The musical “Hadestown” has an upbeat opening. Characters looking somewhat disheveled joyfully prance across the stage to audience applause. A gentleman looking stunningly suave in a silver suit walks through the set against a background that feels dark and unsavory. Hermes, the silver-suited man, played by Nathan Lee Graham, is the audience’s guide. He is a wise sage that knows the past and can figure out the future, or can he? These moments set the scene for the eight-time Tony-winning production of “Hadestown.” It is a place where people have tried and tried again for a better life. On the way, they make decisions that cause setbacks, so the tone of the tale begins to turn gray. This production is at the National Theatre until June 18.
This musical takes storylines from Greek mythology mixed with a little New Orleans mystique and a few Biblical references thrown in for good measure. The texture is haunting. About 85 percent of the dialogue is sung with the band perched on both sides of the stage. Band members blend perfectly in character with the ensemble.
Featured were some of the strongest, most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard in a musical. There was not a weak voice in the house. A starstruck young couple is Eurydice played by Hannah Whitley, who belted out songs with unexpected power. Head-over-heels in love with her is Orpheus, played by J. Antonio Rodriguez, whose voice is a sweet high octave tenor that makes it easy for all who listen to fall in love with him. Hermes has been Orpheus’ guide through life and knows the young man’s potential.
Maria-Christina Oliveras is Persephone, the long-time companion of King Hades. She is smart and sassy, and her singing is very convincing showing she has a mind of her own.
Then there is Hades, a deep baritone speaking and singing voice that is quite frightening. Played by Matthew Patrick Quinn, Hades’ voice and look are convincing as the leader of the underworld.
The acting in “Hadestown” matches the beauty of the singing voices.
Again, Hermes is the link and knows what’s up with all of the characters, but he is subtle in his warnings. He wants the people he observes to figure things out for themselves. Hermes is there to help the audience decipher what’s going on.
It is clear why “Hadestown” with music, lyrics and book by Anaïs Mitchell won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
It has been a long time since I attended anything where I did not once look at my watch during the performance. I was immediately captured when the characters came on stage. Every personality was believable. I did not want to miss anything. Their struggles were felt. The vision of this musical is to present “the world we dream about, not the one we live in now.” That’s a tall order.
“Hadestown” is the final production in the current season of Broadway at the National. For ticket information, go to broadwayatthenational.com.