After an 18-month intermission, Broadway is now reopening for business with old favorites such as “Hamilton,” “Lion King,” and “Wicked,” and new shows waiting in the wings such as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Diana.” It’s also the start of a new era as Broadway promises to make progress in diversity, equality, and business practices in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the bullying behavior of now-disgraced producer Scott Rudin.
Personally, I’m glad to finally come back to the theatre, and I was thrilled to see my first show after a long wait: The 2019 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, “Hadestown.” I can tell you this; it was worth the wait and is, in my opinion, one of the best and most haunting love stories performed on Broadway in recent memory.
Set in a dark and murky town, “Hadestown” is based on the classic Greek story of “Orpheus and Eurydice.” Orpheus (Reeve Carney), a waiter in a cafe and a musician, falls in love with Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) and promises her that they will get married after he completes a song to make the season of spring come alive. But when the cold weather causes them to struggle, and Orpheus is still trying to finish the piece, Eurydice decides to go to the underground place known as Hadestown.
Ruling Hadestown is its namesake, the sinister Hades (Tom Hewitt, taking over for Patrick Page until October 31st), and his estranged wife, Persephone (Amber Gray). When Eurydice arrives in the town, she signs her life away to become a worker in Hades’s factory. Orpheus decides to go to Hadestown to rescue Eurydice, but there’s a catch: Once someone signs their life away in the underground, they are forgotten and never to be seen again in the world above.
Leading an exuberant cast, Carney and Noblezada make a terrific couple. As Orpheus’s guardian Hermes, Andre De Shields delivers a dynamic performance, showing quite clearly why he won a Tony for the role two years ago. Hewitt is marvelously twisted as Hades, and Gray gives a bonafide show-stealing performance as Persephone. She even kick-starts the second act with her rocking rendition of “Our Lady of the Underground” and recognizing the hard-working onstage seven-piece band bringing the music and story to life. My kudos also goes out to the female fates and the five-person singing/dancing ensemble for their top-mark work here.
On the production side, Anais Mitchell’s jazzy, folky score and book are fantastic, as are Rachel Chavkin’s direction and David Neumann’s mindblowing rhythmic choreography. In addition, Michael Krass’s ragged costumes, Rachel Hauck’s sets, and Bradley King’s lighting perfectly complement the dark material presented on stage eight times a week.
At one point in the show, Orpheus gives a toast “to the world we dream about and the one we live in now.” Well, I would like to give a toast to Hadestown for being my first post-COVID lockdown theatrical show. I couldn’t have picked a better performance to mark my theatergoing return than this one. It’s a hell of a great show.
“Hadestown” is playing at The Walter Kerr Theatre, on 219 West 48th Street (between 8th Avenue and Broadway) in Manhattan. For tickets, go to seatgeek.com, todaytix.com, or call 888-985-9421.