Hadestown: The Myth. The Musical is a 2016 stage musical adaptation of the 2010 folk opera concept album by the same name by Anaïs Mitchell. It premiered off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop on May 6, 2016 and ran through July 31. The show was developed for the stage and directed by Rachel Chavkin.
Like the original concept album, Hadestown tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus journeys to the underworld to rescue his fiancée Eurydice.
As in the 2010 album, Hadestown adapts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to a Great Depression-era inspired post-apocalyptic setting. The musical opens with the three Fates describing the setting ("Any Way the Wind Blows"), after which Hermes, the narrator, enters to introduce each of the characters ("Road to Hell"). The stage empties, leaving only Orpheus and Eurydice. The two introduce themselves to each other, and Orpheus asks Eurydice to marry him ("Come Home With Me"). Eurydice is doubtful, since they both live in poverty and she wants a life of stability. Orpheus persuades her by telling her that his music will provide for them ("Wedding Song").
After an interlude in which Orpheus tells the story of Hades and Persephone ("Epic (Part I)"), Persephone enters to celebrate the summertime with Orpheus and Eurydice ("Living It Up On Top"). Orpheus makes a toast to Persephone and expresses hope for his future with Eurydice, who reflects on her growing love for Orpheus despite her independence ("All I've Ever Known"). The two promise to stay with each other no matter what hardships they face.
Winter comes, and along with it a train to bring Persephone back to Hadestown – Hades' underground factory. Orpheus and Eurydice watch as Persephone voices her misery at having to return to the factory, while the Fates appear to praise Hadestown's riches. Orpheus condemns Hades' treatment of his workers, but Eurydice is intrigued ("Way Down Hadestown"). As winter progresses, Orpheus continues to write music while Eurydice urges him to work so they can have food and shelter. At the same time, Hades and Persephone fight about the decline of their own relationship ("Epic (Part II)/Chant").
Hades leaves the factory to find someone who will appreciate the safety and comfort of Hadestown. He comes across Eurydice and asks her to join him in Hadestown ("Hey Little Songbird"). The Fates arrive, and urge Eurydice to put her survival first ("When the Chips are Down"). With Orpheus away working on his music, Eurydice decides to follow Hades to the factory ("Gone, I'm Gone"). When Orpheus returns to look for Eurydice, Hermes tells him that she's gone to Hadestown and tells Orpheus how to get there without using Hades' train ("Wait For Me"). Eurydice arrives at Hadestown, and begins her work on the wall surrounding it ("Why We Build the Wall").
Following an entr'acte where Persephone introduces herself and the band, and serves drinks to the audience ("Our Lady Of The Underground"), we see Eurydice realizing the true consequences of her choice to come to Hadestown: she can never leave unless Hades chooses to let her go ("Way Down Hadestown II"). After signing her contract with Hades, she sings of her regrets ("Flowers").
Orpheus, having made his way to Hadestown following Hermes' directions, finds Eurydice and begs her to come home and marry him. Eurydice and the Fates tell Orpheus that she legally belongs to Hades and can't return without his permission ("Come Home With Me II"). Hades arrives, and Orpheus confronts him. Hades asserts that he does own Eurydice, and attempts to chase Orpheus off his property ("Papers"). The Fates surround an exhausted Orpheus and tell him to give up on saving Eurydice ("Nothing Changes"). Orpheus sings of his despair at losing Eurydice, which Persephone overhears ("If It's True"). Touched by Orpheus' music, Persephone tells Hades to let Eurydice go ("How Long"). Hades offers to give Orpheus a chance to sing for him ("Chant II"). Orpheus sings a version of the song he'd been writing when Eurydice left, reminding Hades of his love for Persephone ("Epic (Part III)"). Hades is affected more than he had expected, and the Fates explain his dilemma: if he keeps Eurydice captive, she becomes a martyr, but if he lets her go, then he loses his authoritarian control over the factory ("Word to the Wise"). He decides to leave their fate in Orpheus' hands: the couple can leave together, but Orpheus has to lead them out. If he turns to see if Eurydice is following him, she will belong to Hades forever ("His Kiss, The Riot").
