Directed by Rachel Chavkin ("Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812"), "Hadestown" contains a stunning visual design evoking both a New Orleans barroom scene and a smoldering mechanical underworld, complemented by the motion of turntables, a rollicking band, bold performances and expressive dance choreography. Whereas the previous Off-Broadway production was performed in the round, no impact has been lost in the transition to a traditional proscenium theater. The score - which contains airy folk-pop for the lovers and a livelier jazz idiom for the denizens of the underworld - comes off as distinctive and authentic by Broadway standards. Many of the songs are reflective in nature, which leads to some slow points, especially in Act Two. But, more often than not, "Hadestown" is exciting, compelling and beautiful.
HADESTOWN Broadway Reviews
In the warmth of summertime, songwriter Orpheus and his muse Eurydice are living it up and falling in love. But as winter approaches, reality sets in: these young dreamers can't survive on songs alone. Tempted by the promise of plenty, Eurydice is lured to the depths of industrial Hadestown. On a quest to save her, Orpheus journeys to the underworld where their trust in each other is put to a final test.
Written by celebrated singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and developed with innovative director and Tony Award® nominee Rachel Chavkin, the cast of Hadestown is led by the acclaimed actors from its sold-out run at London's National Theatre: Reeve Carney, André De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, and Patrick Page. They are joined by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad as the Fates. The Workers Chorus is played by Afra Hines, Timothy Hughes, John Krause, Kimberly Marable, and Ahmad Simmons. The full cast also includes swings Malcolm Armwood, T. Oliver Reid, Jessie Shelton, and Khaila Wilcoxon.
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In "Road to Hell," the exhilarating opening number of the utterly fabulous Hadestown, Hermes, the conductor of souls into the afterlife, invites us to "Ride that train to the end of the line." He's played with seductive authority and knowing humor by the eternally elegant Andre De Shields, outfitted like a superfly pimp in a flashy silver suit, and it's hard to imagine anyone resisting his call. He sells a ticket to a bewitching journey that pays off at every turn.
Still, if this is your first visit to "Hadestown," it's likely to be a satisfying one. Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin ("Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812") do an impressive job updating an oft-recounted myth; in this telling, Orpheus (Reeve Carney) falls in love with Eurydice (Eva Noblezada), who in turn flees to Hadestown after its ruler Hades (Patrick Page, whose basso profundo is the stuff of nightmares and/or action movie trailers) promises to end her hunger. The actors are all excellent, with one standing slightly above the rest: In the role of Hades' queen Persephone, the extraordinary Amber Grey (who originated the role off Broadway) gives us a kind of Hellenistic Age Real Housewife, both garishly funny and romantically yearning.
As far as tales as old as time go, the stories of Greek mythology are pretty high up there, those epic stories of gods and men that have been told for thousands of years and inspired countless adaptations. But there's little that feels old or stately about the way those stories - those old songs, those sad songs - are told in Hadestown, which makes its Broadway bow Thursday with a journey to the underworld that feels like it sprung forth as something entirely new.
This chilling scene remains the centerpiece of Hadestown, a love story and class-struggle parable based on the Orpheus myth that arrives on the same Broadway stage Bruce Springsteen worked for 14 months prior. The cast has changed from Mitchell's original LP (where Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, The Low Anthem's Ben Knox Miller and activist folk hero Ani DiFranco joined Mitchell and Brown in the leads). But the work's musical integrity and proletariat spirit remains largely intact.
Chavkin, her production team and cast are working at the top of their form - and they go a long way to masking some of the show's shortcomings. Mitchell is a better composer than a lyricist, alas, and sometimes leans too heavily on De Shields' narration to advance the plot instead of her occasionally repetitive songs. And the fact remains that there's just not much story here - not nearly enough for a two and a half hour show.
Written by the immensely talented singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell - the musical began life as folk opera concept album, then was developed at New York Theatre Workshop - Hadestown is brought to remarkable life by director Rachel Chavkin, who does for the Quarter and hell what she did for Tolstoy's Russia with 2016's equally fine Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.
The gods, or more likely Ms. Chavkin and her creative team, have saved "Hadestown" on its way uptown - via Edmonton and London - by turning it into something very much warmer, if not yet ideally warm. The story is clearer, the songs express that story more directly and the larger themes arise from it naturally rather than demanding immediate attention like overeager undergraduates.
Hadestown has arrived on Broadway. Like so many of its mythic antecedents, it's the product of much metamorphosis, and its current manifestation feels lush, vigorous, and formally exciting, not to mention, in certain moments, witchily prescient.
