Recently Bill and I went to see the musical Hadestown, based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. You may already be aware that I tend to gush when I go see live theater, and my comments here will be no different.
I love live theater. It’s exciting to see actors, singers, and musicians at the top of their game, aided by sound, lighting, and costumes that all come together in a frenzy at the time of the performance. It’s incredible. I’m always filled with astonishment at how it alls falls into place, how everyone appears to know what they are doing and that they play off each other and the audience during the show. Moments of magic occur, some planned, some spontaneous. This show is no different.
Hadestown tells the story of two sets of lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. If you know the myth, you know in advance that the ending is not one where everyone lives happily ever after. There is magic and life, but it is fleeting.
All of this is set to the beat of New Orleans-style jazz, the sweet sound of folk, and the dynamic drive of rock music. The music, book, and lyrics were all written by Anaïs Mitchell, a singer-songwriter from Vermont.
In my view, the task of the performers is to make you care, to take you on their journey, to want their characters to be happy, and to be crushed when that does not happen. It’s also their job to allow you to think that it may not always be so, that in the next telling the ending might be different.
Hadestown does just that. A myth you know has a tragic outcome still becomes a tale to be told again and again. There is no shame in hoping that next time the ending will be different, even though you know it won’t. There’s a script, remember, and the actors have to play their parts.
But my favorite shows all have this hopeful element. Rent. Hamilton. Hadestown. Fantastic stories, all, with such deep sadness in them, yet coming around to making the audience feel that there is hope for the future.
Hadestown is an incredible tale, a moving myth, a mystical feat which has happened again and again.
Hadestown. The Myth. The Musical.
An addendum: If you don’t know the story of the creation and development of this musical, read this from New York Magazine.