×

Broadway Review: ‘Hadestown’

Anaïs Mitchell’s seductive musical about the enchantments of Hell has finally made it to Broadway.

With:
Reeve Carney, Andre De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Afra Hines, Timothy Hughhes, John Krause, Kimberly Marable, Ahmad Simmons, Kay Trinidad.

2 hours 25 minutes

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.

Although the production has lost some of the electricity that goes with playing in the round, director Rachel Chavkin (“Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”), who also helped with the show’s development, has done a super job of adapting this pretty thing for a proscenium stage. What it loses scenically — namely, a visual sense of the arduous nature of the hero’s journeys to and from the underworld — it makes up for in other ways.

A helpful program note offers a bit of classical background for anyone who doesn’t recall that Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) were more-than-mortal lovers torn apart when Eurydice died and went to Hades. Or that the poet Orpheus took his enchanted lyre and descended into those Stygian depths to bring her back. The storytelling is spare, but the visuals say it all, helped along by the melodious voice and slip-sliding dance moves of the indomitable André De Shields as the swift-footed god Hermes, as well as by the three gorgeous, golden-throated Fates played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad.

The world on top looks (and sounds) a bit like New Orleans (“Livin’ It Up on Top”), especially in the hands of a terrific seven-piece onstage orchestra whose trombonist was born to wail.  But the real action happens in hell, depicted here by the entire company in a rousing number, “Way Down Hadestown,” that could make the dead dance.  Here, Hades (Patrick Page, in imposing form and thunderous voice), the fearsome King of the Underworld, torments the souls of the damned by chaining them to an infernal machine that goes nowhere but must be kept in perpetual motion — one memorable vision in a production full of striking images.

Popular on Variety

In the seductive “Hey, Little Songbird,” Hades spies the newly dead Eurydice and makes a move to claim her. Lucky for her, the seasons have turned and winter has come, bringing the goddess Persephone (played by the goddess Amber Gray), patron of spring and fertility, to rule for six months as Queen of the Underworld. With this goddess in residence, the King will get no action tonight — or for the next six months. Dazzling in a gown of spring-bud green and full of life even among the dead, Gray tosses her curls and Persephone claims her throne in Hadestown (“Our Lady of the Underground”), keeping this rowdy party, choreographed by David Neumann, going through the dead of winter.

Despite the lusty partying that goes on, Hadestown is still a place of frightening darkness (and fiery, fearsome redness, in Bradley King’s lighting design). And while neither Mitchell nor her director makes an overt attempt to put a contemporary spin on the material, there is one number, “Why We Build the Wall,” that clearly resonates.

Broadway Review: 'Hadestown'

Walter Kerr Theater; 918 seats; $189 top. Opened April 17, 2019. Reviewed April 12. Running time: TWO HOURS, 25 MIN.

Production: A presentation by Mara Isaacs, Dale Franzen, Hunter Arnold, Tom Kirdany, Carl Daikeler, Five Fates, Willette & Manny Klausner, No Guarantees, Sing Out, Louise! Productions, Stone Arch Theatrical, Benjamin Lowy / Adrian Salpeter, Meredith Lynsey Schade, 42nd. Club, Craig Balsam, Broadway Strategic Return Fund, Concord Theatricals, Laurie David, Demar Moritz Gang, Getter Entertainment;, Deborah Green, Harris Rubin Productions, Sally Cade Holmes, Marguerite Hoffman, Hornos Moellenberg, Independent presenters Network, Jam Theatricals, Kalin Levine Dohr Productions, Phil & Claire Kenny, Mike Karns, Kilimanjaro Theatricals, Lady Capital, LD Entertainment, Sandi Moran, Tom Neff, MWM Live, Patti Sanford Roberts & Michael Roberts, Schroeder Shapiro Productions, Seriff Productions, Stage Entertainment, Kenneth & Rosemary Willman, Kaylavlex Theatricals, Tyler Mount, Jujamcyn Theaters, The National Theater, and New York Theater Workshop, of a musical in two acts with music, lyrics & book by Anais Mitchell.

Creative: Developed & directed by Rachel Chavkin. Choreographed by David Neuman. Musical director & vocal arrangements, Liam Robinson. Sets, Rachel Hauck; costumes, Michael Krass; lighting, Bradley King; sound, Nevin Steinberg & Jessica Paz; arrangements & orchestrations, Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose; dramaturg, Ken Cerniglia; production stage manager, Beverly Jenkins.

Cast: Reeve Carney, Andre De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Afra Hines, Timothy Hughhes, John Krause, Kimberly Marable, Ahmad Simmons, Kay Trinidad.

More Legit

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Frozen review musical

    Warmth and Humor Pervade Pantages Production of 'Frozen' the Musical

    In 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” hit screens like a 100 mile-per-hour snowball, sparking a pop cultural phenomenon in which little girls and boys pranced about dressed in Anna and Elsa and Olaf costumes while belting aloud “Let It Go,” Elsa’s feminist anthemic response to ice powers rendering her a societal outcast. The animated movie won two [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content