NME Review: Hadestown grabs your soul and does not let go.
By Teresa Robinson and Bradd Howard
Hadestown reminds us why theater exists. The winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards®, including Best New Musical and the 2020 Grammy® Award for Best Musical Theater Album, added Popejoy Hall as a stop on their nationwide tour, and we are grateful for it! Hadestown takes audiences on a captivating journey to the underworld and back, intertwining the love stories of Orpheus, Eurydice, King Hades, and his wife, Persephone. Through the enchanting melodies written by Anaïs Mitchell and the poetic vision of (Director), the musical explores the clash between industry and nature, doubt and faith, and fear and love.
These are the moments that I love - walking into a musical with a clean slate. I had no idea what was to come. The cast took the stage like they owned it. So I knew we were about to witness something special. Mr. Will Mann (Hermes) continued to set the tone as he released those pipes to begin the opening number “Road to Hell.” You could feel his presence at the back of the theater as he introduced the players. It took all my strength to stay in my seat. It was black church choirs, feeling the Blues, wrapped in Greek mythology. Then Amaya Braganza (Eurydice) took the stage to sing “Any Way the Wind Blows.” The purity of her voice was tranquil, with such power you don’t expect that voice to come out of that person! With The Fates (Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson, and Hannah Schreer), each note and hit of choreography flowed. If these two numbers did not move me, “Come Home with Me” sealed the deal, transporting me to another place. Performed by Braganza and J. Antonio Rodriguez (Orpheus), their duet brought tears to my eyes. It’s how love feels - all of it - the passion and the pain. Rodriguez’s falsetto was like crystal. Together with Braganza, their connection was clear.
At this point, I don’t think anything can top what I’ve seen so far, but then Persephone and Hades hit the stage. Lana Gordon (Persephone) oozes grace and power. You felt each step, each dip, each shoulder shimmy. You could not contain her talent. Matthew Patrick Quinn matched that same power in just his voice. You could feel every note he sang in the bottom of your soul like he needed more to capture. “Way Down Hadestown” was a brilliant collaboration of all factors involved. But when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, “Wait for Me” presented itself. After Eurydice chooses between love or fueling her hunger, she goes Underground. Orpheus, refusing to let her go, decides to follow her below and fight for love. The staging of this number blew me away! The choreography using the lights is like nothing I’ve seen before and further shows The Workers being more than “just background.” Hades and the Company finished the first act with “Why We Build the Wall.” A comparison of the rich and poor, keeping those who don’t believe on their side. Leaving me to answer when Persephone asks who wants a drink, “Yes.” As we headed into intermission, I sat in my seat in awe, wondering what I witnessed and looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Act 2 begins with Persephone singing "Our Lady of the Underground," performed with total abandon by Gordon. It is worth seeing the show to watch her fling into the drunken choreography. The characters and audience have now traveled to Hadestown. The lighting is starker. The choreography is more restrained. The chorus is under Hades' control when Orpheus arrives to take Eurydice back to the Upper World with him. His showdown with Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) involves song after song of listening to Rodriguez's falsetto doubled with Quinn's impressive bass. Orpheus' song is so beautiful (and it is) that you see the frost melt on Hades' and Persephone's love as the two reunite. Just when you think our lovers have won, there will be a happy ever after, The Fates swoop in with the ominous "Word to the Wise," where they let Hades know how he will be looked at if he allows them to leave. With persuasion from Persephone and Hermes, Hades decides to let Orpheus and Eurydice depart if they can pass a simple test.
Now, if you know the story of Eurydice, you know this story doesn't end happily. But like the show lets you know, even if the song is sad, we sing it anyway for the joy of having sung it. I loved seeing this show and felt every emotion possible, and I wasn't alone. The standing ovation at the curtain call was long and loud and warranted an encore in the way of Persephone singing us another song.
With a talented ensemble of actors, dancers, and singers, Hadestown offers a powerful and uplifting theatrical experience. See it! It is beautifully acted and even more beautifully sung. The choreography, lighting, and set are all top-notch. I have not experienced a more magical night at the theater in a long time.
Hadestown runs from December 6th to 10th at Popejoy Hall. For more information and tickets, visit popejoypresents.com.