Hadestown: Greek Myth Turned Broadway Hit

By: Raizy Neuman  |  September 19, 2019

By Raizy Neuman, Contributing Writer

You’ve probably read Percy Jackson and fallen in love with Disney’s adaptation of Hercules, but have you heard of Hadestown? Racking up a total of eight Tony Awards in June, including Best Musical, Hadestown is a jazzy, 1920’s-inspired retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, intertwined with the myth of Hades and Persephone. The plot of the musical involves Orpheus, a young boy and talented musician, trying to charm a “hungry young girl” named Eurydice (pronounced: yuh-rid-eh-see). However, when Hades tempts Eurydice with the promise of never going hungry again, she agrees to follow him to Hadestown–­­­­ a factory below-ground that somewhat doubles as the Underworld. Little does she know, though, that she can never leave, and upon realizing the horrible life she’d be living in Hadestown, she becomes truly, terrifyingly trapped. Orpheus, of course, won’t give up so easily, and for the rest of the musical, narrated by Hermes (Greek mythology’s messenger god), we watch Orpheus make his way down to Hadestown and desperately try to convince Hades to let Eurydice go. 

Eurydice is a strong character, which is a huge part of what’s made Hadestown, a show based on an old Greek myth, so popular with its modern audience. It takes Orpheus a while to win her over, simply because she has too much pride, and has seen too much, to fall for him so easily. She doesn’t allow herself to be pushed around, not by anyone, and certainly not by a man she just met. Unlike shows like Les Miserablés and Cinderella, the female protagonist here doesn’t just sit around waiting for life to happen around her. She’s starving, so she does something about it, going “way down Hadestown” to improve her quality of life. Even though her choice didn’t end up being the wisest, at least she made one at all. 

Hadestown’s running theme is the importance to “sing it again, and again, and again,” no matter how the ending may turn out. Nearly all other shows on Broadway, and most movies at that, have at least some form of a “happily ever after.” Hadestown argues that the promise of a happy ending isn’t the reason to tell a story, and that hope, above all, prevails.

Hadestown’s stellar cast is led by 73-year-old André de Shields, who plays Hermes. In an interview with CBS This Morning, responding to the question of how he survived 50 years in theater, Shields gave general career advice that applies to all of us as college students: “No, it is not an easy career at all; however, it mustn’t be an easy career, if it’s easy, you aren’t paying dues. One of the reasons that I can perform Hermes with all his histrionics is because I’ve earned him.”

The rest of the principle cast includes Reeve Carney as Orpheus, Eva Noblezada as Eurydice, Patrick Page as Hades, Amber Gray as Persephone, and Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzales-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad as the Three Fates. 

If you search “Hadestown” on Spotify or iTunes, results for three separate albums appear. One album is the show’s concept album, from 2010, another is an album from a brief off-Broadway run with the New York Theatre Workshop in 2017, and the third is the Original Broadway Cast Recording, which came out this past summer. 

If you’re a first-time listener, I’d definitely recommend starting with the Broadway cast recording. Some of my favorites include “Wait for Me” (I and II), “Way Down Hadestown,” “Chant” (I and II), and “Flowers.” If you have the time, of course, go in order and listen to the entire two-hour-long cast recording. It’s well worth it, and may change your perspective on the necessity of happy endings. 

To quote the musical’s first song, “Somebody’s got to tell the tale, whether or not it turns out well.”