Getting Lost in Hadestown
Rachel: Listen here, first things first, if Cat Smith tells you to check out a musical, you absolutely should. She was the first person to tell me about Hamilton way back when so I’ve been there every step of the way as fandom has evolved into memes, fan fic, and finally on Disney+ where it feels perfectly at home.
It’s been a year or so since Cat recommended Hadestown to me—a folk opera retelling of the Orpheus myth set in the Depression era post-Apocalyptic South (or thereabouts). I was too busy fangirling another retelling of the same story with Moulin Rouge’s debut on Broadway. But whereas Moulin Rouge is a jukebox spectacle, Hadestown is stripped back to bone and bare soul, and for that reason, it hits in a completely different way.
Written by alternative songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, we know from the outset that things may not turn out well, but there’s an itch of hope. Hermes (Andre De Shields), acting as narrator, even mentions it might be different and it’s up to us to be brave to take the journey to Hell and back. Fundamentally, Hadestown is not just one love story, but two. There’s wide eyed Orpheus (played by Reeve Carney, whose vocals recall Jeff Buckley) and the weathered Eurydice (the vibrant Eva Noblezada) who loves him, and hopes his songs will one day restore the seasons, but she can’t ignore the fact that they are starving. Then there’s seductive Hades (Patrick Page, channeling some dark and stormy Leonard Cohen-ness at different points) and the brittle and boisterous Persphone (Amber Gray, who is equal parts glittery and gritty). Both sets of lovers are plagued with doubts, insecurities, and old wounds and as their worlds collide, it becomes harder to pick who to root for more.
I’ve referenced numerous styles of music, and I think that’s what makes Hadestown so seductive—it feels familiar, and not just because it’s based in myth. From jazz to folk and bluegrass to alternative, the music is gorgeous and thanks to Hermes leading the way and the Fates working their devilish geometry in the background, the story is easy to visualize. If you prefer to see Hadestown in its rough stages, there’s a concept album and live cast album as well. Vocally, it’s perfectly cast and I find myself returning to listen to the Broadway cast album again. It’s also refreshing to see altos finally get their days in the summer sun as leads instead of harmony. The plot points are finely wound so when Orpheus does descend to Hadestown to save Eurydice, you really do believe this time could be different.
But, that, as the song goes is “where doubt comes in.” I won’t ruin the journey to the underworld, but hope springs eternal, and that spark is very much needed in neverending quarantine. It reminds us of “world we dream about and the one we live in now.”
Be seeing you, way down in Hadestown…
Listen to Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording) on Spotify. Original Broadway Cast of Hadestown · Album · 2019 · 40 songs.