Even though Hadestown is mostly set in hell, it’s a lively and jazzy version of the fearsome place. Anais Mitchell has created an amazing piece of theatre with her book, music and lyrics and director Rachel Chavkin has put a special spin on the characters and action. It’s like two classic Greek love stories rolled into the biggest, rowdiest New Orleans Mardi Gras party ever. If hell is like this, I want to book my ticket now! The National Tour played the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles recently and will play the Orange County Performing Arts Center soon.
Hermes (Levi Kreis) acts as Hadestown’s Master of Ceremonies, storyteller and leading performer. He spins the myth of the great love affair that started the moment Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch) first laid eyes on the lost waif Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green). Orpheus may be a humble waiter, but he is also a first-class songwriter. He wins her over with his simple plea–”Come Home With Me”–and soon they are singing the “Wedding Song”. But Eurydice is restless and soon is tempted to stray, and hell seems to be her destination.
Meanwhile in Hadestown, it’s time for the other loving Greek couple Hades (Kevyn Morrow),King of the Underworld and his wife Persephone (Kimberly Marable) to begin their six-month separation. Persephone’s mother would never permit Hades to keep her daughter year-round. She spends Fall and Winter with Hades but come Spring and Summer she returns above ground to make the earth bloom again. So goes the legend. But Hades gets lonely, and he finally indulges his urges and seduces the vulnerable Eurydice.
Orpheus is broken-hearted but discovers there is a back door into hell, and he will attempt anything to get his love back. That sets off the contest of wills that results in a tricky compromise that has become the heart of Orpheus’s legend.
All this is told to a jazz-infused score played by a seven-piece on-stage band led by pianist Nathan Koci. The Fates (Belen Moyano, Bex Odorisio and Shea Renne) function as a Motown-like backup trio but also contribute to the musicality on accordion, tambourine and percussion.
The Workers Chorus provides the heavy lifting and the great dance moves created by David Neuman. The show starts out with the rollicking “Road to Hell” and never slows down. Marable owns the stage as the feisty and fiery Persephone and stops the show with her “Livin’ It Up On Top”. Morrow provides a formidable presence as Hades. Their power and passion overshadow the more restrained Barasch and Green but together they make a dynamic quartet of performers. Kreis’s energy keeps the whole piece moving with his charismatic plalyfullness.
Rachel Hauck’s scenic design, Bradley King’s lighting and the sound design by Kevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz all contribute to a blockbuster evening of entertainment. Michell has created a new musical classic with Hadestown and Chavkin’s vision has brought it to pulsating life.