A quick disclaimer, I’m writing this review whilst listening to the album, so it will feature plenty of much deserved and justified hype. Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin’s Hadestown has now hit London town and well... it’s a hit, a toe tapping, head bopping, tear jerking and heart racing experience, full of high points and plenty of perfection that demands repeat viewings and deserves all the rapturous applause it received last night.
Hadestown is a toe tapping, head bopping, tear jerking and heart racing experience
Now, another quick disclaimer, I’ll admit it did take me a little while to figure out exactly what was happening and why but this is all you need to know…
In the warmth of summertime, songwriter Orpheus and his muse Eurydice are living it up and falling in love. But as winter approaches, reality sets in: these young dreamers can’t survive on songs alone. Tempted by the promise of plenty, Eurydice is lured to the depths of industrial Hadestown. On a quest to save her, Orpheus journeys to the underworld where their trust is put to a final test.
Hadestown arrives at the National Theatre after runs at New York Theatre Workshop and Canada’s Citadel Theatre prior to a run on Broadway and judging by the way it wowed the audience here, it will be casting spells for some time.
Taking singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s concept album, multiple Greek myths and a number of notable American musical genres, this production fuses, fizzes and pops so effortlessly and enjoyably that you barely pause for breath as you get swept up in; the lush, lurid and lived in set design, larger than life characters, delightful parallels with and digs at the real world or very present day, and then of course the magical, majestic and moving music. Make no mistake this is a genre bending musical with bite and top notch craft coursing through every inch of its veins and for someone whose appreciation and relationship with musicals is mixed at best, I found myself emotionally engaged, enjoying everything that was laid on, even when it was laid on at its most thick, deliberate or saccharine.
The entire production is draped in magnificent eye and ear candy
It definitely helped that the music merges American folk with the very best kind of vintage New Orleans Jazz, two genres I genuinely love and listen to. However I also sensed and interpreted swirls of the most polished 70’s/80’s stadium rock and power ballads as well as 90’s RnB and New Jack Swing from its stand out and most rousing numbers.
“When The Chips Are Down” felt like the kind of late 90’s Timbaland effort he reserved especially for girl groups like Destiny’s Child, especially when it breaks down into a mischievous and mesmerising wave of a capella high notes and harmonies.
The mind meltingly brilliant “Why We Build The Wall” follows soon after and not only channels Johnny Cash in a way few can do acceptably, but its potent and pertinent lyrics, clearly rooted in a reality, only serve to remind the audience of the Machiavellian political madness that awaits outside the sanctuary of the theatre. Its rousing vocals not only send the audience into the interval on a cloud of fist pumping fury but also leave them with an earworm worthy of whistling whilst waiting in the queue for the loo. It. Is. Ace.
The company are all on song tonight, delivering in spades and what filled me with zest was how the principal characters almost embody or represent a curious blend of different musical icons and genres. Reeve Carney’s Orpheus channels a “Born To Run” Springsteen, Eva Noblezada’s Eurydice has the voice and verve of a top notch pop goddess, Amber Gray’s Persephone does rock n soul like she’s just stepped out of a 70’s stadium superband, Patrick Page gives Hades a touch of Johnny Cash, Andre De Shields shuffles and saunters with slithers of swing and the timeless Cab Calloway, whilst the three “Fate’s” (Carly Mercedes Dyer, Rosie Fletcher and Gloria Onitiri) add more than a dash of 90’s RnB/New Jack Swing/Soul to the mix.
A badass band and Rachel Hauck’s stunning set, which makes full use of the Olivier’s drum revolve supports them and the scale of the set as it shifts and morphs is epic and impressive, as are the lurid lighting and smaller details.
The entire production is draped in magnificent eye and ear candy. It’s a fascinating fusion of things you like, things you didn’t know you liked, things you’re going to like and plenty you didn’t know you needed to see, hear and feel.
It’s definitely worth a night on the Hadestown.