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Review: HADESTOWN at Keller Auditorium

Review: HADESTOWN at Keller Auditorium

The national tour of this Tony- and Grammy-winning musical runs in Portland through July 24.

What will it take to make the world a better place? And, just because we've failed before, does that mean we should stop trying? HADESTOWN, Anaïs Mitchell's terrific Tony- and Grammy-winning musical now on national tour, urges us to believe that if we can imagine a better world, we can create one...even if the odds - and the gods - are against us.

HADESTOWN juxtaposes two myths from classical Greek mythology - the myth of Hades and Persephone and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice - into a modern allegory about capitalist exploitation and climate change. It's not as heavy as it sounds.

In the musical, Eurydice is a young woman who is already world-weary when she meets Orpheus, a dreamer and musician. They fall in love, and he helps her see the world's beauty again, but the harsh realities of life intervene. Times are hard because winter is lasting longer each year. Orpheus is working on a song that will bring about spring, but he becomes so focused on it that he fails to see what's right in front of him. While out looking for provisions, Eurydice gets caught by a storm. She calls to Orpheus, but he doesn't hear her and she dies. So, he travels to the Underworld to save her.

But things in the Underworld aren't going so well. Hades and Persephone, the king and queen, have fallen out of love - now, Persephone drinks too much and Hades has succumbed to the temptations of power and greed. Basically, it's bad times for everyone - can idealistic young Orpheus and his song put everything right again?

Despite the heavy-sounding material, the show is a blast. The visual spectacle is gorgeous, the dancing is fantastic, and Mitchell's score is a high-energy blend of jazz, folk, blues, and choral styles, anchored by the best trombone part ever written for a musical.

The big story on Broadway this year has been the previously underappreciated roles of understudies. That is also true of this production. On opening night, there were several understudies in the cast, including J. Antonio Rodriguez, who stepped into the role of Orpheus. Rodriguez's falsetto (which gets a lot of work in the show) is just as rich as his full voice, and he finds the perfect balance between head-in-the-clouds optimism and real-world courage and determination. I saw the Broadway production, and Rodriguez's performance was better than the original IMO.

Kevyn Morrow also gave a standout performance as Hades - the right blend of terrifying and charming, with a seductive bass voice that both chills and thrills. As did the Fates - Cecilia Trippiedi (understudy), Bex Odorisio, and Alex Lugo (also an understudy) - who deliciously taunt and tantalize humans and gods alike.

HADESTOWN runs at Keller Auditorium through July 24. It's a must-see for any musical lover. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson

Regional Awards

From This Author - Krista Garver

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What did our critic think of HADESTOWN at Keller Auditorium?HADESTOWN, Anaïs Mitchell’s terrific Tony- and Grammy-winning musical now on national tour, urges us to have hope that if we can imagine a better world, we can create one…even if the odds (and the gods) are against us. 

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