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Review: HADESTOWN Dazzles at Broadway at the Hobby Center

Review: HADESTOWN Dazzles at Broadway at the Hobby Center

This elegant and simple myth of a musical runs through October 9th

The HADESTOWN national tour finally arrives in Houston after a significant pandemic pause, and it appears the wait was worth holding our breath for. It's an elegantly simple, intimate, and funky folksy retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Their tale is modernized to address current issues in broad strokes (some accidentally). It is like watching the film TITANIC in that you know it can't end happily, but you somehow hope in this telling the lovers make it through the underworld successfully. Spoiler alert: myths never change, just the way we tell them does. HADESTOWN has plenty to say along the way in presenting us the "sad song that we sing anyway."

The show won several Tony awards in 2019, including the coveted "Best Musical" moniker just before the pandemic put a halt to the performances. It is a deceptively simple musical in presentation and delivery, but has an underlying richness that can spawn a lot of depth in viewers who can see many issues of today's political climate reflected in the romantic story. Creator Anais Mitchell said she was inspired by works like LES MISERABLES that combined political and romantic notions into one large epic. It reminds me a good deal of HAMILTON in that it takes a simple technical presentation and combines that with unexpectedly modern music (here folk and blues) to create a show that is all about the passion of the people in it. It is a tale that could only work on a stage.

HADESTOWN is presented in a simple semi-circular set that looks like a speakeasy from way back when, and all of the band and performers come onstage as if they are getting ready for a cabaret show. RIght away Hermes played by Nathan Lee Graham along with a trio of fates (Dominique Kempf, Belen Moyano, and Nyla Watson) kick the show off with a wonderfully vibrant introduction to the world of "gods and men". A land where there is no Spring or Fall, but only extreme heat or frigid cold. Into this industrial global warmed over setting comes Eurydice (Hannah Whitley), a young pretty girl looking for light and food. A poor waiter and singer named Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma) falls head over heels for her at first sight. The two end up playing a role in a struggle between Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) and Persephone (Maria-Christina Oliveras), two gods that control industry and the weather. Orpheus obsesses over a song he is writing, and his love seeks sustenance from somewhere else. Eventually Eurydice becomes a worker in Hadestown, and Orpheus has to try and save her from a soulless life of nothing but labor for its own sake.

The cast is all equally strong, a true ensemble of amazing talent whether it is belting out a song or dancing through a stylized work routine. HADESTOWN relies on the actors to flesh it out, and this tour is in capable hands all around. Nathan Lee Graham is a standout filling out Hermes' role as both narrator and master of ceremonies. He has a swagger and vocal delivery that rivals any of his predecessors in the part. Chibueze Ihuoma channels the spirit and vocals of Prince for his turn as Orpheus, and that is to say he navigates the falsetto and his chest voice beautifully all while playing guitar. Maria-Christina Oliveras gives a rich take on Persephone using her lower register and crack comic timing to great effect. Hannah Whitley gives an achingly realistic portrait of Eurydice that peaks during her rendition of "Flowers" which stopped the show for rapturous applause. Matthew Patrick Quinn puts his own towering spin on Hades, and makes for a formidable god of the underworld. The chorus work and that of the fates are equally dazzling with tons of vocal and physical gymnastics on full display. They all whirl through this dream world with a sense of grace and wonder.

HADESTOWN is a dazzling work that should thrill audiences with its accessibility and depth. The story is simple, but the issues it raises are complex and delve deeply into human nature. There are struggles with love, needs, work, and feeling we are worthy for all the things that happen to us. It also asks some thought-provoking questions about freedom and what it means to be happy in the modern world. The music is challenging, the singers are talented, and the dancers are brilliant. The lighting is the most complex technical aspect in an otherwise sparse set that gets out of the way of the heart of the story.

HADESTOWN is presented by Memorial Hermann's Broadway at The Hobby Center, and runs through October 9th. Tickets are somewhat limited in inventory because many ticket holders were from a past scheduled date, but certainly still some good seats at the time of this writing were available. Performances are at the Hobby Center, and the show lasts two and a half hours along with a fifteen minute intermission.

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