Review: HADESTOWN Thrills At Providence Performing Arts Center

This thrilling take on an ancient love story runs through March 26.

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Sing me a song about love, and I'll sing you one about heartbreak. Predictable as the seasons, this cycle propels the art we make until what matters isn't so much the tales being spun, but the spinning itself.

Such is the case with HADESTOWN, the smash Broadway musical whose touring production is at Providence Performing Arts Center through March 26. This retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth begins in a Depression-era speakeasy, where the earnest, impractical Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma, played during Tuesday's performance by Jordan Bollwerk) falls in love with Eurydice (Hannah Whitley), a "hungry young girl" who finds herself reciprocating his affection, despite fears that his musical career will not provide for their material needs. When her misgivings prove true, a cold and starving Eurydice must make a terrible choice that tests the bounds of Orpheus's love - and plunges the play into an industrialized version of Hell, where Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn), ruler of the underworld, feeds his greed by exploiting laborers for eternity.

What unfolds is a parable about the tension between art and labor, love and need. Where your sympathies fall when watching this reinterpretation will depend on whether you see Orpheus's creative compulsion as vice or virtue. Is his art the one thing that can conquer Hades's insatiable quest to gain wealth upon the broken backs - and souls - of others? Or do Orpheus's relentless musical pursuits cause him to abandon the very love that inspires him?

HADESTOWN Broadway Tour
Chibueze Ihuoma as Orpheus and Nathan Lee Graham as Hades in the Broadway touring productin of Hadestown.

Whichever side you're on, you'll find yourself absorbed by the world of HADESTOWN - where energetic score, choreography, and staging all dance upon the knife's edge between dream and nightmare, making both so alluring you won't want to wake up.

At the heart of HADESTOWN are Anaïs Mitchell's music, lyrics, and book and Rachel Chavkin's inspired, intricate direction. The music moves from swing to blues to pure pop, threading sensuous grit alongside ethereal melody, as book and lyrics weave together two mythic love stories: that of Orpheus and Eurydice with Hades and Persephone (Lana Gordon), the goddess of spring who leaves him six months a year to breathe verdant life back into earth. The music's contrasts between softness and grit are heightened by the play's creative choreography - which has the company moving from feathery lightness to halting grind - and staging that captivates with its inventive interplays of darkness and light.

Executing this intricate combination of song, dance, and stage demands much of the play's cast members, who bring impressive precision and energy to their performances. The play's standouts include Quinn, whose bass rumble and imposing presence bring danger and allure to Hades, and Gordon, whose performance of "Our Lady of the Underground" opens the second act with showstopping energy and skill. Nathan Lee Graham also shines as Hermes, the winged messenger god who guides audiences through this new spin on a timeless love story with flair, bite, and heart.

Its tale may be one of the oldest we know, but HADESTOWN respins it with enough fire to breathe it, thrillingly, back to life.

HADESTOWN runs through March 26 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, located at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Tickets are $57-$114. They are available online at Click Here and via phone at 401-421-ARTS.


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From This Author - Jessica Tabak

 Jessica Tabak is a writer and teacher working in the Providence area. She has a BA in Theater and English and a PhD in English. While in college, she filled theatrical roles both on and offstage... (read more about this author)


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