You are here
Home > Arts > PREVIEW: From Vermont Hell to World Hit: <em>Hadestown</em>‘s Journey to Broadway (Orpheum Theatre/HTT)

PREVIEW: From Vermont Hell to World Hit: Hadestown‘s Journey to Broadway (Orpheum Theatre/HTT)

The North American touring cast of the musical Hadestown, which plays at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN from March 15-20, 2022. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

It took 13 years for the musical Hadestown to go to hell on Broadway. If that’s not poetic, the subject certainly is: a struggling musician weds his love in desperate poverty, only to have to literally go to hell for them to stay together. This new take on the classic story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology arrives at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis from March 15-20, 2022.

In the original myth, Eurydice dies on the couple’s wedding day, causing Orpheus to seek out the Greek underworld of Hades to literally try and bring her back from the land of the dead. His heartfelt songs melt even the hard hearts of the guardians of Hades, allowing him and his love to leave for the surface world (i.e., the land of the living). There is just one condition: that he not look at her until they are once again on the surface. This being Greek myth, things end tragically. In one version, Orpheus leads the way and accidentally turns around early, before his wife can exit, with his impatience being punished with Eurydice being imprisoned in the underworld forever. In another version, Orpheus is bound to silence while exiting the underworld, leading an insecure Eurydice to question him aloud until a frustrated Orpheus turns to answer her – again, with her being imprisoned in the underworld forevermore.

Kimberly Marable stars as Persephone in Hadestown. In this expanded and updated version of the classic Greek myth, Persephone runs a speakeasy in hell, behind her husband Hades’ back. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

This poetic and emotionally poignant story, dealing with surpassing grief, guilt, tragedy, and musical emoting has inspired countless poets and composers over the years. In the late 16th century, the Florentine Camerata turned to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice for the first two operas ever to be written. Even today, three operas based on the story remain in the common repertoire. Even the very Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, where Hadestown will play, is named for Orpheus – according to Greek mythology, the greatest musician who ever lived.

Fast forward to 2003 in central Vermont, where a 22-year-old singer-songwriter named Anaïs Mitchell had just won the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk award. A year later, Mitchell released her debut album, attracting the attention of Ani DiFranco, who promptly signed her to a record contract. Two years after that, Mitchell had completed what she called a folk opera: the first incarnation of Hadestown. Not one to do things by half, Mitchell saw Hadestown produced in a pair of Vermont towns, then took the show on tour the next year, revising it as she went. In 2010, an updated version was released as her Hadestown concept album, with 20 tracks.

The god Hermes (Levi Kreis) has a chat with Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green) and Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch). Photo by T Charles Erickson.

What happened next took pure chutzpah: after seeing the musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway in 2012, Anaïs Mitchell decided that its director, Rachel Chavkin, was just the person needed to take Hadestown to Broadway. At Chavkin’s prodding, Mitchell penned 15 new songs over the next four years to fill out the narrative. This expanded version debuted at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016, where the initial 2-month run was expanded to 3 months due to demand. Then came the long slog of revision and re-production leading to Broadway:

  • a 4-song EP in 2016;
  • a live album of most of the songs in 2017;
  • a 3-week, pre-Broadway trial in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) at the close of 2017; and
  • a 3-month, pre-Broadway trial in London, England in 2018-2019.

Some 13 years after Mitchell’s first iteration of Hadestown played in Barre and Vergennes, Vermont, the show made it to Broadway, beginning previews at the Walter Kerr Theatre on March 22, 2019. The show officially opened April 17, 2019, becoming a fast hit. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered Broadway, Hadestown was playing at 99% capacity, even outgrossing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The production would not reopen until September 2, 2021. Like Orpheus, however, it would not be stopped by normal circumstances.

Hadestown runs March 15-20 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tickets are limited.


Basil Considine