Hadestown is an Old Song Sung Again

December 1, 2021 | By Avital Brodski

A road to hell was paved in the Citizen Bank Opera House for two weeks only. From Nov. 2 to 14, you could take a trip down to Hadestown to hear the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s a timeless tale and an everlasting tragedy that has been passed down from ancient Greece. This modern retelling is told with jaunty songs and epic ballads and, like all legends and tales, takes on a new form from those telling it.

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Illustrations by Taylie Kawakami

A unique aspect about this company is that it doesn’t stumble into the Broadway pitfall of trying to recast based on the original actors. Plenty of musicals typecast roles when they go on tour or need replacements on Broadway. However, these actors bring a life of their own to their personas. Instead of mimicking the original cast, the actors are the characters in their own way, making each production unique. As this legend has been told through time, there have been many interpretations and recreations, each bringing a different voice to the song playing on and on.

Hermes, the messenger of the gods, serves as our narrator. Played by Will Mann, he takes on an enigmatic role, guiding Orpheus—and the audience—through the dark. Although we know this story will end with Orpheus loving and then losing Eurydice, Hermes still makes us hopeful that someday that may change. 

Orpheus and Eurydice, two very opposite individuals, come together to balance each other out. Eurydice, played by Morgan Siobhan Green, is a jaded girl. She has had to fight her way through the world and has seen the worst of it. Although she’s been knocked down, she still raises her voice strongly and sings a bittersweet note. She is the realist to Orpheus’ dreamer outlook.

Orpheus, played by the charming Nicholas Barasch, is an innocent optimist. As pure as he starts, the hope he holds for the future does not resonate with his confidence in himself. Using his melodic voice, Orpheus aims to bring back spring, but fails at bringing back Eurydice.

To contrast the lovers, Hades and Persephone serve as cracked reflections of the two. Suffering from love lost, they must learn to love—and live—again with the help of the tragic lovers. Each god plays as a counterpart to the two main characters. Persephone, played by Kimberly Marable, is hopeful like Orpheus. The two truly believe in the power of love and a positive future. However, her pain resonates through her voice. As powerful as she is, her heart has still suffered. 

Hades on the other hand, played by Kevin Morrow, has also been hurt. Instead of internalizing his pain like his wife, he builds a literal wall around Hadestown—his figurative heart—and protects it from anyone on the outside. This sly Hades seeks freedom by maintaining full control of his world and countering an enemy well known throughout the ages: poverty. Similarly, this message resonates through time as the story is told time and time again.
 

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Illustrations by Taylie Kawakami

What makes this play so much more powerful is the contributing voices of The Workers and the set design. Every member of the ensemble adds a completely unique voice to the harmony of this story, making it ever more powerful and poignant. As the set is an open hemisphere, every member of the audience has an almost equal view from wherever they sit. Watchers can experience every aspect of the story even if they are sitting in the back of the balcony. The lighting illuminates the story as well, being used as both a prop and tool. Key actions and moods are paired with specific lighting cues, emphasizing important shifts that add to the storytelling.

A final element that adds to the brilliance of Hadestown is the fates: three unforgiving figures that provide music with both their voices and their individual instruments. Moving through the story but never interfering, they are unbiased yet unforgiving. Played by Shea Renne, Bex Odorisio, and Belén Moyano, they work in conjunction with the beautifully distinctive band to help the viewers navigate the story in a similar fashion as Hermes. As will the real fate, they do not interact with or intervene in the destinies of mortals, however cruel they may be. 

Although this story’s end was decided centuries ago, we still tell it today to both contemplate and celebrate humanity. Viewers are reminded about the fallibility of mortals and their resilience. The retelling also provides hope that one day in the future, Orpheus won’t fail when humanity learns from their mistakes. As we hold onto the world we dream about, we must remember to appreciate the one we live in now. And just as in the tale, this tour reminds us that spring can—and has—come again.