Hadestown is an eight-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and adaptation of the Greek mythological story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It involves the classic story of Hades and Persephone and all the tribulations that follow them. The show follows our main character Orpheus (played by Chibueze Ihuoma) and his phenomenon of being someone blessed by the gods with an extraordinary singing voice that has the power to bring the spring season to the land.
Due to hardships of the winter season our heroine Eurydice (played by understudy Courtney Lauster on opening night in Atlanta) falls victim to the underworld causing Orpheus to attempt to retrieve her, leading to tragedy.
Initially, the description of “Hadestown” sounds like an alluring show to watch. I was drawn to the Greek mythology and curious about how the musical’s creators would depict the underworld on stage. However, the time I spent in theater had me regretting my decision to spend my evening at the show’s opening night this month at the Fox Theatre.
Although Bradley King won a Tony Award for the show’s lighting design, King’s creative approach to the lighting didn’t resonate well with me.
“Hadestown” had a consistent harsh light that blared itself onto the stage with instances of change which always lead back to the default lighting throughout the show. It created a sense of stiffness that was directly in contrast to the innocence and softness that I knew “Hadestown” was meant to have. The lack of creativity in the lighting blocked any opportunity for visual storytelling or any emotionally striking moments.
From the moment I started watching “Hadestown,” I didn’t recognize the creative thought process in the lighting. As someone whose favorite aspect of theater is lighting, this was disappointing to see.
I’m someone who has an understanding of the basics of theater and I recognized that a few of these basics didn’t seem to be translated by the creators into this production of “Hadestown.”
An example of this is the poor blocking throughout the show. In theater, you always want to ensure that your performers don’t block one another’s body or facial expressions to maximize storytelling.
However, throughout the show, there were moments when the characters stood directly in front of each other, in the way of each other’s facial expressions, and movements that were critical to the story. Overall, this confused my understanding of the scenes that were presented to me.
As I watched “Hadestown,” there were so many moments in the show I found myself doodling in my notepad or daydreaming. My unengaged behavior came from an overall lack of investment in the story and the long run time. The reason for this was the surface level portrayal of the story.
An example of this is Orpheus and Eurydice’s romance. While I knew that their love was supposed to come across as deeply connected, there was no moment in the show where I felt like their love was real. It came across as a casual platonic relationship. Even when it was made known they were sexually intimate, the romantic chemistry between the characters fell flat.
While I’m someone who enjoys long productions, the show wore out its welcome with me throughout its three-hour run.
When Chibueze Ihuoma walks to the underworld to save Courtney Lauster, there’s a long sequence of singing, dancing and fighting that could have very well resulted in the end of the show, only for it to proceed on another 20 minutes where we sit through another similar scene. I feel like there should have been further editing to filter out the show’s unnecessarily long run time.
While the Broadway production of “Hadestown” won a Best Musical Tony Award, the opening night of “Hadestown” in Atlanta felt similar to a community theater production (which may have been a result of many of the roles being played by understudies on opening night here, replacing the original performers).
Ultimately, the show wasn’t conveying the skills of a high class Broadway show from the Fox Theatre. I felt like I could go to my local community theater and see a show with the same quality.
“Hadestown” had great potential but squandered the opportunity to truly embody its potential. Overall, I give credit to the musicians and performers who participated in this production. However, I am disappointed in “Hadestown” and expected much more from the Fox Theatre.
VOX teens had the opportunity to attend the opening night of “Hadestown” at the Fox Theatre, thanks to our community partners, Brave PR and Broadway in Atlanta.