Nicholas Barasch and Morgan Siobhan Green in the Hadestown North American Tour. Photo by T Charles Erickson
What do you get when you combine Greek mythology, modern-day issues, and an incredible original score (and book) by Anaïs Mitchell? The answer is Hadestown, a fabulous, inventive, and thoughtful musical, onstage now at Durham Performing Arts Center.
Even those with only a passing knowledge of mythology will be familiar with the characters presented here, as well as their plights. There’s the musical Orpheus, charmingly portrayed by Nicholas Barasch, and his beautiful-voiced muse, Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green). And, while the pair make a sweet couple, flush with love and youth, the realities of the real world and a cold winter soon set in. Hades (Kevyn Morrow) is all too willing to step in and lure a too-trusting Eurydice to his underworld factory, setting in motion Orpheus’ doomed-from-the-start plan to save her.
The subject matter may not be cheery—this is a tragedy after all—but that doesn’t stop this production from being thoroughly enjoyable. Each song is more riveting than the last, and there’s not a bad singer in this bunch. Green nails every high note, while Morrow’s deep voice makes him a perfect Hades. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Barasch and Green sizzle with chemistry. These are characters viewers will root for up until the bitter end.
Perhaps the only thing more enjoyable than Mitchell’s haunting songs is David Neumann’s choreography. Blending a variety of dance styles and often backed by intriguing lighting, a moving stage, or other visually interesting accoutrements, each number breathes life, action, and an extra layer of feeling into the production.
Hadestown is an emotional journey, one that causes viewers to reflect on the ways in which they “build the wall” in their own lives, their own communities, and their own hearts. It is also intriguing, particularly in the way it connects mythological themes to present-day life and in the changes it chooses to make to the original myths. Viewers can spend just as much time reflecting on why these changes were made and their impact as they can on the script itself. Indeed, this is a show that begs contemplation long after the curtains close.
Ultimately, Hadestown recounts an ancient myth, one that has been changed, as myths so often are, to reflect the present times. It reminds viewers why myths, even tragic ones, are told: to say something about humanity, to impart wisdom. And, ultimately, it accomplishes both of these goals itself, making it not just a smart take on ancient mythology, but a story of mythic proportions in its own right.
We love the arts. We write about them. Founded 2018.