Hadestown

The long awaited musical Hadestown has finally made its West End Debut and is currently showing at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

The show opened on Broadway in 2021 (as one of the first shows back after Covid) and due to its great success in New York, it’s gracing the English stage.

So where was the inspiration for this myth-musical? Composer Anaïs Mitchell launched a concept album full of songs inspired by an Ancient Greek tragedy in 2006. The tale was Orpheus and Eurydice’s unfortunate love story. With a uniquely edgy style, Mitchell has created a post-apocalyptic world where ancient myths reflect relatable, dilemmas of love and power that individuals also face in today’s world.

With strong musical influences from the New Orleans depression era, the catchy, blues soundtrack definitely bewitches the audience but is the storyline strong enough to root down in town for a while?

In true concert hall fashion, the band were a large part of the experience. With a fantastic group of musicians, we were treated to delicious sounds reverberating around the auditorium and placing the band on stage dramatically levelled up the excitement, creating welcomed explosions of energy. A highlight of the show had to be the delicious trombone solo which (pardon the pun) blew us away!

Hadestown depicts the story of Orpheus, a musician who believes he can defy life’s struggles by composing a beautiful song. He falls in love with Eurydice, a rebellious girl who is lured away by Hades, king of the underworld with promises of a better life. Can their love stand the biggest test of all… trust? 

Directed by Rachel Chavkin and produced by Mara Isaacs, Hadestown is set in a dark, fiery underworld and possesses a strong female presence. It’s great to see successful collaborations between women breaking through theatre norms and this theme was strengthened by the sheer level of talent displayed on stage.

There was nothing elaborate or overly memorable about scenery and set. It was fitting to the style of the piece with mostly wooden textures featuring a metal, spiral staircase which led up to the office of Hades. 

The drummer was tucked away underneath the stairs with the rest of the band residing either side and were included throughout the show by the cast. A few set changes and a revolving stage kept it interesting, however there’s definitely room for enhancements in this department.

The lighting, however, was spectacular. There was a variety of colours used, swinging lights and dispersed moments of darkness. It was clearly well considered and highly creative to showcase such an array of illuminations, although, I did hope that the ensemble were going to surprise us and mount the swinging lights to make it a tad more exciting!

There were some highlights in the costume department, with Hermes’ silver sparkly waistcoat taking the top place for me, however with nothing mesmerising, I see this as a missed opportunity for some fabulously eccentric outfits to match the flamboyancy of the songs.

The cast did a good job overall portraying the (quite slow) storyline. It’s great to see such a diverse company, this show certainly celebrates individuality. We were treated to some striking voices, of which I particularly enjoyed the power of Eurydice and the enviable bass notes of Hades.

The romantic connection between the two leads was slighting lacking until late into the second act. Perhaps this will develop as the run goes on, however it’s an integral part of the show and a component needed sooner by the audience.

Bringing his Irish charm to the stage, LAMDA trained actor-musician Dónal Finn plays Orpheus. Grace Hodgett Young is Eurydice and brought a passionate take on the conflicted character. We also are taken on the volatile love journey of Hades (Zachary James) and Persephone (Gloria Onitiri) narrated mostly by Hermes (Melanie La Barrie). The ensemble were hardworking, expressive and animated in their enthusiasm of the musical numbers. 

The choreography by the acclaimed David Neumann has been kept simple but effective. The dances, clearly influenced by an early jazz style, are enjoyable to watch and reinforce the rebellious flair of the prohibition period.

Even though it seemed to entertain the masses last night and ended in a standing ovation, overall this Greek myth retelling lacked charm and glamour. It’s a speakeasy spectacle that has all the makings of a good show but could afford to be a little more flamboyant (and dare I say it.. sexier). It’s evident that the music is the real star of the show and glitters soulfully throughout.

The question is, will the UK audiences be satisfied with the tragic ending when we’re all hopeless romantics at heart.. let’s wait and see.

This show was reviewed on the 21st February 2024 at the Lyric Theatre where Hadestown runs until December 2024.  Tickets available here: Hadestown West End | Official Website | Lyric Theatre

Review written by Lauren Atkinson

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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