The Underworld Comes To Kansas City With the North American Tour of “Hadestown”

The cast of Hadestown performing.

Hannah Whitley, Nathan Lee Graham, Chibueze Ihuoma, and the company of Hadestown (T. Charles Erickson)

Hadestown has had an interesting journey. After a lengthy development period—going from an experimental musical in 2006 to a concept album in 2010 before finally becoming the smash Broadway hit we know it as today—the show won eight Tony Awards, only to be shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic a year after its Broadway premiere. The show is now not only back up and running on Broadway, but has launched its first North American tour.

These kinds of touring Broadway productions can be tricky to review. Pretty much every decision we’re seeing—from casting to direction to choreography to every design element—was made many months ago (or longer) by people many hundreds of miles away. What’s onstage is essentially a pre-packaged product lifted directly out of Broadway, landing already fully formed on the Music Hall stage with no room for local input or spontaneity.

That said, this pre-formed product is a phenomenal one. There’s an obvious reason the show—with book, music, and lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell, developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin—is such a massive hit. Both in music and story, the play is electrifying—a dazzlingly creative adaptation of classic myths that also stands on its own as something wholly original.

Hadestown takes the basic stories of two Greek myths and intertwines them against a backdrop evoking a New Orleans speakeasy. Persephone (Brit West)—the goddess of the seasons, doomed to spend half the year living with Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) after eating some forbidden pomegranate seeds—arrives on the scene, making the transition from winter to spring, from her time in the Underworld to her life above. At this waypoint between the worlds, the poor but gifted poet and musician Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma) meets the similarly penniless Eurydice (Hannah Whitley), wooing her with songs so beautiful they create literal magic.

The play is narrated by the gregarious, fleet-footed god Hermes (Nathan Lee Graham). A trio of Fates flits around, causing mischief and getting into everyone’s business. And, as with any production derived from or inspired by ancient Greek works, a chorus of actors is there to round out the action and amplify the themes. As Eurydice travels to the Underworld and Orpheus follows to bring her back, the play is at once an allegory for climate change and a meditation on fear and inequity, security and “freedom.” Some of the metaphors might be a bit heavy-handed but they are enthralling nonetheless.

Hadestown’s touring cast is stellar. Graham is a delight as Hermes. Ihuoma’s voice is impossibly angelic and his chemistry with Whitley is sublime. I love an on-stage band and this one fleshes out the jazz-joint setting perfectly. Rachel Hauck’s set and Bradley King’s dusky lighting are majestic and transportive. (Although the decision to repeatedly shine powerfully bright lights directly into the audience throughout the show certainly was a choice.) If there’s one thing you can count on with a touring Broadway show it’s top-tier production value and Hadestown is no exception.

“Hadestown” runs through January 22 at the Music Hall, 301 W 13th St. For more information, visit www.americantheatreguild.com.

Vivian Kane

Vivian Kane is a writer living in Kansas City. She covers pop culture and politics for a national audience at The Mary Sue and theatre and film locally, with bylines in The Pitch. She has an MFA in Theatre from CalArts.

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