Friday, December 20, 2019

Hey Little Songbird (Hadestown Review)

I did my Spotify wrapped list the other day and Anaïs Mitchell was my most played artist of the year and Hadestown is my most played album. Honestly I'm not surprised. I am obsessed with this musical. This is pretty up there with my obsession with Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (if you haven't heard of that musical, please listen to the cast recording immediately).

I first heard about this show back in 2016 through Amber Gray's bio in Great Comet, as she was in the workshops and off broadway run of Hadestown but didn't think much of it until I saw that they were doing a pre-Broadway run in Toronto. Then I started to look more into it, but again didn't think much of it. I thought the concept would be interesting to see and just decided that it was tragic that I didn't know about it when it was off-Broadway.

Then they announced a London run with Eva Noblezada joining the cast as Eurydice. Now I'm a huge Eva Noblezada supporter after seeing her performance in Miss Saigon, so I decided to look into the musical again and actually saw this time that their was a live cast recording of the off-Broadway run available, so I listened to it and immediately fell in love. I knew immediately that I needed this show to go to Broadway. After talks about it trying to come to Broadway in the near future, it was shortly after they started their London run, I believe, that they announced that it would be transferring to Broadway after they completed the run. I was ecstatic and told my mom immediately and told her to listen to the cast recording.

When the show first began previews on Broadway, it started to get a lot of buzz around Twitter from the Broadway community. My mom was already planning a trip up to NYC to see some of the ballets during ABT's spring season and we decided that we would also see Hadestown while she was here, but we thought about doing rush tickets for it. After we started seeing the buzz on Twitter and seeing that preview performances were being sold out, we decided it would be best to go ahead and purchase tickets to the show for the end of June. We knew we made the right decision after we saw the stellar reviews the show received and the 14 nominations it received for the Tony Awards.

Hadestown is a folk rock musical based on the greek mythological story of Eurydice and Orpheus. Orpheus is the son of Apollo with the gift of music who meets and falls in love with Eurydice at first sight. In the original tale,Eurydice is out in the woods with the nymphs and gets bitten from a snake and dies from the snake bite. For the musical, she is trying to help Orpheus and herself survive the cold winter and ended up taking an offer from Hades for survival and goes to Hadestown. Once Orpheus hears of Eurydice's death, he finds a way to sneak into Hadestown to rescue Eurydice. Once Hades realizes Orpheus's plan, he makes Orpheus sing for him to prove what he says about being the most talented musician. Orpheus sings the completed song, which is the story of Hades and Persephone. Moved by the song, Hades and Persephone decide to resolve the problems they were having and Hades decides to let Orpheus and Eurydice leave with one condition. Orpheus has to trust that Eurydice is with him by them leaving in a straight line and Orpheus can't turn around. As he starts the journey up to the earth, the fates start to bring doubt into Orpheus and at the final second turns around and finds Eurydice behind him, condemning her to be in Hadestown for eternity.

I am a huge greek mythology fan, I even took a class on mythology in high school the first year it was offered and my favorite genre of music is folk rock, so I was immediately sold on this show. Everything about this show is spectacular. This is some of the best performances that I have seen on Broadway pretty much since Great Comet of 1812, so it's no surprise that they are both directed by the fantastic Rachel Chavkin, earning her a well-deserved Tony Award for this show.

When you walk into the Walter Kerr theatre, there is no lobby area so you go straight into the theatre itself. The set design for the show is very simple but different. The inspiration for the set is the Preservation Hall in New Orleans and just gives a rustic vibe to it that helps set the tone for the show. Now when I saw the double turn table, my initial thought was no another double turn table, which has become popular for the stage after Hamilton opened. However, what is really cool about this set is that the center circle actually goes up and down, representing the ascending and descending from hell. The way the set moves throughout the show is fascinating. The movement of the set from above ground to Hadestown was so captivating, I honestly think I forgot watch what was going on with the show.

One spectacular element to the set is the swinging lights from the top of the theatre. The way they use these lights is incredible, as can be seen from their Tony award performance here. I honestly believe this was my favorite part of the show, but also how the used the stage lights in general. Every Tony Award won for the technical side of the show is well deserved because of the innovation created for the show to create the atmosphere and tone of the show.

This show is very ensemble heavy and they deserve their own recognition apart from the main cast. The background vocals they do are top notch. If you want to see a great example of how each ensemble has a part, watch this video from CBS This Morning. I get chills every time I watch it. This clip showcases every member of the show and their vocal skills. Every member of the cast carries the show, and I love shows like this because for some shows it just feels like the ensemble fades into the background until there is a need for a group dance number or something similar to that. The ensemble cast includes Malcolm Armwood, Afra Hines, Timothy Hughes, John Krause, Kimberly Marable, T. Oliver Reid, Jessie Shelton, Ahmad Simmons and Khaila Wilcoxon.

