‘One of the most refreshing & riotous shows in London’: HADESTOWN – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Olivier, National Theatre – until 26 January 2018

Running at the National Theatre prior to a Broadway opening, Hadestown offers a uniquely folksy and enchanting take on the tragic tale of Orpheus and his love, Euridice. For a potentially grim narrative, the musical is a joy thanks to the transformation of Anaïs Mitchell’s surprising and layered concept album into one of the most refreshing and riotous shows in London.

Rachel Chavkin directs the fascinating tale of human weakness and hope. The story goes that Persephone, wife of Hades lord of the underworld visits the earth bringing with her the seasons of spring and summer (and joy and booze). As Hades’ jealousy grows, so Persephone’s visits become less frequent, unleashing hunger upon the world’s population including Euridice. An impoverished Orpheus promises Euridice the world, and it is against this backdrop that the musical plays out.

The range of voices that Chavkin has assembled is phenomenal. Reeve Carney’s Orpheus hits notes that would make Freddie Mercury proud while Patrick Page’s Hades occupies the lower end of the register, bringing a growling, booming bass resonance to Mitchell’s score, the two men proving a perfect juxtaposition to each other.

Eva Noblezada’s Euridice’s sweet and perfect Disney-esque voice almost doesn’t match the show’s cool although, and again in contrast, Amber Gray offers a gloriously brassy, sassy Persophene. Winged narrator and journey maker Hermes is played by the inimitable André De Shields adding an easy, laidback “how it is” attitude to this sometimes overly fanciful show.

The production is a 101 lesson in modern musical theatre done well. Rachel Hauck’s glorious set twists, turns and expands, segueing intimate scenes into lavish numbers as Bradley King’s lighting transforms the stage, stunningly transforming a New Orleans jazz bar into an infernal labyrinth.
Hadestown sees the capital graced with yet another sensational piece of new writing. A big, beautiful show with a soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to all the way home.

Runs until 26th January 2019Reviewed by Heather DeaconPhoto credit: Helen Maybanks

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Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.
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Jonathan Baz on RssJonathan Baz on Twitter
Jonathan Baz
Theatre critic Jonathan Baz is London-based but with a coverage that extends far beyond the capital to include regional theatre as well as occasional forays into Europe and the USA. He enjoys reviewing new writing as much as seeing fresh interpretations of well-known plays and musicals. Jonathan also sits on the judging panel of London's Off West End Awards ("the Offies") and has published numerous interviews and features with leading figures in the film and theatre world. Away from the arts, Jonathan is a practising Chartered Accountant with a number of clients in the entertainment industries. He blogs at www.jonathanbaz.com and tweets at @MrJonathanBaz.

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