Hermes explains Hades' decision to Orpheus and Eurydice, who discuss all of their doubts with the hope of being able to trust one another on their way out ("Promises"). Orpheus begins the walk out of Hadestown with Eurydice following him, guided in part by the Fates ("Wait for Me II"). Orpheus makes it right up until the very end of the journey, when he is overcome with doubt and turns to look for Eurydice – only to see that she's been right behind him all along, thus condemning her to stay in Hadestown forever ("Doubt Comes In"). Hermes leads Eurydice back to Hadestown ("Road to Hell II"), and the show closes with Persephone raising a toast to Orpheus ("I Raise My Cup").
New York Theatre Workshop, New York, USA - Summer 2016
All songs are adapted from Mitchell's album, aside from "Any Way the Wind Blows" from her album Xoa, except where noted.
†Not included on Original Cast Recording.
‡ Original material
Citadel Theatre - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - Fall/Winter 2017
Royal National Theatre - London, England
Hadestown was performed as a stage production in Anaïs Mitchell's home state of Vermont several times in 2006 and 2007 prior to the 2010 album release. Mitchell described the first incarnation of the show as "a D.I.Y. theatre project." The creative team included primary orchestrator/arranger Michael Chorney and original director/designer Ben t. Matchstick, as well as a cast drawn from local artists in Vermont.In her search for a director, Mitchell sought out Rachel Chavkin in 2012 after watching a production of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 directed by Chavkin. The 15 new songs were developed after Mitchell and Chavkin discussed gaps in the album's story line. In the transition from concept album to stage musical, Mitchell wrote an additional 15 songs and added dialogue to clarify the story line and deepen characterization. Michael Chorney created the primary orchestrations and arrangements, with Todd Sickafoose contributing additional/co-arrangements and orchestrations. Hadestown premiered at New York Theatre Workshop for an initial run from May 3 through July 3, 2016, but was later extended due to popular demand through July 31. The production starred Damon Daunno as Orpheus, Nabiyah Be as Eurydice, Amber Gray as Persephone, Patrick Page as Hades, Chris Sullivan as Hermes, and Lulu Fall, Jesse Shelton, and Shaina Taub as the Fates.On October 14, 2016, an EP was released featuring four songs from the musical, recorded live on June 28 and 29, 2016. A full live album was released on October 6, 2017.Hadestown was presented in an intended pre-Broadway run as part of the 2017-18 season at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Rachel Chavkin once again served as director, with performances scheduled for November 11 - December 3, 2017, with Amber Gray and Patrick Page reprising their roles from NYTW. The production was presented in collaboration with Mara Isaacs and Dale Franzen, who produced the Off-Broadway run. The NYTW production was also featured in the award-winning documentary series Working in the Theatre produced by the American Theatre Wing.Ahead of a 2019 Broadway transfer, Hadestown is being performed in the Olivier Theatre of the National Theatre in London. Making its UK debut, it will run from November 2, 2018 to January 26, 2019. The production team includes Rachel Hauck for scenic design, Michael Krass for costume design, Bradley King for lighting design, Nevin Steinberg for sound design, David Neumann for choreography, and Liam Robinson for musical direction. Patrick Page, Amber Gray and Reeve Carney are reprising their performances in the National Theatre production, joined by Eva Noblezada, André De Shields, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Rosie Fletcher, and Gloria Onitiri.Hadestown will open on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre, with previews beginning on March 22, 2019 and opening night set on April 17, 2019.
Hadestown received generally positive critical reviews. The New York Times described the Off-Broadway production as "inventive" and "gorgeously sung," praising its simplicity and intimacy. The Hollywood Reporter described the added dialogue as "wince-inducing" but favored its high energy and immersive staging. Several reviews drew parallels linking the song "Why We Build the Wall" with Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, though the song predates the campaign.
Awards and nominations