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Hadestown - Review

An enchanting journey awaits in Hadestown, a captivating musical crafted by the Grammy and Tony Award-winning, Anaïs Mitchell. Inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, this rendition unfolds in a haunting industrial underworld where Eurydice seeks refuge from poverty and cold thanks to the ever-changing seasons. Meanwhile, her devoted lover, Orpheus, endeavours to rescue her from the clutches of Hades with his mesmerizing melodies. Narrated by the messenger Hermes, this extraordinary musical delves deep into Greek mythology, creating a tale of love, sacrifice, and resilience.  


Donal Finn Hadestown
Donal Finn as Orpheus

Celebrating over 1,000 performances on Broadway, Hadestown recently made its debut at London’s Lyric Theatre in the glittering West End. Setting itself apart from previous renditions, this production embraced all actors performing in their native accents, diverging from the customary New Orleans dialect. Donal Finn infused Orpheus with an Irish lilt, while Grace Hodgett-Young embodied a Midlands-based Eurydice. Zachary James maintained Hades as an American, Gloria Onitiri brought a London flair to her Persephone, and Melanie La Barrie’s Trinidadian Hermes added a captivating dimension to the ensemble. This zesty twist gave the audience a fresh and diverse perspective of the tale. 

 

Hadestown is a remarkable showcase of musical composition, blending jazz and alternative/Indie influences seamlessly into its score. The cast, accompanied by a live band on stage, delivers an electrifying performance that pulses with energy and emotion. The performance space and style took inspiration from traditional Greek theatre, with modern additions, including the mechanical stage which added depth and dynamism to the production, as performers ascend to great heights and plunged into the depths of the underworld. Despite the constraints of a medium-sized stage, the productions innovative use of space amplified every movement, creating an interesting theatrical experience. 


Hadestown West End
Grace Hodgett-Young (left), Melanie La Barrie (centre), andDonal Finn (right)

Critiquing a show involves more than just showering praise, while my over my overall experience was positive, there were a few technical hiccups in the first act that deserve a mention. The spotlight meant to illuminate Orpheus in the opening scenes frequently failed to follow him, leaving him momentarily in the dark — which is not ideal for our leading man. Secondly, during the first half, the actors’ microphones were quite low in the mix, resulting in moments where the storytelling was lost behind the overpowering music. Fortunately, I had familiarised myself with the story, so I could piece together any missing details, but it is worth noting these minute shortcomings. The second half was much cleaner, and soared with flawless execution, showing the productions’ true potential. 

 

The songwriting displayed in Hadestown is nothing short of remarkable, deserving not just applause but reverence. With only six musicians, including the live percussionist also conjuring the ghostly sound effects, the score achieves remarkable depth and versatility. Ensemble pieces like “Way Down Hadestown” and “Why We Build the Wall” resonate with gripping intensity, while “Wait for Me” captures a poignant moment of vulnerability, marking a pivotal ‘point of no return’ in the narrative. Among these, “Doubt Comes In” was a personal favourite. Witnessing Orpheus’s desperate struggle and his palpable anxiety is a visceral experience which had the audience's full support. The heart-wrenching climax, where Orpheus succumbs to doubt and looks back, losing his chance at salvation and condemning Eurydice to remain in the underworld, is delivered with spine-chilling intensity by Finn. 


Hadestown Persephone
Gloria Onitiri as Persephone

The mood remains tinged as Hermes delivers a poignant reprise of “Road to Hell,” infusing the familiar tune with a somber tone. The delivery serves as a reminder to the audience that this tale, like so many Greek myths, is ultimately a tragedy — a timeless narrative of loss and longing. It’s an old song, it’s a sad song, and we’re gonna sing it again and again.  

 

Greek parables hold a timeless allure, delving deep into the complexities of the human experience, transcending specific eras. Hadestown captures this essence, rendering it a timeless musical destined for enduring acclaim and revival for generations to come. Its epic storytelling resonates universally. While the music may diverge from traditional musical theatre conventions, this departure only enhances the show’s unique charm. I wholeheartedly recommend experiencing this captivating production to all. Catch Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre, London until December 2024, though I can see it being extended again and again! 


Hadestown poster
Hadestown Artwork

Hadestown Review

Thomas Levi

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