UNITED STATES—Hadestown, the 2019 Tony-Award winning musical, has hit the Ahmanson, and it is hot. It took Anais Mitchell (Music, Lyrics and Book) 13 years to get it to come to fruition on Broadway, once it was developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin. It garnered eight Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, along with a Grammy, and now, as the pandemic lifts a bit, it is finally on the road. It was an emotional night. I didn’t know how great the impact of seeing a professional live theatre performance would be on me after this way-too-long period of limited contact and isolation that living with Covid has brought upon us.
I was rollicking along with the showstopping number of “When the Chips Are Down,” brilliantly choreographed by David Neumann. And then, pow…tears filled my eyes during “Wait For Me,” a quieter, yet powerful number, with swinging lamps even synched perfectly, the effect like that of being on a sinking ship in a storm. The intricate lighting (Bradley King) and miasmic, vertiginous swirl of the fog, the ever-moving set and its design (Rachel Hauck), luscious vocal arrangements (Liam Robinson) and lush orchestrations, with a taste of New Orleans, and an occasional off-note Honky Tonk smattering (Michael Chorney/Todd Sickafoose), the weathered costumes (Michael Krass). It all drew me in, into the eye of the hypnotic eddy of theatrical art. And then came the Wall. “Why We Build the Wall” was only the second song in the conception of Hadestown, written as early as 2006. Its weight and irony are not lost in closing Act One.
There are just a few small bumps along the journey. The audience doesn’t get to see Andre De Shields, Broadway’s Hermes. From what clips I have seen of him and what I knew of him from my days in NYC, he is an undeniable legend. But although the original cast seems to have been quite spectacular overall, this cast, like pets and children, are all equally lovable or, in their own way, maybe even more special than their predecessors. Levi Kreis surprisingly and confidently does get the moves of Hermes, and he sets the tone suavely. The Fates (Belen Moyano, Bex Odorisio and Shea Renne) blend soul-chilling harmonies with their a cappella tones. Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch), with a piercing tenor that first seems off putting, then gets under your skin and grows on you.
His love Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green) captures both the innocence of youth and the torture and demands of the streets she’s had to survive on alone, and Persephone (Kimberly Marable) is a powerhouse from her first moment on stage. Marable dances like she carries the depths of hell, while reaching for the heavens. Hades’ deep voice (Kevyn Morrow) lifts the rafters. The Workers Chorus (Lindsey Hailes, Chibueze Ihuoma, Will Mann, Sydney Parra, Jamari Johnson Williams) in all their various sepia hues color the stage and the story. The amplification was hotter than I like it, but…well, it is Hades’ town, after all. Go with it. Act Two was not quite as powerful as Act One, but we were already sold, so we sit back and enjoy the ride that the actors continue to take us on, be it Hadestown below or the world above.
Hadestown was “inspired by” the Greek Mythology of Orpheus, a muse of poetry accompanied by his lyre, or guitar in this case. Orpheus falls in love with Eurydice and follows her to the Underworld, ruled by Hades, who is married to Persephone, the goddess of the seasons, flowers, fruit and grain. She is destined to spend half of the year in the world above, where she brings the spring and summer, and half below…when she leaves that same world barren and cold.
These two stories, or relationships, are intertwined as the audience is carried above and below, along with the characters. Hermes conducts the way, and the Fates insightfully give commentary, while the chorus chimes in like the back-breaking proletariats that they are. It is a story that we still want to believe can end happily. We want to hear Orpheus finish his love song. We want to see Eurydice come back to life in his arms, in his love.
We want to see Persephone spring eternal in all her earthly gossamer greenery. But Hermes reminds us, “it’s a sad song, it’s a sad tale, it’s a tragedy. But we sing it anyway.” And it’s in the singing that we find joy. In the staged performance of tragedy, such is fine art. Hadestown is art in its purest form. Worth remembering. Well worth the journey down, as it lifts us up.
Through May 29, 2022
Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre At The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012
Tues.-Fri. at 8pm; Sat. at 2pm and 8pm; Sun. at 1pm and 6:30pm
EXCEPTIONS: NO MONDAY performances/NO 8pm performance Thurs. May 5/NO 6:30pm performance Sun. May 29/ADDITIONAL performance 2pm on Thurs. May 26
TICKET PRICES: $35-$199 (prices subject to change)
TICKETS ONLINE: www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. OR CALL CTG Audience Services: 213-972-4400. OR GO TO BOX OFFICE at The Music Center. GROUP SALES: 213-972-7231
Deaf community information and charge: visit CenterTheatreGroup.org/ACCESS Center Theatre Group
Run Time and Intermission: 2 hours and 30 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.