When it's a smaller ensemble cast, it always feels more intimate and you can really feel everyone playing off each other and the feeling of how close the cast is through their performance on the stage. Leading the ensemble cast are the three fates, played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzales-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad. In the video I linked above, they get to showcase their powerhouse vocals, but my favorite song for them is their number "Nothing Changes". This number is a trio a cappella score that gives a break in the score between the climax and gets the audience ready to move into the finale of the show.

Andre De Shields performs the role of Hermes. Hermes acts as the narrator to the story, telling the story to the audience, but he is also there to watch over Orpheus and guide him in the right direction. Earning a Tony Award for his performance, Andre is on the stage for a majority of the show, it not the entire show helping it guiding along. At the end, he explains to the audience about the message of the story and how no matter how much we wish we could change the story from being a tragedy, the story will always be the same, but that it is is an example of a love story for those who try.

Reeve Carney performs the role of Orpheus. He portrays the role of Orpheus as a naive boy who wants to use his talent for good. As the typical love hero, he tries to do whatever he can to be with the one he loves, as one who believes in true love and love at first sight. What I also love is the way Reeve shows the struggles and doubts that he begins to have as they start to make their way out of Hadestown. It's interesting to see how determined he was at rescuing Eurydice, but then begins to have the struggle of whether or not she feels the same way he does. It shows how human he actually is, even though he is technically a demigod.

Eva Noblezada proves she's has powerhouse vocals in the role of Eurydice. I first saw her when she ripped my heart out in Miss Saigon with both her vocals and her performance of Kim and I was so excited to learn she was coming back to Broadway with this show. While Miss Saigon is a more classic role, I love that with Hadestown she gets the opportunity to showcase her range even more, especially in the numbers "Chant" and "Wait For Me (Reprise)". She portrays Eurydice who has struggled for most of her life and is the more practical one of the pair. Hades offers her a deal at a moment of weakness for her, struggling to find wood and stay warm during the winter and that weakness ends up winning and she takes his deal, only to regret it soon after. In my opinion, Eurydice is the most human of all the characters and the most relatable. She's just trying to survive all the hardships that are given to her, but wants to be with Orpheus.

Amber Gray portrays the role of Persephone. What to say about Amber's performance but how versatile an actress she is. After seeing her as Helene in The Great Comet of 1812 four times, I honestly thought I would compare Persephone to that role, but honestly Amber is such a great performer that she really becomes each of the characters and keeps them separate from each other. Amber also has the way of being able to make her voice fun and light, but also more soulful and sadness when needed. Amber has such a strong stage presence whenever she is on, especially during her numbers, "Livin' It Up on Top" and "Our Lady of the Underground", where she breaks down down the fourth wall to introduce the band to the audience.

Patrick Page portrays the role of Hades. Y'all, I am obsessed with Patrick Page's voice if that is possible ever since I heard him singing "Hellfire" on the cast recording of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hades is the character that goes through the most development throughout the show. He is shown as the stereotypical idea of Hades, as a villain who is seen as heartless and with a thick skin, but when Orpheus sings the song he created, which is actually a poem about the love story of Hades and Persephone, he shows that he does have a heart. He is then faced with the dilemma of wanting to be a kind-hearted person towards Orpheus and Eurydice, but not lose the tough guy image he created. This is how he created the test of Orpheus trusting that Eurydice will follow out of Hadestown with him. Some of his numbers that stick out to me are "Hey, Little Songbird" and "Why We Build the Wall".

I could go on and on about how much I loved this show and want to see if over and over again, but honestly, it would never end. There is so much about this show that's revolutionary to Broadway and I feel like it's one of those shows that you can see over and over again and find something new that was missed the first time you saw it.

I was talking to my aunt about the show the other day, and one thought that came to mind was that The Great Comet of 1812 walked so that Hadestown could run. As much as I absolutely love Great Comet and miss it so much, I don't everyone was quite ready for a show that was so different to what was typically seen on Broadway, but it helped break down the barriers for a show like Hadestown to come around 2 1/2 years later on Broadway and pick up nine Tony Awards, including Best New Musical.

Hadestown is currently playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre and will be starting a national tour in 2020 in New Orleans, LA. You can also listen to the full cast recording on all major streaming services including the off-Broadway recording and the original concept album that Anaïs Mitchell released.


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