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