|We’ve come a long way at the Opera House from 2017 when I was threatened with expulsion from the theater for taking a picture of the stage during intermission.|
Not quite two months ago I made my journey back to Broadway and decided to start off with a visit to Hadestown. I’m forever happy that I did but it hadn’t occurred to me at the time that my first chance to see a musical in Boston would also take me to Hadestown. Yet, it did.
So first things first: Citizens Bank Opera House made a few things very clear before people showed up. Proof of vaccination would be required, you had to be masked at all times, and the show was sold out (meaning, if you weren’t comfortable being in a theater with 2600+ other people, you should probably stay home). When I got to the theater, they asked for my picture id and my vaccination card (a picture of it on my phone sufficed) and then I was ushered through security. (Where, oddly, no one did anything. I went through the metal detector but no one went through my bag or wanded me…for literally the first time since I’ve been going there. I know I’m a fifty-year-old woman who looks like that friend of your mom’s but it was weird for the security folks to be all “you’re good; enjoy the show.”)
Anyway, the place was packed (and I got there fairly early). Apparently, a still-ongoing pandemic wasn’t keeping Bostonians out of the theater. Which was fine. I’m vaxxed, masked, and pretty much stayed away from everyone until they opened the doors to be seated.
This brings me to my nitpicks. In New York (and maybe this was just my timing at every show except for the one off-Broadway that I went to) once we got through security checks we were allowed to go right to our seats if we wanted. No hoards of people loitering around in the lobby getting too close to each other. Everyone was free to go be anti-social in their seat until showtime. I liked that. It added, for me, an extra level of security from possibly getting sick.
(An aside: As far as I am aware, I have not had COVID. For over 18 months I pretty much went nowhere but different rooms in my house. I have both my vaccines AND the booster, my flu shot and even a shingles shot, FFS. I DO NOT WANT TO BE SICK. Having written all that, I understand by going out to very public events with lots and lots of people I am voluntarily putting myself at risk. Which is why I enjoy the vaccine and mask requirements at the theater. And which is why the first thing I did when I got back from my NY trip was to get a COVID test.)
So being corralled in the lobby of the Opera House for a good 30-40 minutes wasn’t exactly calm-inducing. Eventually the doors opened up and we were led to our seats. My only other real nitpick was the messaging. In New York, every show has someone with HUGE signs showing you exactly what your mask should look like on your face, and people YELLING that it is MANDATORY to be wearing a mask (over your nose and mouth) at all times unless you are “actively” eating or drinking. At the Opera House, one person walked to the stage holding a sign that looked like it was printed on 8.5 x 11 paper with a picture of a mask on it. That was it. There was an announcement once at the beginning of the show and that was it. (Another aside: no announcement was made about using phones or taking pictures before the show started. There was a picture of a phone with a red line through it on the opposite side of the mask sign, but that was it.)
And the two women who sat diagonally across from me with their masks under their noses for the entire second act got me a little stabby (and they weren’t even together. Just two obnoxious people coincidentally sitting near each other. It was infuriating). Still, I endured. For Orpheus.
Seven paragraphs in and I haven’t even mentioned the show yet. Kimberly Marable, who was my first Persephone in New York, shines again in the role on tour. The entire cast is noteworthy for two things, in my opinion, one being they are an incredibly talented group and the audience LOVED them. But, for me, more importantly, the best part was that not one of them tried to be their Broadway counterpart.
Let me digress again. I saw Book of Mormon in Boston a couple of years back. It was a fun show, I like the music, I left not feeling like it was a waste of an evening. But I was really bugged about the leads in the show. It felt like they were basically doing impressions of Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad and it annoyed the shit out of me. So to watch a show for the third time in less than two years (and the second time in less than two MONTHS) and feel like I was watching something fresh and new was exhilarating.
I imagine there is a tremendous burden to be remarkable put on these actors given how beloved this show is (and given a majority of the original Broadway cast is still on Broadway performing these roles). And instead of giving us a carbon copy of that show, they made it their own. And it was wonderful.
Standouts for me were Nicholas Barasch and Morgan Siobahn Green as Orpheus and Eurydice. I genuinely enjoyed them more than Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada (who are both great in their roles. I just connected more deeply with the characters this time around and the voices on both Barasch and Green are outstanding).
Ultimately, though, I had my eyes on Levi Kreis. Hermes is the character who owns the show. He needs to be a strong and compelling presence on stage and André De Shields is all of that and more. There is no way Kreis doesn’t feel the pressure of stepping into De Shields’ shoes on this tour but you’d never know it from his performance. He absolutely makes the role of Hermes his own. He is categorically NOTHING AT ALL like De Shields and he embraces that. I went in fully expecting to not like him at all and I left feeling a little sorry that we don’t have alternate versions of recordings of him singing Hermes’ songs.
One takeaway about the Boston audience: Both times I’ve seen this show in New York when Orpheus does what Orpheus does (no spoilers) the audience collectively GASPED. The whole theater. Both times. It was an insanely exciting moment to be in…twice. (At one of the performances the guy next to me turned to me and said flatly, since neither of us gasped, “I guess there aren’t a lot of Greek mythology fans here tonight.”) Well apparently that isn’t the case in Boston. When Orpheus did what Orpheus does…there was a smattering of gasps. But seemingly folks were expecting it.
What they didn’t seem to expect was the toast. Quoting myself about the last time I saw the show:
And Orpheus’ toast: “To the world we dream about, and the one we live in now” while powerful on its own, just destroyed the audience (and me. so very much me.) tonight. There was something in the delivery and in Carney’s face that took the breath away from everyone in the theater. I missed a good five minutes of the show after the toast because I was trying so hard to stop sobbing.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect it to hit me that hard…again…and it did. Same deal with the sobbing. This time I was sitting next to two men who 1) didn’t applaud once during the show and 2) literally said to each other “She’s CRYING?” after the toast. But the rest of the audience wasn’t as cold. It was only one of two times that the show got such applause there was a noticeable pause in the action to take it all in. (Which, by now, is probably built into the show, but it’s still effective.)