“Hadestown” making its way to Broadway


Every once and a while, there’s a new piece of media that takes an old concept and turns it on its head. It uses that old concept to reflect many of the fears and desires felt by the people of today.

In 2010, Anaïs Mitchell released a concept album called “Hadestown.” The album was a folk opera retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story from Greek mythology. In 2016, a version for the stage was developed by “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” director Rachel Chavkin with new music by Mitchell.

The musical premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016. A new production will play at the National Theatre in London this year with the show finally making it to Broadway in 2019.

The musical reimagines the Orpheus and Eurydice story in a post-apocalyptic, Great Depression-esque setting. The River Styx, the fabled river in the Underworld, is portrayed as a giant wall that surrounds the titular Hadestown, with Hades himself being the patriarchal ruler.

Orpheus and Eurydice are a struggling young couple. While Orpheus prefers to sing and avoid the reality of the world around him, Eurydice desires comfort and security.

The musical and concept album also features Hades’s estranged wife, Persephone, who takes pity on Orpheus and Eurydice. The story is narrated by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and three women who represent the Fates.

The musical puts the myth in a new light. Although the setting is fictional, it portrays themes of poverty, exploitation and the cost of love in a very poignant way.

The music is rich with beautiful, poetic lyrics. Songs like “Wait for Me” and “Flowers” show Mitchell’s exceptional lyricism. Other songs like “The Road to Hell” and “Our Lady of the Underground” utilize jazz and folk to create an impressive sense of atmosphere.

One of the best things the musical does is give characters like Eurydice and Persephone active presences in their own story.

In the original myth, Eurydice is a passive victim who is sent to the Underworld by cruel fate. In the musical and the album, Eurydice actively chooses to go to Hadestown. Persephone is also given more personality. The musical shows how jaded she has become from being the unwilling wife of Hades.

If you’re already familiar with the original myth, you know how the show will end. But Mitchell’s music and Chavkin’s direction puts the inevitable conclusion in a whole new tragic light. It makes you want to listen to the musical multiple times, just to see if it turns out differently.

Out of all the upcoming Broadway musicals, this one seems to be getting very little attention, which is a shame. There are very few shows that reach the level of poetry and beauty that this one does. Any trip to the Underworld would be worth it to check this one out.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)