Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown is a blend of retold Greek myths, written in the rich folk-musical language of the American south, focusing on the stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone.
For those who don’t remember fourth grade social studies class, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice goes something like this: Orpheus is the son of a muse, and is trying to write the most beautiful song in the world: a song so beautiful that it will right all that is wrong in the world. He is in love with Eurydice, a local princess. When she accidentally dies, the distraught Orpheus goes to the Underworld to retrieve his love. There, he makes a deal with Hades, god of the Underworld, allowing the two lovers to return to the land of the living only if Orpheus can trust that Eurydice will follow him back. They almost make it, before a moment of doubt tears everything away and Eurydice is turned to dust.
It’s a wonderful and tragic story. In Hadestown, Orpheus and Eurydice are still in love, but now Eurydice is a poor mortal who makes a deal with Hades to work in the Underworld rather than toil aboveground during a particularly cruel winter. Hades’ side of the story also involves his wife Persephone, played by Kimberly Marbale, who spends half the year in the Underworld, causing winter on Earth, and half her time in the mortal world, bringing summer with her.
Myths make for great big theatrical moments, but don’t reliably create dramatic tension in a way that contemporary musicals often rely on. Mitchell’s libretto takes care of this by giving Hermes, the messenger of the gods played with gusto by Tony-award winner Levi Kreis, the role of narrator and chorus leader. Further explanatory duties fall to the Fates, a beguiling trio performed by Belén Moyano, Bex Odoriso, and Shea Renne.
As such we are left with a show that has some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful moments I have had in a theater. I feel safe to say that the end of Act 1 and Act 2 are both transcendent. However the scenes that stitch together those moments can’t maintain those highest of highs.
These soaring moments feature the incredible talents of this touring cast. Nicholas Barasch’s Orpheus has earth-shattering vocal talents and a “aw shucks” boyishness. Morgan Siobhan Green as Eurydice makes the most of a rather thankless role, giving the character an unexpected coolness. Kevyn Morrow plays a Hades that is at once threatening and deeply sexy.
Hadestown is playing at the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus, 240 S. Broad Street, through February 20, 2022. Tickets can be bought online here.
The Kimmel Cultural Campus requires all patrons aged 5 years or older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. A negative PCR test can be substituted for unvaccinated children aged younger than 5 years. Masks must be worn at all times. Seating is not distanced.