Reviewed by Nathan Deane
2018 has been the year for musicals based on Greek mythology in London, with Myth at The Other Palace earlier this year, Mythic at the Charing Cross theatre currently, then Orpheus at the Battersea Arts Centre next month, and now Hadestown at the Olivier Theatre.
Currently appearing in London’s National Theatre autumn season before transferring to Broadway, Hadestown is a musical re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth that already has a fair share of theatre adaptions, and Hadestown is nothing like those.
Anaïs Mitchell, who penned all book, music and lyrics, provides a lush folk score that 7 on-stage musicians play throughout the show. Mitchell’s lyrics and book, however, are a major weakness to the piece. Both feel repetitive and boring, and would be extremely confusing if you weren’t already familiar with the myth. At times, the book felt like it was trying to drag out the myth to be as long as possible. I can’t even really remember what happened in act one.
The direction by Rachel Chavkin and choreography by David Neumann was inventive, yet minimalist and intricate. In fact, Neumann’s choreography really livened up moments in act one and the opening of act two.
The cast did well with what they had to work with. Reeve Carney as Orpheus was a stand out performance, despite having very little to do within act one. I mean, for a musical about Orpheus, there was a distinct lack of Orpheus. His act one solo, Wait For Me, was a highlight. Eva Noblezada as Eurydice provided gorgeous vocals, and worked well with what seemed to be a very under-developed and flat version of Eurydice. Amber Gray as Persephone was incredible, with probably the best performance all evening. Her vocals and acting were wonderful, and she really brought some energy to the piece within her numbers Livin’ It Up On Top and Our Lady of the Underground.
I also enjoyed costume and lighting, designed by Michael Krass and Bradley King, respectively. Krass’ costumes were at times beautiful and bright with the character of Persephone, and yet they were simple and effective with Orpheus and Eurydice. King’s lighting was wonderful, once again often simple but helped to show setting and brighten up the mood and atmosphere of the piece.
Despite a boring, dragged out book and confusing and repetitive lyrics, Hadestown boasts a lush score with stellar performances and a gorgeous design.