Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Wisconsin, SE

HadestownNational Tour
Review by John Chatterton

Chibueze Ihuoma
Photo by T Charles Erickson
Lyricist/librettist/composer Anaïs Mitchell certainly bit off a big task when she decided to adapt the story of Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma, in this touring production) and Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) from Greek myth to the modern musical stage. In the original, Eurydice departs this world for the Underworld because she is bitten by snakes. In this version, based on the 2016 Broadway production, after Rachel Chavkin came on board to co-develop and direct, Eurydice is starving, and Hades (Matthew Patrick-Quinn, a tall, bearded, compelling bass) convinces her to take his underground railway to Hadestown where she will at least get three squares a day and be allowed to work. (Hadestown more resembles the Metropolis of Fritz Lang fame than its Greek precursor, landscaped in eternal but sterile asphodel; there's a wall designed to keep out poverty, and the athletic workers' chorus mines incessantly.) Hades and Eurydice sign an irrevocable contract, and that's that. Until Orpheus goes looking for her, that is. Orpheus and Eurydice get married while she's still aboveground, and Orpheus tracks her down in Hadestown.

Part of the attraction between the two is Orpheus' singing. Orpheus starts out as a flunky in a dive bar, where his talent–and beautiful, naturally high voice–becomes apparent. Eurydice becomes his muse, while he struggles to complete a song he's working on. The workers from Hadestown (Jordan Bollwerk, Lindsey Hailes, Jamal Lee Harris, Courtney Lauster, Eddie Noel Rodríguez) transform into a chorus of hangers-on at the bar. The show's (excellent) musicians play from balconies above the stage.

Anyway, Orpheus completes his song in time to demo it for Hades, who relents on his bond with Eurydice and lets the two lovers go. There is, of course, a catch: if Orpheus looks back at Eurydice before they reach safety, she must return for eternity to Hadestown.

A competing element for our attention is Persephone (Brit West), Hades' wife, who's allowed topside for eight months of the year when the world is allowed to bloom and all is well. She wears a green costume during these appearances. When she's back underground with Hades, she wears black and complains about her fate, and the population above complain about the weather. Speaking of Fate, there is another, gray-robed chorus comprising three of them (Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano, and Nyla Watson) who offer dryly amusing asides on the story.

The driving force in the story is Hermes, the shiny-suited narrator (the charismatic Nathan Lee Graham), whose energetic tenor voice chimes in on many of the songs (there are 32).

Hadestown might seem confusing. Live audiences don't have time to sift the lyrics and dialog for elements of the backstory. Even someone steeped in Greek mythology would have trouble following all of its transpositions into modern dress. If there's a promised element of redemption in the story, it passed over at least one audience member's head. The characters, though, are clearly defined, both in the narrative elements and the costumes (Michael Krass). The set (Rachel Hauck), combining the cheesy nightclub and elements of Hadestown, offers Hades an office on top and a railroad connecting to the Underworld below, with tables on the stage and balconies above. The effect, with the sometimes audience-aimed lighting (Bradley King), is intimidating. The kerosene lamps, flashlights, and other swinging lamps associated with Orpheus's descent are highly effective.

The music combines elements of American popular music, with many bouncy tunes and dramatic moments. The lyrics will vaguely disappoint devotees who burn incense at the shrine of Comden and Green, where perfect rhymes live eternal. In their book, non-rhymes are better than imperfect ones. But for most, these details won't get in the way of a gripping, fresh-from-ancient-history love story.

Hadestown runs through January 29, 2023, at the Overture Center's Overture Hall, 201 State St., Madison WI. For tickets and information, call 608-258-4141, or visit For more information on the tour, visit

Choreography: David Neumann
Sound Design: Nevin Steinberg And Jessica Paz
Music Supervisor And Vocal Arrangements: Liam Robinson
Arrangements And Orchestrations: Michael Chorney And Todd Sickafoose
Music Director: Eric Kang
Dramaturg: Ken Cerniglia
Music Coordinator: David Lai
Hair Design: Jennifer Mullins
Production Stage Manager: Joel Rosen
Stage Manager: Annelise Castleberry.