I bookended my Best Musical winners with 2020’s title, Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell’s triumph of musical theatre. The story of Eurydice and Orpheus is as old as time, perhaps even older, but this fresh presentation brings one of Greek mythology’s best tales into a relevant, impactful, and sweepingly gorgeous production. From Hermes’ first entrance to the company’s final cheer to them and to us, the world of Hadestown the musical is one I want to live in for as long as possible.
(L to R: Eva Noblezada (Eurydice), Andre De Shields (Hermes), Reeve Carney (Orpheus), with Cast of Hadestown; Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)
Andre De Shields, as Hermes, delivers a fully-realized, every-step-and-effort-matters performance that is a rarity these days. De Shields leads many of the narrative tunes with dashing charm and vocal range that is of a seasoned, established leading man. “Road to Hell” grounds the style director Rachel Chavkin has set for the company, and De Shields is in full control of bringing the audience to that style’s world. Eva Noblezada delivers a stirring performance as Eurydice, the object of Orpheus’ love and Hades’ influence. Her ability to deliver a worthy leading performance as the iconic muse while blending into the Workers track after committing her life to Hades showcases her range in acting and commitment to Chavkin’s direction. Her turn at “Any Way the Wind Blows” along with the stellar Fates trio is a welcome start to the solo train of songs the audience gets to enjoy. “When the Chips are Down” is a fantastically engaging number, and Nobelzada’s performance is capped with a devastating near-ending fate the audience knows is coming but hopes won’t, and her duet opposite Reeve Carney’s passionate Orpheus, “Promises,” delivers on all fronts.
(Patrick Page (Hades) and Reeve Carney (Orpheus) with Cast of Hadestown; Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)
Carney portrays the youthful Orpheus with a tenor that is not easy to pull off, but does so with gliding confidence. The naiveté grounding Carney’s Orpheus allows for his arc of travelling to the underworld in rescue of Eurydice to become all the more compelling and sympathetic. Carney’s sublime vocals are highlighted in three different songs titled “Epic,” as well as “Wait for Me” and “Doubt Comes In.” Carney’s live guitar-playing adds a dose of musical intimacy to the performance that is unique to his success in the role. Patrick Page is a commanding Hades, exuding thundering power in voice and posture in his journey as leader of the underworld. Page’s “Hey, Little Songbird,” with Noblezada is our first full exposure to his character, and it sets the tone Page keeps consistently intriguing throughout the performance. Act Two’s “Papers” and “His Kiss, the Riot” allow Page to fully express Hades’ arc.
(Jewelle Blackman (Persephone); Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)
Jewelle Blackman’s Persephone is a fiery antithesis to Page’s abusively seductive Hades. Blackman’s presence, both vocally and physically, is well-utilized in “Livin’ it Up on the Top,” and especially in Act Two’s opener, “Our Lady of the Underground.” Her energy and commitment matched Page’s villainy and De Shields’s welcoming presence, with a movement-based effort that proves to be a dynamic take on the role. Within Chavkin’s world-building and stylistic staging is David Neuman’s brilliant choreography, especially in the use of the Fates and Workers. The company seems to always be still or be in motion with motivated intent and purposes, stage pictures in abundance and furniture-ography that is seamless. Their use of involving the superb band elevates the community aspect even more. Anyone who sees Hadestown will be impressed with how a two-hour-plus musical can sustain interest so well, especially when most people already know how the ancient tale ends. But, like Hermes says, “It’s a sad song/But we sing it anyway/’Cause here’s the thing/To know how it ends/And still begin/To sing it again/As if it might turn out this time”. Bravo and brava to this company, and may your cups, audiences, and hearts always be full.