Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hadestown (Broadway)


In an impoverished town, Hermes (T. Oliver Reid) tells the story of his poor ward Orpheus (Reeve Carney), a talented musician who has a gift to give and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada), a hungry waif who has seen the bad things the world has to offer. Every year the swinging tavern anticipates the arrival of Persephone (Amber Gray) who brings along fruits and flowers of spring and summer, a much-desired annual event after the harsh autumn and winter brought about by the other half of the year that she spends in Hadestown with her husband Hades (Patrick Page). As the young lovebirds give in to love and romance, their poverty-stricken reality brings forth some serious challenges, leading her to succumb and receive a one-way ticket on the train to Hadestown. Armed with his lyre and unfinished melody, her lover gatecrashes the party down below and strikes a deal with the God of Death, but will his faith be strong enough to rescue his lover?

Orpheus and Eurydice. We all know the tragic tale. She dies and he literally follows her to hell to bring her back, with the gods cheering him on from up above. The story has always been about hope, yet I never fully understood the moral of the story. Why give him the chance to lead his lover back to the world of the living in the condition that he not look back to see if she’s following? Well, I still don’t have the answer, but my take on it is that it is not just an ode to hope but also to faith. Hope is believing. Faith is trusting. In the end, Orpheus is brimming with the former, but fails on the last hurdle when it comes to the latter.

Don’t get me wrong, having Miss Saigon’s Kim on your theater resumé is not bad at all, but the thing about starring in revivals is no matter how good your performance is, the role will never be yours. Instead, it will always be compared to the original. For Noblezada, Miss Saigon was getting one foot at the door. Hadestown, on the other hand, this is legacy-creating material. Originating the role of Eurydice for both the West End and Broadway and being nominated for a Tony for it, the girl sure has come a long way and is now en route to longevity as far as her musical theater career is concerned.

Not really feeling Carney’s squeaky falsettos and borderline campy portrayal of Orpheus, though. Or perhaps this is just the way the character is written to easily depict naivety onstage? He comes across as a bit creepy and immature, which is probably what has been intended for the boy anyway. In contrast to Noblezada’s crystal clear vocal quality and the swinging 40’s intensity of the Fates’ many choruses, he just disappears in the background as the ensemble shines through.

The duo of Gray’s perpetually drunk Persephone and Page’s Hades is just a force to be reckoned with. She lights up the stage every time she opens her mouth to sing. He, on the contrary, with that deep bass that seems to emanate from the deep bowels of the Earth manages to sound soothing and sinister at the same time. It is simply how you would expect the God of the Underworld to sound like and how a disenchanted wife would act. These two are perfection personified.

In any case, now I know why the admission ticket has been expensive for quite some time now. This reimagining of the classic Greek tragedy is one for the books, transplanting the setting to the Great Depression of the 30’s and taking advantage of the jazz and big band swing representative of the era. The production design leans more on the gritty industrial while the soundtrack relies on the contagious doo wop energy courtesy of the Fates and the workers acting as the chorus. Overall, the result is a hypnotic audiovisual trance anchored on a tale of love, hope, and tragedy.

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