Review: ‘Hadestown’ takes an alluring and melodic journey to the underworld

Robert Roffulo

“Raise a cup to the world we dream about, and the one we live in now,” Orpheus toasts in a lyrical scene of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s retelling of two intertwined Greek myths. And so we shall because the message in Mitchell’s soulfully poetic musical, whose national tour landed Tuesday at […]

“Raise a cup to the world we dream about, and the one we live in now,” Orpheus toasts in a lyrical scene of “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell’s retelling of two intertwined Greek myths.

And so we shall because the message in Mitchell’s soulfully poetic musical, whose national tour landed Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, is sorely needed. It is about the ability to create a better, freer world through creativity and imagination even as people are blindly subjugated by encrusted patterns.

In this milieu, a melody can bring spring to a wanting landscape and a song can soften a calcified heart.

Mitchell’s show, which won eight Tony awards in 2019, offers a trip to the underworld that runs, musically, through New Orleans. It starts with the brassy opening number, “Road to Hell,” and includes a churchy, clap-along “Way Down Hadestown,” a hypnotic “Hey, Little Songbird” and the risible “Our Lady of the Underground.”

Twinned to Rachel Chavkin’s butter-smooth direction and David Neumann’s supple choreography, these numbers take us ever so deeply into the story of Orpheus, who is literally prepared to go to hell for his lover, Eurydice. We also see Hades and Persephone as their older parallels.

It is true that this Broadway tour doesn’t have the stars who stamped their signatures on some of the parts in New York, including Andre de Shields, the stylish theater legend who played narrator Hermes, or Patrick Page as thunder-voice Hades himself.

But this cast is quite affecting. Levi Kreis owns the stage as Hermes, stepping into the grace and command that de Shields created and making it his playful own.

Kimberly Marable, who depicted multiple roles in the show at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, sparkles as the neglected wife of the devil. Using expressive gestures and subtle vocal intonations, Marable was a whirl of wit and empathy.

Kevyn Morrow ain’t chopped liver, either, as the ruler of the nether realms. In his shades and bass-baritone vocal stylings, he gives Hades the cool and swagger of Isaac Hayes with a booming delivery that resonated to the rafters.

Perhaps the cutest surprises are the young actors playing the poor Orpheus and good-hearted Eurydice. Chibueze Ihuoma has a tender falsetto and plays the electric guitar well, but he makes the role his own, not doing an impression of Reeve Carney, who, truth be told, was the one weak link on Broadway.

Sydney Parra’s highly relatable Eurydice is a young woman in search of steadiness and structure. Parra injects heart and affecting emotion on her quiet numbers, including “Flowers,” even if she loses her command when she starts to belt.

Director Chavkin stages the show with propulsion and verve, using a turntable and fog to evoke the journey. Choreographer Neumann makes good use of the chorus of workers and the three soulful Fates (Belen Moyano, Bex Odorisio and Shea Renne). The onstage musicians are capably led by pianist Cody Owen Stine.

“Hadestown” does have one nit. In trying to totally immerse all our senses in, well, hell, lighting designer Bradley King overuses the floodlights on the audience, blinding us. Hmm, excuse me, sir.

Still, the production leaves an indelible question, and one that may keep many a pastor up at night: If this journey to hell is going to be so gorgeously melodic, who wouldn’t want to go?

‘Hadestown’
Who: Music, lyrics and book by Anaïs Mitchell. Directed by Rachel Chavkin.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.; 8 p.m. Fri.; 2 and 8 p.m. Sat.; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $40-$159. hennepintheatretrust.org
Protocol: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test. Masks required.

https://www.startribune.com/hadestown-takes-an-alluring-and-melodic-journey-to-the-underworld/600156502/

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