hadestown because she no longer wants to fear going hungry. Hades is no longer amiable, but a frightening tyrant who overworks the souls he rules over in order to bring comforts like light and warmth to Hadestown, a desperate move to appeal to Persephone so she won’t leave him as he fears she will. Persephone also plays a major role as Hades’ biggest skeptic and Orpheus’ biggest cheerleader, having become an alcoholic because of her strained marriage to Hades but striving to make things right for everyone. And of course, there’s the addition of Hermes who narrates the story and emphasizes the importance of keeping hope during hardship. It’s a beautiful retelling that cleverly parallels Orpheus and Eurydice’s new love with Hades and Persephone’s ancient one and encourages the audience to take up Orpheus’ optimism and work towards a better world. And even though the story ends in tragedy it still leaves the audience with hope, not just for Hades and Persephone’s rekindled love, but also for Orpheus and Eurydice’s story to maybe, one day, end happily.

The Cast:

Here we get to more specific things about the tour! There were no major changes to the cast the night I went, so I saw the touring cast I covered a few months ago! As someone who adores all of the original performances by all of the Broadway cast, I was somewhat frightened that I’d judge this cast too harshly or make my expectations too high. But this cast exceeded all of my expectations by quite a bit. First off, Nicholas Barasch was the sweetest Orpheus. He played clueless so well that he got some of the most laughs of the entire night. His sincerity was just as captivating, though. I was particularly floored by his performance of “If It’s True” which also showed off his amazing range, one of the most important parts of Orpheus’ character. Morgan Siobhan Green was an equally amazing Eurydice. She played Eurydice as the perfect mix between sarcastic and unsure, which is a really hard balance to find with such a headstrong but naive character. Her voice soared throughout the theatre during each song, especially “Wedding Song”. She didn’t do one of the riffs I enjoy in “Wait For Me (reprise)”, but her beautiful voice well made up for it.

Next is the biggest surprise for me, Levi Kreis. I was skeptical about Levi Kreis when I heard he’d be playing Hermes. He was much younger than I expected and I worried he wouldn’t capture the flare and comfort Andre De Shields brings to the role. The moment Kreis came out on stage I was proved wrong. His voice was fun and playful, his humor enraptured the audience, and his presence was both comforting and so intimidating that he could stare down Hades and feel just as powerful as him. Kimberly Marable was just as perfect as I thought she would be as Persephone. She particularly shone during “Our Lady of the Underground”, where she took over the entire stage and felt so approachable that I instantly wanted a Persephone in my life. Whenever Persephone and Hermes spent time together in the corner of the stage, I knew where I wanted to be. Kevyn Morrow was Hades and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard amazing things about him, but Patrick Page’s deep range isn’t easily replicable. I can confidently say this wasn’t an issue for Kevyn Morrow. His low notes in “Hey Little Songbird” were so on point that I was fangirling in my seat. He also played a much less stoic Hades, instead portraying more humor, sometimes of the sinister variety, making his more stoic moments very intimidating. Belen Moyano, Bex Odorisio, and Shea Renne were such fun Fates. They bounced off of each other incredibly well and were bone chillingly frightening when need be. “When the Chips Are Down” and “Word to the Wise” were some of my favorite songs of the night thanks to these ladies. And, of course, shout outs are due to both the ensemble and the band. I adored every single person on stage and each one earned my undivided attention at some point of the night. Good luck to Chibueze Ihuoma who is soon to take over Orpheus. I could already tell from just last night that he’ll be perfect for the role!

Staging:

This stage is beautiful in person. It doesn’t change much throughout the show, but it really doesn’t need to. The stage feels like a homey, energetic jazz bar. The stands on each side fit the band perfectly, involving them in the action but never putting them in the way of it. The spiral staircase up to the balcony is gorgeous and invokes New Orleans architecture. The use of the center of the stage, which is at first covered in tables for the cast to sit in but is then cleared to reveal a turn table with a circular center that remain still, works really well. The tables add to the bar feel of act one, but the turn tables add much needed tension to various numbers in act two. In the original production the center piece of the turn table is an elevator that takes characters to and from Hadestown. But, because not all theaters can accommodate this, this production has an elevator at the back of the set that can move up to the large door at the back of the balcony. It’s a clever use of the usual design of the stage, but sometimes feels out of place. Such as when Eurydice leaves Orpheus’ flower for him to find in the middle of the stage, which would have been where she disappeared to Hadestown in New York, but is nowhere near where she disappears in the touring show. But it doesn’t break immersion. I genuinely gasped when the stage split apart to represent Hadestown. The harsh lights changed the stage entirely and were especially effective during “Wait For Me”. And I can’t leave without talking about the hanging lights in “Wait For Me” as well, which are magical in person.

And that’s it! Seeing ‘Hadestown’ made my entire week. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had in the theatre and I hope all of you who are reading this manage to get to see it yourself. It leaves LA after tomorrow, unfortunately, but it will be moving to San Diego for a brief stint and then San Fransisco for a month before leaving the state and continuing around the country. Wherever you live, look out for this show! You will absolutely regret missing it!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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