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Cititour.com Review
Usually, I only tell my enemies to go to hell, but, right now, I’m making an exception. Friends, countrymen, whoever –get thee down to the Walter Kerr Theatre where Anais Mitchell’s incredibly moving and melodic musical, “Hadestown,” is burning up the stage, bursting with ingenuity and intensity. This unusual retelling of the well-known Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice may well not only turn out to be the true cult hit of this theatrical season, but it’s likely to be a major contender at awards time.

While not a stage-to-screen adaptation, like so much of its current musical-theater competition, “Hadestown” does arrive with its own built-in following, both from audiences familiar with Mitchell’s 2010 concept album – which varies from jazz-oriented numbers such as “When the Chips Are Down,” and “Way Down Hadestown” to gorgeous ballads such as “Wait for Me” -- or with its popular 2016 staging at New York Theatre Workshop.

This go-round, however, that production’s director, the incredibly inventive Rachel Chavkin (last represented on Broadway by “The Great Comet of 1812”), has substituted simplicity for spectacle, aided by the invaluable contributions of scenic designer Rachel Hauck, choreographer David Neumann, costume designer Michael Krass and lighting designer Bradley King. Admittedly, some valuable intimacy has been lost in the journey uptown, but this new incarnation greatly benefits from other aspects of its re-conception.

First and foremost, the show’s central couple are a stronger presence than before, thanks to the ethereal-sounding Reeve Carney as Orpheus, a dreamy poet so obsessed with creating a song to get the world back in order that he loses literal sight of his true love, the practical Eurydice (superbly embodied by the iron-lunged yet vulnerable Eva Noblezada), who eventually enters into a terrible bargain to guarantee a “life” full of warmth and sustenance.

Their casting is especially vital given how easily the pair can be overshadowed by the show’s so-called supporting players: the serpent-like and satanic Patrick Page as Hades, the king of the Underworld; the sultry, sexy and utterly sensational Amber Gray as his wife, the conflicted Persephone; the appropriately divine Andre De Shields, equal parts gravity and grace, as the god Hermes (who acts as the piece’s narrator); the electric Jewell Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad as “The Fates,” and a magnetic five-person chorus who command your attention with their every move.

And since the story’s ending isn’t ever really in doubt, Mitchell has wisely given almost equal weight to the story of Hades and Persephone, who (while technically dead) struggle to keep their own love fully alive, echoing the potential future fate of Orpheus and Eurydice. Gray and Page (the only holdovers from the NYTW production) exhibit enormous chemistry and commitment in their scenes together, adding depth (no pun intended) to this fairly simple tale.

Conversely, the show’s quasi-political commentary – Hades is portrayed as a greedy factory owner and Trump-like dictator who controls the world’s resources – feels more than ever like an unnecessary digression. Mitchell may have hoped this storyline, and its accompanying songs, would give the musical extra weight; instead, this section of the show feels heavy-handed and also adds unwarranted length to a work that doesn’t fully justify its 2 1/2-hour running time.

Still, it’s ultimately the striking combination of the cast’s top-notch performances, Chavkin’s stunning stagecraft, and, above all, Mitchell’s captivating score that results in a production that often yields such heavenly results.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Reeve Carney, André De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, Patrick Page, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Kay Trinidad

Open/Close Dates
Opening 4/17/2019
Closing 12/1/2024

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Theatre Info
Walter Kerr Theatre
219 West 48th Street
New York, NY 10036