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Photo: Joan Marcus

Cititour.com Review
Usually, I only tell my enemies to go to hell, but I’m making an exception. Friends, countrymen, whoever –get thee down to New York Theatre Workshop where Anais Mitchell’s remarkably diverting musical, “Hadestown” is a true hit-and-myth affair. A retelling of the famed tale of Orpheus and Eurdyice, this highly original piece has been directed with great flair by the talented Rachel Chavkin (soon to be represented on Broadway by “The Great Comet of 1812”).

Chavkin ensures that we are immersed fully in this captivating tale, since the cast often stands and dances before us (and even interacts with a few of us). But part of the credit for this staging’s success belongs to scenic designer Rachel Hauck, who has reconfigured NYTW into a multi-level thrust space, dominated by a large tree, with the seven-piece band at the back of the auditorium and the audience seated on wooden chairs overseeing the action.

We are guided through the story’s action by three Fates (the divine Lulu Fall, Jessie Shelton, and Shaina Taub) and the god Hermes, superbly embodied by the magnetic Chris Sullivan, a large man with slightly surprising terpsichorean grace and an appropriately booming voice. He works for Hades, god of the underworld and overseer of Hadestown (a factory town full of soulless, unhappy workers), given appropriate fire and fierceness by the great Patrick Page.

Hades is also husband to the anything-but-dead Persephone (the dazzling Amber Gray in what is sure to be one of the year’s most memorable performances), who spends half the year down below and half above, where she meets the impractical poet-troubadour Orpheus (a somewhat wan if adorable Damon Daunno, whose remarkable falsetto is nevertheless often jarring) and the innocent Eurydice (a wonderful, strong-voiced Nabiyah Be).

Tired of poverty and Orpheus’ seeming lack of caring, Eurydice is tempted down to Hadestown, unaware of the terrible bargain she has made for warmth and sustenance. A lovelorn Orpheus eventually comes and bargains with Hades to return her to life. Does it end the way the story always does? Come down and find out.

Of course, the plot’s not truly the thing here; Mitchell’s magnificently varied score is the main attraction. The 35-year-old composer (who first released this music as concept album) is known in some circles as “the queen of American folk music,” but she seems equally comfortable penning tunes in New Orleans jazz and southern blues modes. (Such songs as “When the Chips Are Down,” “Way Down in Hadestown” and “Road to Hell” still linger in the memory). More importantly, each piece of the mostly sung-through score works beautifully in this theatrical setting.

I won’t be surprised if a Broadway transfer eventually ensues. (The show would fit perfectly into Circle in the Square). But don’t wait; buy a ticket now. Remember, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Nabiyah Be, Damon Daunno, Lulu Fall, Amber Gray, Patrick Page, Jessie Shelton, Chris Sullivan, Shaina Taub

Open/Close Dates
Opening 9/1/2021
Closing 9/1/2024

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Theatre Info
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003