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Review: HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)

Review: HADESTOWN at CONNOR PALACE (Cleveland)

HADESTOWN impressively directed conceived nd performed, but my confound some

When HADESTOWN, opened on Broadway on April 17, 2019, it was met with critical acclaim. Reviews contained such terms as "inventive," "gorgeous, "hypnotic," "high energy," "utterly fabulous" and "immersive." The critics went gaga over the quality of the singing, the scenery, the special effects, the choreography and the fine acting.

The Big Apple production had 14 Tony nominations, winning eight of them including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Does the touring show, which is now on stage at the Conner Palace as part of the Key Bank Broadway series, gender similar high praise? Absolutely yes!

Should anything stop you from getting tickets?

Before telling Siri to dial the box office at Playhouse Square or call your neighbor to talk them out of their subscription tickets, you might consider the words of the lovely lady sitting next to me on opening night, who asked at intermission, "What is this about?" Or, the woman on the other side who said, "I loved what I saw and heard, but, since this supposedly is one of the contemporary messaged musical dramas, "Why am I not aware of the moral or the theme(s)?"

HADESTOWN is a folk opera (all songs and no dialogue) which is a twist of a classic Greek myth composed of two intertwining love stories - that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone. It takes the audience on an epic journey to the underworld and back. In the process it "pits nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against fear."

It exposes Hadestown, an industry-based world of mindless labor, filled with absence and doubt, the dynamics of power and the never-ending tasks, and how those elements shape and control a person.

The haunting classic folk music and poetic lyrics pit nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death.

The show's opening (no overture to establish a mind-set for your viewing) is the song of "Road to Hell," which, as all good expositions do, introduces the characters and setting. "Any Way the Wind Blows" sets the mood and the images, followed by "Come Home With Me," which foreshadows the conflicts which will follow.

And, so, we are off on an epic adventure, which exposes the contemporary issues of climate, "Trump's" wall, collective bargaining, class politics and social critique.

As a social commentator said of the work, "It is a musical both about how art can save us and how, especially in an apocalyptic world, hope might be the only thing we have left."

In the pattern of the newish trend of musical dramas, whose era started around 2000 with RENT and has featured such powerful audience engulfing shows as NEXT TO NORMAL, SPRING AWAKENING, THE BAND'S VISIT, CAROLINE OR CHANGE, TITLE OF SHOW, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, FUN HOME, and HAMILTON, HADESTOWN is serious in tone, but more abstract than those of a similar classification. It isn't crystal clear on its purpose, though it follows the pattern of substance over pizzaz, a serious story over fantasy or entertainment. It just takes more mental digging to expose the concept of a "song can change your fate."

The touring production is about as well-directed, conceived and performed as anything you will see.

The cast all have strong singing voices and well-developed acting chops. Nathan Lee Graham compels as Hermes. He controls the stage whenever he appears, whether speaking, singing, moving, or just standing, he is the center of the action.

Hannah Whitley (Eurydice) and Chibueze Ihuoma (Orpheus) are wonderful as the young lovers. Brit West (Persephone) and Matthew Patrick Quinn (King Hades) spare and spark with effectiveness.

The funky orchestra, which features the uninhibited Emily Fredrickson (trombone/glockenspiel) is a fine addition to the goings on.

Local theatre-goers may find themselves aware that there is a home-grown on stage. CLE native and Baldwin Wallace University grad Nyla Watson plays one of story's three Fates who reveal the main characters' thoughts to the audience. Watson has previously toured with WAITRESS, WICKED and THE COLOR PURPLE. However, this is her first time performing with a national tour in Cleveland.

Victoria Bussert, head of BW's Music Theatre program says of Nyla, "she is one of the most passionate, determined students I've ever had at BW. She has always made it a point to check in on the current students as well as connect with alumni around the country when she does national tours."

Capsule judgment: Anais Mitchell's music, lyric and book are impressive, if not always clear as to purpose. You will not walk out of the theatre whistling or humming any of the songs. It is doubtful that you will remember any of the lyrics. What you will remember are the outstanding performances and the innovative directing of Rachel Chavkin and choreography of David Neumann. This is a must see for theater-goers who appreciate the craft of theater!

HADESTOWN runs through February 19 at the Connor Palace. For tickets: or call 216-241-6000.

Comedian Shane Gillis Has Announced Additional Dates On His 2023 SHANE GILLIS LIVE&nb Photo
Due to high demand and a sold out first leg of his tour, comedian Shane Gilllis announced additional dates on Shane Gillis Live.

Grammy Award-Winning Composer And Conductor Eric Whitacre Joins Cleveland Orchestra Chorus Photo
It's an exciting time to join the Cleveland Orchestra Choruses. Audition appointments are now open for The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, The Blossom Festival Chorus, The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, and The Cleveland Orchestra Children's Choruses.

The Cleveland Orchestra To Premiere Allison Loggins-Hulls Can You See? Photo
 On Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 7:30pm and Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 8:00pm, The Cleveland Orchestra will present the world premiere of flutist, composer, and producer Allison Loggins-Hull’s Can You See? at Mandel Concert Hall in Severance Music Center.

¡OBRAS EN EVOLUCIÓN 2023! Returns To Cleveland Public Theatre Photo
Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) has announced the return of Teatro Público de Cleveland's ¡OBRAS EN EVOLUCIÓN 2023! A FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAY READINGS, onstage March 30 – April 1, 2023, in CPT's James Levin Theatre. This also marks the 10th anniversary of Teatro Público de Cleveland.

From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in... (read more about this author)

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