There really isn’t anything to say about Hadestown that hasn’t already been said. It’s an original, gorgeous production that highlights the talents of every person on the stage.
I actually had no desire to see Hadestown originally. The subject didn’t grab me; the hype around it turned me off (I’ve been burned before by other over-hyped forms of entertainment) and even their performance at the 2019 Tony Awards, while magnificent, didn’t get my juices flowing at the idea of seeing it on Broadway. I figured it’d end up touring and if seeing Hamilton that way was good enough for me, seeing Hadestown that way would work too.
But life has a way of tossing in a surprise now and then and while I was making plans for this weekend trip I came across a ticket for Hadestown that was in the orchestra and on the aisle (my favorite spot in any theater) that wouldn’t cost me the price of a small car – so I jumped on it.
And I’m so happy that I did.*
One quick note about the Walter Kerr Theatre: The ladies room is on the second floor. I don’t know what the second floor looks like because I didn’t have to make the trip, but it is small enough that the line for the ladies room during intermission went all the way down the stair across the entire width of the theater. I make it a point to never use the restroom during intermission at ANY show because it takes too long and it irritates the hell out of me to see the long ladies room line while the line to the men’s room is practically non-existent. But the folks at the Walter Kerr know what’s what. For the entirety of intermission you could hear people yelling to the ladies room line to stay in the line. “I PROMISE you you’ll get to use the ladies room without missing the beginning of Act II!” voices kept yelling. And sonofabitch if everyone wasn’t relieved and back in their seats by Act II.
|The stage is immediately striking and somewhat understated considering the explosion of talent that took it over.|
If you’ve read anything about this show it will be unsurprising to read again that Tony winner AndrÃ© De Shields runs away with the show. Every second he was on stage, even when he wasn’t singing, I was entranced by him. Every movement he makes, every sound coming from that golden throat, is a gift to be privy to. The entire cast was phenomenal. With the exception,for me, of Reeve Carney who I understand to be a good actor and singer but who was practically wallpaper in this production. White wallpaper surround by flaming red roses all around him. I wanted to love him and his character but I didn’t. And for that reason the climax didn’t hit me as strongly as it did everyone around me. (Without giving away spoilers I’ll just say that there are a lot of people in the world, many of them at the theater with me that night, who don’t have a clue what the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is and how it ends. I can’t remember hearing so many – and such loud – gasps at a show I’ve been to live.)
I’m fortunate enough to have seen almost the entire original Broadway cast. Instead of seeing Amber Gray as Persephone (ironically the one actor I was told before I went that I HAD to see in the production) the night I was there we got her understudy Kimberly Marable. I’m sure that I missed something in not getting to see Amber Gray but I’ll never know or have it bother me because Kimberly Marable brought the house down every moment she was on stage. People were genuinely SCREAMING for her DURING the show. It was a fantastic appreciation of an actor I’m sure many were originally disappointed to learn would be performing that night.
I saw Hadestown on a Sunday night. It was the last show of my weekend and even with my not getting attached to Orpheus, I left the theater SOBBING. (Thanks mostly to Mr. De Shields.) A couple followed me out of the theater to ask me what I thought and we spent a five-minute walk saying completely ridiculous things like “there is not way to explain to people how good this is.” We weren’t wrong, though.
*(edited to add) Hadestown turned out to be the last show I saw on Broadway before COVID-19 shut everything down. I feel extremely fortunate to have been one of the people who got to see this brilliant production before everything went to, well, hell.