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Now Opening: ‘Hadestown’ Arrives on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

The Greek myth-inspired folk opera opens April 17th

The journey of the new musical Hadestown, from a concept recording all the way to the Walter Kerr Theatre on West 48th Street, is long and remarkable – not unlike the one taken by its central character, Orpheus. Even before Hadestown’s creator, the singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, released the score on CD in 2010, she had already begun testing its theatricality four years earlier in her home state of Vermont. The musical’s beginnings can be traced to community theater – a rare path to Broadway. As the years went on, it came to be developed into a fully integrated theatrical piece by Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) in the form of a folk opera. Told in a somewhat modern setting, Hadestown is based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and his dark excursions to the underworld to rescue his fiancée, Eurydice (Eva Noblezada). Using many different styles of music, including rock, country, gospel, jazzy blues and, of course, folk, audiences in three different countries have already embraced it.

Amber Gray (as Persephone) and the Broadway cast of Hadestown (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Amber Gray (as Persephone) and the Broadway cast of Hadestown (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Its first full production was at Off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop in the summer of 2016, where it received enthusiastic reviews. But Mitchell and Chavkin still felt there was work to be done, so they next took it to Edmonton, Canada. From there, they brought it to London’s National Theatre, still finding things to change and revise, from its set design, to the size of its cast, and even conceptions of the main characters. “I’ve never worked on anything as delicate as this piece, and maybe because it’s poetry, it’s so breakable,” Chavkin told Vulture. “It has gone through multiple breakings, in a sense, over the course of it. That’s the only way that we’ve learned.”

Some actors have been on that learning curve for some time. Amber Gray as Persephone, the goddess of harvest, has been with the show for three years, as has Patrick Page as Hades himself, the Greek god of the underworld. Eva Noblezada (of the 2017 Broadway revival of Miss Saigon), took over the role of Eurydice in London, and will be in the new Broadway production, as will Reeve Carney (TV’s Penny Dreadful; formerly the title character of notorious Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark), as Orpheus. Also from the London cast, playing the wily and mischievous Olympian god Hermes, is André De Shields, a legendary Broadway veteran. One of the original stars of Ain’t Misbehavin’, De Shields was Tony-nominated for his turns in The Full Monty and Play On, and forever immortalized for having created the title role in The Wiz.

Anaïs Mitchell’s talents as a singer-songwriter have earned her accolades for more than a dozen years, and she will now be adding Broadway composer to her resume. And in Rachel Chavkin, Mitchell has found a director who speaks her language. “Rachel’s been kicking my ass for six years,” Mitchell told Playbill. To which Chavkin responded, “You’re as relentless as I am. It takes you months to work on a rhyme and for an image to blossom.”

Positive buzz has been in the air for Hadestown for some time now. It is one of three new musicals to open this month (Tootsie and Beetlejuice follow on April 23rd and 25th, respectively), in what has been a busy theatrical season, what with a total of eleven musicals in contention for the Best Musical Tony Award. But judging from its reviews in all its previous incarnations, look for Hadestown to potentially lead the pack when the nominations are announced on April 30th.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019

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