‘Hadestown’: ‘Lush’ and ‘sumptuous’ musical on a heavenly path to the Tonys

Some musicals take a hellish road to the Great White Way. For “Hadestown,” whose plot entwines stories from Greek mythology focused on Hades, Persephone, Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes, and the Fates, hell features prominently on-stage as one of its literal settings. After a tortuous, and one might say hellish, decade-plus gestation period from minor stage productions to a concept album to professional mountings in New York and abroad, the musical from composer and librettist Anaïs Mitchell has finally arrived on Broadway, opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre on April 17.

Tony nominee Rachel Chavkin (“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”) helped develop and directs the Broadway mounting of “Hadestown,” which boasts a cast of theatre stalwarts and newer thespians alike, including two-time Tony-nominee André De Shields (“The Full Monty,” “Play On!”), Eva Noblezada (“Miss Saigon”), Patrick Page, Amber Gray, and Reeve Carney.

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The long road to Broadway for “Hadestown” seems to have been worth the wait, at least according to critics. Even though Johnny Oleksinski (New York Post) only gives the show two out of four stars, calling the musical “sluggish,” his opinion seems like the outlier of an otherwise very positive slate.

Sara Holdren (Vulture), for one, calls the musical “lush, vigorous, and formally exciting,” an “intricate and gorgeous feat of songwriting,” “a vehicle for dynamite performances,” and “a visionary long-term collaboration and a courageous experiment with form.” In addition to praising many of the design elements of the show, Holdren applauds André De Shields as “unimpeachable,” Amber Gray as “magnificent,” and Patrick Page as a “human thunder sheet,” labelling the latter two “the twin sensations of the show.” Marilyn Stasio (Variety) also singles out Page and Gray, praising the musical overall as “perfectly heavenly” and the production “full of striking images.”

Giving “Hadestown” the coveted Critic’s Pick seal of approval, Jesse Green (New York Times) deems the musical “sumptuous, hypnotic, and somewhat hyperactive.” While he admits the show is “not yet ideally warm” and “a somewhat abstract experience,” he praises the much of the cast, creators, and production team, heaping particular kudos on director Chavkin, who “has probably come as close as anyone could to selling a cerebral downtown story as state-of-the-art Broadway entertainment.”

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While sometimes just shy of out-and-out raves, these love letters from critics bode well for “Hadestown” at the upcoming Tony Awards. An instantly formidable contender for Best Musical, the production seems destined to land nominations in other top categories, too, including Best Director for Chavkin, and Best Book and Best Score for Mitchell.

In the acting categories, “Hadestown” has Tony nominations for Featured Actor Page and Featured Actress Gray cinched, and the two could easily leave the ceremony with trophies. Depending on how much the Tony nominators adore the show, it may score three additional bids for Carney in Actor, Noblezada in Actress, and De Shields in Featured Actor, too.

Expect “Hadestown” to rack up a lot of design and other below-the-line nominations as well. With critical kudos for the orchestrations and choreography, Michael Chorney and David Neuman, respectively, may score their first Tony bids. As for the designers, Jesse Green writes, “Like the sets [Rachel Hauck] and musical arrangements, the costumes (by Michael Krass), the lighting (by Bradley King) and the sound design (by Kevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz) are as good as it gets.” Such an endorsement bodes well each member of the team. Krass, King, and Steinberg have all received Tony nominations in the past, with King winning just two years ago for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

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