* * *
Does the Broadway musical have a future? Only if a new generation of artists walks away from the old-hit-movie-into-stale-new-stage-show model and starts creating musicals that are conceptually more ambitious. “The Band’s Visit” and “Be More Chill,” which also broke free from the twin strangleholds of by-the-numbers pop-rock and synthetic Disneypop, both filled the bill in their very different ways. So, too, does Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown,” which has transferred to Broadway after highly acclaimed runs at New York Theatre Workshop and London’s Royal National Theatre. “Hadestown” isn’t perfect, but it’s so fresh that you’ll gladly look past its forgivable flaws and savor the kaleidoscopic stylistic variety of Ms. Mitchell’s score.
Ms. Mitchell is a singer-songwriter, and “Hadestown” began life a decade ago as a concept album, an Americana-style “folk opera” (her phrase) about the evils of capitalism in which she retold the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the story of a lyre-playing lover who travels to the dark underworld in the hope of restoring his adored fiancée (Eva Noblezada) to life. In Ms. Mitchell’s updated version, a sordid Depression-era New Orleans nightclub is the hellmouth and Hades (Patrick Page) is the slave-driving factory owner to whom the poverty-stricken Eurydice has unwittingly sold her body and soul.
As befits a folk opera, “Hadestown” is through-composed and contains only a modicum of spoken dialogue. Instead, the story is recounted by Hermes, a sharkskin-suited narrator played with urbane slyness by André de Shields who tells his tale in loosely rhymed couplets and quatrains…
Mr. Page, whose bottomless basso voice and regal demeanor have stolen many a show, would likely steal this one as well were it not for Ms. Noblezada, who gives a beautifully sincere, handsomely sung performance that you will find impossible to resist….
All this said, it is Ms. Mitchell’s down-home score, a piping-hot gumbo of folk, jazz, blues, country and gospel, that is the incontestable star of the show….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Excerpts from Hadestown: