The classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice has inspired art and captured people’s attention since its creation in Classical Greece. It is a story considered to be timeless, resonant, and moving. First and foremost, what makes this story all of these is that it is about love, and love evokes powerful emotions. Paired with the theme of love is an equally powerful theme of loss. Combined is a tragic love story, a formula well utilized by many written and told tales that followed suit in history. Due to its appeal to emotions, many artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers took it into their own hands to make their own spins of the story. It became a creative outlet, which, in turn, continued its prominence in popular culture.
Among the modern twists of Orpheus and Eurydice is the prolific Hadestown. The folksy stage musical reflects the unending limbo of work and exploitation many people experience today. It tries to remedy such issues with the pureness of love. However, it sparks questions about its effectiveness. The musical is among the freshest on Broadway, and since it is a hit, a national tour has commenced. See this show, and venture down below to the underworld. You can find the gates to Hadestown at The Stranahan Theatre in February. Enjoy great music while you are at it.
“Hadestown is a triumphant, timely retelling of an age-old myth.” – The Globe and Mail
“The tale of ‘Hadestown’ deserves to be told again and again.” – Revue
The person behind the haunting tale of Hadestown is Anaïs Mitchell, who was first a songwriter before becoming a playwright. Her career as a folk musician took off in 2003, and three years later, she started to conceptualize her “folk opera” based on the Classical Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice. She chose this tale because she connected with the character of Orpheus. When she started her solo career as a musician, she was optimistic and enthusiastic about creating music despite facing high walls of challenges. She felt that Orpheus was similar to her, a dreamer and an optimist who faced the hardships of life.
In 2006, at the age of 25, Mitchell spearheaded the staging of her musical at their small town in Vermont. The production was directed by Ben Matchstick, and the cast consisted of her as Eurydice and her friends, who are primarily singers and band players rather than actors. They all went on to perform the show with so much heart, and Mitchell was very proud of it.
“We had very little time or money to prepare for the productions, but everyone kind of came at it with their whole passion, and it was very magical, even back then. This early version left more to the audience’s imagination, but it felt very special at the time,” says Mitchell in an interview with Broadway Direct.
In the following years, Mitchell felt her work on Hadestown was not going anywhere. That was when she decided to release the soundtrack as an album. This occurred in 2010, and she worked with Vermont folk artists. Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Ben Knox Miller (The Low Anthem), and The Haden Triplets contributed their voices to the tunes. The Hadestown album was well-received by critics. Its potential was finally seen. From here on out, the musical’s Broadway breakthrough was about to begin.
Two years after the album came out, Mitchell started to be in touch with director Rachel Chavkin. Chavkin fell in love with the premise and agreed to join the development team. Both Mitchell and Chavkin then revised the musical, adding songs and dialogues.
This musical’s version of the classic tale is reminiscent of that of the Great Depression. Eurydice and Orpheus are experiencing famine. Orpheus dreams of overcoming such hardship through his talent in music. On the other hand, Eurydice is shackled by their circumstance and has to be practical. She is compelled to give up her aspirations. Nonetheless, when the two fell in love, both were supportive of each other. One time, when hunger and cold are at their strongest, Eurydice meets Hades, who is looking for new workers for his underground factory. Without a choice, she decided to agree and sign a contract. As her life fades away, she mourns what she could have achieved and how her love will receive this. After receiving the news that Eurydice is in Hadestown, Orpheus decides to rescue her.
In this musical, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is the relationship of Hades and Persephone. Hades, throughout the musical, is portrayed as this stoic man who seems to have lost his past fire. Persephone does not understand her husband, and she is not sure if they will still mend their relationship.
Thirty-four songs are in the final rework of the musical from the original 20. The first act has 16 songs and the second act has 18. Songs like “Any Way the Wind Blows,” “Livin’ it Up on Top,” “Hey, Little Songbird,” “When the Chips Are Down,” Our Lady of the Underground,” “Word to the Wise,” “We Raise our Cups,” “Word to the Wise” and “Wait for Me (reprise)” bring the storytelling to another level.
After the show was completed, Hadestown went Off-Broadway in 2016 and then transferred to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway in 2019. The musical was an instant hit when it premiered on Broadway. It consistently had sold-out shows. The success was acknowledged by the Tonys, which gave them 13 nominations (the most during the 2019 awards). The production won eight awards. The next year, it bagged the award for “Best Musical Theater Album” at the Grammy Awards.
The Stranahan Theater is where the story will be told this coming love month. The gates to the underworld are open from February 20 to February 25. The cast will tell the tale with flair. The people behind the characters will be Lana Gordon as Persephone, Will Mann as Hermes, J. Antonio Rodriguez as Orpheus, Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades, Amaya Braganza as Eurydice, and Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson, and Hannah Schreer as Fate.
To witness this extraordinary tale, click the “Get Tickets” link to reserve your tickets.