Hadestown Brings the Heat: Limited-run Broadway hit visits PVD

Okee dokee folks… Tonight (Tuesday, March 21), I was at the much anticipated opening night of the musical Hadestown at the Providence Performing Arts Center. This is a show that I have been interested in for quite a while now. The creator, Anais Mitchell, is a folk singer-songwriter and as one myself, my curiosity was piqued. This show did not disappoint. Hadestown has been added to my list of all-time favorite musicals! 

Recently, I interviewed Chibueze Ihuoma, who plays Orpheus in Hadestown, for my Roots Report Podcast. He explained the parts and the plot to me but for some reason it all sounded too confusing. I am happy to report that after seeing the show it was NOT confusing in the least and that the story is actually very easy to follow. Phew! 

The sound of organ music filled the air as we entered PPAC for the Providence premiere of Hadestown. A gentleman adorned in a wildly printed jacket and a red top hat sat at the keys and played organ arrangements of show tunes for the gathering crowd. This was a pleasant surprise and quite enjoyable! As he wrapped his mini set the organ descended into the pit and from below he waved goodbye with his top hat. This was only the first descent of the evening!

The stage set was not hidden behind a curtain and was dimly lit, awaiting the start of the show. It was a depression era looking set with an iron rail/staircase that led to a balcony overlooking the stage and platforms on each side for the musicians. It was simple and stark. 

As the lights dimmed, the cast and musicians filled in their places on stage. A man in a grey suit with a few feathers at the cuffs seemed to be directing the goings on. Then there was complete silence that lingered for a minute or two. The character in the grey suit was Hermes, and he turned out to be the narrator of the show. Hermes began the first number, speaking and singing, “Road To Hell.”

This show is different, as musicals go, but that's a good thing. It's not formulaic  with typical Broadway voices and story lines. Instead it melds the feel of Les Mis with Passing Strange, a story that's nod to Greek Mythology and a score that is dark and folksy. It did take a few songs to “get into the groove” of the show, but once I did I was in it for the duration. Hadestown really is a breath of fresh air in the world of musical theatre. The story line is actually very simple: Boy meets girl, girl goes to hell, boy has to get her back.

The music runs the gamut from New Orleans style to Gospel revival and, of course, a little Americana/folk. The band was positioned to the right and left sides of the stage and at one point the trombone player, Emily Frederickson, came down and joined the dancers while she soloed. Visually there was an O, Brother Where Art Thou feel to the costuming and, like that film, there were three fates who had important roles in the story telling/singing.   

The best roles of the show, in my opinion, were Hades and Persephone. Hades, played by Matthew Patrick Quinn has one of the best bass voices I have ever heard. I listened to clips of Hades' songs on the Hadestown website when I got home and Quinn's renditions of the songs were far superior to the cast recording online. Think Javert from Les Mis or Caiaphas from Jesus Christ Superstar. Quinn's voice is in that league. Quinn's singing was the best part of this show. Persephone, Hades' wife in this story, played by Lana Gordon, brings Spring to the world, and without her life is dark and dismal. Hades comes for her and simply says, “I missed you” and brings her back to Hadestown. By this point Orpheus had already met Eurydice and asked her to “Come Home With Me,” even though Hermes told him to “take it slow.” Eurydice sees no hope in the world and sells her soul in Hadestown. Orpheus follows her there. 

Tonight's show had understudy Jordan Bollwerk filling the Orpheus role for Chibueze Ihuoma who was reported to be under the weather. Much of what Orpheus sings is in falsetto. Bollwerk was adequate for the role, but not compelling. Eurydice, played by Hannah Whitley, was enjoyable and filled the role fine, but did not stand out in her performance. Hermes, the narrator, played by Nathan Lee Graham, was spectacular. He kept the story moving with flair, song, and dance. You may recognize him from some film roles he has had over the years.

The best numbers were at the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II. “Why We Build The Wall” is powerful and brings us to Hadestown and ends Act I. “Our Lady of the Underground” opens Act II and showcases the considerable talent of Lana Gordon as Persephone. Hadestown ends where it begins and like the changing seasons there is a chance to start again. 

The show is a crowd-pleasing romp to Hell and back. All ages were in tonight's audience and one could tell by the whooping and hollering that a new generation is enjoying this fresh take on the Broadway musical. The show runs about two and a half hours and for the most part keeps you engaged and unaware of the length.

Get to PPAC and catch this show while it's in town. Like Broadway classics Les Mis, Hamilton, Phantom; Hadestown is one you can add to your list to see over and over again. 

That's it for now. Don't forget you can listen to my podcasts at: You can also find my concert photographs among Motif's albums on Facebook.