A twist on the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice
Courtesy of The New York Times
The new musical sensation “Hadestown” had its opening night on Broadway on Wednesday, April 17, after weeks in previews. “Hadestown” is a reimagined version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
In the original story, Orpheus is a poor musician who falls in love with Eurydice, a young woman who ends up dying after having been bitten by a serpent. To reunite with his love, Orpheus travels to the Underworld and is granted his wish by Hades himself. However, there is one condition – when Orpheus and Eurydice leave the Underworld, Orpheus must always walk in front of his love. If he ever turns back to check if she is there, then she stays in the land of the dead.
Only a short distance away from freedom, doubt creeps into Orpheus’s mind. He looks back and sees Eurydice slip away back into the Underworld. This story is a true Greek tragedy, and “Hadestown” was able to successfully portray that quality all while taking place in a different time period and setting.
Rather than being set in ancient Greece, “Hadestown” begins at a bar which also acts as a railroad line. Unlike the Long Island Rail Road, this railroad line is situated, as the song “Road to Hell” aptly implies, on an actual road to hell. This acts as the setting for a majority of Act I, and the general aesthetic of the set is more industrial and post-apocalyptic – a far stretch from the reality of ancient Greece.
From the start of Act I, apart from the different setting, it is clear that “Hadestown” is telling a different story from the one told for hundreds of years. The music is heavily influence by folk music and tales. However, it’s hard to categorize the musical aspects of “Hadestown” into one category because of its use of jazz and soul elements.
In order to integrate it into a more modern age, the musical tells the same general love story but integrates different problems into it that anyone could relate to in today’s social and political climate. In Act II, there is even a song about building a wall to keep the “enemy” out, titled “Why We Build the Wall.” Seem familiar?
The cast of this production is beyond phenomenal and they truly brought this story to life. Reeve Carney plays Orpheus, a dedicated musician who sees the world as it could be. He radiates hope in a dreary setting, and this is only amplified when he meets Eurydice. Eva Noblezada plays Eurydice, an extremely independent young woman who, rather than being bitten by a snake, makes an actual deal with the devil and enters the world of the unliving.
Many movies, shows and musicals have a hard time creating a love connection in the entirety of the production, but Carney and Noblezada were able to show the deep, soulful connection between Orpheus and Eurydice in less than 30 minutes.
While Orpheus and Eurydice are the main characters of this musical, “Hadestown” also follows the relationship between Persephone and Hades. As Greek myth states, Hades took Persephone, daughter of Demeter, down to the Underworld to be his wife, and he allows her to return above ground for six months during the year.
Hades is played by Patrick Page, who is known for his roles as Scar in “The Lion King” and Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” With one of the deepest voices on Broadway, Page perfectly represented the darkness and evil of Hades. His “loving” wife, Persephone, is played by Amber Gray who performed in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.”
Unlike the flowery, gentle Persephone shown in portrayals of the Greek myth, this version of Persephone is bitter and borderline alcoholic. This portrayal draws this ancient myth into a more modern narrative since it doesn’t glamorize this forced love between Hades and Persephone.
This story of Hades and Persephone deeply impacts the relationship between Orpheus and Eurydice. What brought this unlikely duo together was the fact that Eurydice missed the spring. She was looking for any way to bring it back, and Orpheus was coming up with a song that could bring spring back. This song, “Epic II,” is probably the most iconic part of the entire show and will surely stick in the minds of the audience long after they leave the theater.
Similar to “Hamilton,” “Hadestown” has limited dialogue and mostly includes musical numbers to further the plot. Broadway legend André de Shields plays Hermes, who acts as the narrator of this story.
Every single musical number is filled with a passion that completely envelopes the audience and connects them deeper with the show. Until the show was over, everyone watching was completely stuck in a trance – enveloped by the music and visuals.
Unlike many other shows on Broadway, “Hadestown” is really innovative in its visual elements through the movement of the set and the smaller elements that helped immerse the audience into the Underworld.
It may be hard to imagine that a well-known story that has been told many times before has the ability to evoke so much emotion from an audience, but after the performance, there was not a dry eye in the house. In the two and a half hours they performed, Carney, Noblezada and the other supporting actors and actresses were able to make the audience relate to and root for these characters.
“Hadestown” takes a classic Greek myth and turns it into a modern, yet timeless, tale. Every aspect of the production was done flawlessly, which is seldom seen in Broadway productions as of late. “Hadestown” is sure to have a long run on Broadway as it continues to show the audience how the world could be.