While the stage version of "Hadestown" is longer and considerably more elaborate than the 2010 concept album, it still bears the mark of its origins, and therein lies its chief flaw. Ms. Mitchell's songs are beautiful but undramatic-the score runs mainly to slow and medium tempos-which means that the overall narrative pace can feel a bit sluggish, enthralling though it is from moment to moment. Even at its frequent best, "Hadestown" plays more like a song cycle than a stage show. I won't pretend that this isn't a problem, but Rachel Chavkin's endlessly varied direction and David Neumann's dances, all of them fully integrated into the staging, help to keep things on the move, as does Rachel Hauck's turntable-and-trap-door set.
America's on the road to hell - better jump right off, my children. Too dangerous to look back. Instead, try and find the cracks in that famous wall we're building. That's pretty much the message of "Hadestown," the thrillingly alarmist new Broadway musical with the score that feels like it comes from somewhere deep in the American gut. Now an eye-popping, mythological blend of steampunk, "Westworld" and Bourbon St. anarchy, this dystopian tuner has its origins in a 2010 concept album, a folk opera of sorts, by the remarkable singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell.
Hadestown has so much fun telling, as it puts it, this "sad tale" that even though this retelling of a well-trodden Greek myth feels slight, it also makes for a joyful performance. Anaïs Mitchell's musical, which opens on Broadway tonight at the Walter Kerr Theatre (to September 1), is delicious to look at and listen to-truly, my new earworm is "Way Down Hadestown"-even if its story is as wan as its central couple.
A new Broadway musical that takes audiences to hell and back, Hadestown looks and sounds terrific, and yet it lacks something vital. Drawn from a classical Greek legend, the musical somehow reminds me of a handsome ancient statue that is missing its head.
For starters, Mitchell is a gifted tunesmith, and lyricist, who approaches musical theater with a clear, infectious sense of wonder. Her melodic savvy, if not entirely consistent over a run time of nearly two and a half hours with little spoken dialogue, is buttressed by an ear for piercing, haunting harmonies, abetted here by musical director and vocal arranger Liam Robinson. Moreover, Mitchell and, to her credit, Chavkin have mined a beautiful and theatrically resonant tale from their source material. If there are traces of the pretensions that marred Natasha in this heavily stylized production, the director and her lavishly talented design team remain in service to the story, which ties together the myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, respectively played by Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada, and Hades and Persephone, played by Patrick Page and Amber Gray.
Here's my advice: Go to hell. And by hell, of course, I mean Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell's fizzy, moody, thrilling new Broadway musical. Ostensibly, at least, the show is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes to the land of the dead in hopes of retrieving girl, boy loses girl again. "It's an old song," sings our narrator, the messenger god Hermes (André De Shields, a master of arch razzle-dazzle). "And we're gonna sing it again." But it's the newness of Mitchell's musical account-and Rachel Chavkin's gracefully dynamic staging-that bring this old story to quivering life.
If the story loses steam a bit in the second act, the storytelling doesn't, and at the center of Hadestown is the theme of why we repeat the songs and stories that we've heard and sung countless times before. As she did with her excellent staging of NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, Chavkin turns her cast into an irresistible community of storytelling entertainers, carrying on their traditions even after they've taken their bows. Working with a turntable floor, she and choreographer David Neumann create a striking array of visuals, particularly when a group of hanging lamps appear to be choreographed as they swing above the audience.
"Hadestown" triggered a lot of buzz when this wholly American show (which came to the stage by way of a concept album) premiered at Off Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop in 2016. Arriving on Broadway with its earthly delights more or less intact, this perfectly heavenly musical - with book, music and lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell - should stick around for a while.
Silver fox André De Shields lends his funky-grandpa vibe to the narration-heavy role of Hermes. Big-voiced Eva Noblezada is pluck personified as a waifish Eurydice. Fitting for the god of the underworld, Patrick Page's basso profundo seems to issue from the lower basement. And, as Persephone, Amber Grey dials her devil-may-care hootchie-mama routine to 11, ensuring her eventual transfiguration as Eartha Kitt on Broadway one day. Less fruitful is Reeve Carney's Orpheus, conceived as a socially awkward art savant. Laying on the Dear Evan Hansen too thick, Carney's neurodiverse Orpheus (lots of gaping, arms hanging limply, fingers twitching) is a misfire. The survivor of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark remains a bit generic, despite sweet looks and a pretty pop falsetto. Hadestown needs a stronger injection of sexually charged romance.
Yes, composer Anaïs Mitchell's musical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, which opened Wednesday on Broadway, sounds pleasant and looks more expensive than it did in 2016 at New York Theatre Workshop. But this classic tale of love - he looks back, she gets trapped in the underworld for all eternity - is still too slick and sterile for us to give a damn about her damnation.
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