Hadestown is a song cycle written by Anais Mitchell. It was first performed in Vermont community theaters and then as a concept album before being developed into a broadway musical with director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812).
Hadestown is a political retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth that’s set in an America of hard times. It’s a must see for Broadway fans!
The story of Hadestown began as a concept album for a musical that would eventually be staged off-Broadway. The show premiered in 2016 and has since moved to Edmonton and London before it opened on Broadway in the Walter Kerr Theatre this year.
Anais Mitchell, a Vermont native, grew up listening to and studying the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, which she reimagines in her Hadestown score, in a Depression-era post-apocalyptic world where everything is out of control. Her music, lyrical and jazzy, has organic New Orleans big band elements that make it feel fresh and vital, even amongst the other musicals of its genre.
Hermes, the divine messenger god, is also the voice of warning in the show’s opening number, “The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice.” He narrates this version of the tragic lovers’ tale with no-nonsense honesty and a touch of sass. Hermes warns of the calamity that will come, but also offers hope that Orpheus and Eurydice’s love can survive the rigors of this underworld.
Hadestown is a musical that tells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The story is set in a hard-hitting time, combining Greek mythology with the Great Depression, and it’s steeped in folk, pop and work-song.
The musical began as a concept album in 2010 that Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812) turned into a stage show. After a successful Off-Broadway run and productions in Edmonton and London, it opened on Broadway in March of 2019.
A folk opera that retells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice through music, Hadestown has won eight Tony Awards including best musical and best original score, and anyone can see the show on the Hadestown tour. It’s an enthralling fusion of folk and jazz music that pits nature against industry, faith against doubt, and love against death.
The score, which features airy folk-pop for the lovers and livelier jazz idioms for the denizens of the underworld, feels distinct and authentic by Broadway standards. And the visuals, a re-creation of the French Quarter’s balconied architecture and a bottomless abyss that swallows souls, are stunning.
Hadestown is a musical of metaphors that balances seriousness and humor, and there are a lot of lyrical moments that make the story come to life. Among the most notable ones are Eurydice’s songbird metaphors in “Hey, Little Songbird” and Hades’s enlisting of Persephone to run a speakeasy behind his back in “Our Lady of the Underground.”
It’s no wonder that this musical became such a success on Broadway: It’s an original telling of two Greek myths. It’s also a show with lyrics and music that are both beautiful and profoundly relevant.
Anais Mitchell wrote many of the songs for hadestown, beginning in Vermont in 2006 and continuing in 2010. She describes her writing style as a hybrid of experimental theatre and folk, with emphasis on poetry and emotions rather than perfect rhyme and clarity.
Anais Mitchell’s sung-through musical Hadestown has evolved into a star-studded concept album and a live concert tour, Off Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, Edmonton and London. And each time, it’s gotten better.
This version of Mitchell’s reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, adapted for the stage by her and Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), veers from the traditional Greek story by setting it in what some critics have called “a post-apocalyptic Depression-era, Dust Bowl America.”
Orpheus and Eurydice live in a small restaurant where they write music, while Hades works in an underground factory. But as winter approaches, Hades sends Persephone back to her former home against her wishes. As she travels, she sings of her rage at the treatment she’s receiving and of the love she still feels for him.