Thursday 22 February 2024

Hadestown - Review

Lyric Theatre, London


Music, lyrics & book by Anaïs Mitchell
Developed with & directed by Rachel Chavkin

The company of Hadestown

Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown is drawn from one of the strongest tragic storylines around: Orpheus’ love for Eurydice that draws him into the Underworld in his quest to rescue her from Hades’ grasp and return her to the mortal world. It’s a banger of a yarn and credit to Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin whose cracking songs and outstanding cast have breathed a bold life into this ambitious vision. The UK first encountered the show in its 2018 premier at the National Theatre. Now in the West End it’s a glorious fusion of a raft of musical styles, sung perfectly.

Dónal Finn and Grace Hodgett Young are the two doomed lovers. Both are magnificent with Finn possessing a gorgeously fragile tone that makes his number Wait For Me sparkle. Amidst the grown-up roles, Zachary James’ Hades offers a bass baritone the like of which is rarely heard in musical theatre. His is a towering performance of vulnerable cruelty. Gloria Onitiri is Persephone, wonderfully reprising the part from her time at the National, while in a sensational turn as (basically, narrator) Hermes, Melanie La Barrie cleverly weaves the tale’s threads together. Sung through, the show is an impressive performance from Tarek Merchant’s 7-piece onstage band. Rachel Hauck’s set design is ingenious - think Hell fused with New Orleans - brilliantly lit by Bradley King.

The show’s frustration lies in its crass shoehorning of a modern political agenda onto the Greek classics, with the narrative not being enhanced by the childishly oversimplistic That’s Why We Build The Wall that closes the first act.

But there is excellence on stage here and for what is (mostly) a bold piece of new writing, Hadestown is worth seeing.

Booking until 22nd December
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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