Tuesday, April 23

Hadestown – Lyric Theatre

In recent years, the West End has welcomed musicals based on films, books, and even historical events. But Greek mythology was yet to receive the big-budget musical treatment — that is, until Hadestown came stomping into the Lyric Theatre, where it is currently running until December 2024.

Created by singer-songwriter Anäis Mitchell as a folk-opera back in 2006, Hadestown has been on a shapeshifting journey — including a sold-out run at the National Theatre in 2018 — which culminated in the Tony Award-winning production that took Broadway by storm in 2019. As soon as its West End transfer was announced last year, directed by Rachel Chavkin, musical theatre fans were bubbling with anticipation to discover whether this new production would live up to its Herculean hype.

A story fundamentally about love and hope, Hadestown tells the intertwining tale of two pairs of lovers: Eurydice (Grace Hodgett Young, fresh out of her star-making turn in Sunset Boulevard) and Orpheus (Dónal Finn), who are navigating a world of hardships and extreme climate conditions; and Hades (Zachary James) and Persephone (Gloria Onitiri), long-time lovers whose fizzled-out passion has left the king creating a land of misery in the underworld.

Hodgett Young’s captivating Eurydice is robustly guarded and fiercely independent, but her walls gradually crumble to reveal a tender heart that has been waiting for someone to love. As Orpheus, Finn is her perfect foil, with soaring angelic vocals that paint the picture of a sensitive and hopeful soul dreaming of a better world. The pair have swoon-worthy chemistry which makes their love story (and gorgeous duets) entirely compelling.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Initially taking a back seat in the story (literally, positioned on a balcony upstage for much of Act One), James and Onitiri are superb, with James’s thundering voice and mighty stature making Hades an even more steely presence when juxtaposed with Onitiri’s loose and lithe Persephone.

But any story is only as good as its storyteller. Fortunately, Hadestown is supremely steered by Hermes (Melanie La Barrie), the all-seeing but all-feeling soul of the show. Playing the role of narrator, Hermes is a commanding character that is never at risk of being relegated to the sidelines, thanks to La Barrie’s rich and incredibly rousing vocal performance.

To further enhance the storytelling, the set emulates an old jazz bar, complete with a delightful on-stage band. As the tale takes us into the depths of the underworld during the rousing Act One climax ‘Wait For Me’, the entire structure expands and changes in a way that took my breath away.

The score is a beguiling mosaic of old-school American infusions, with Mitchell blending genres like folk, jazz, and blues to create songs that have you tapping your feet one moment and getting goosebumps the next. This isn’t a musical with high-octane numbers accompanied by a glitzy chorus line of dancers, but movement is used carefully and creatively by the choreographer David Neumann.

For me, the only minor let down in Hadestown is its conclusion. Despite their convincing relationship, Eurydice and Orpheus’s tragic ending (not a spoiler — it’s literally referenced in the opening number) didn’t quite pack the emotional punch I hoped. With the brilliantly staged ‘Doubt Comes In’ immediately preceding the couple’s last fateful, yet somewhat underwhelming, parting words, what should have been a tear-jerking finale regrettably left me with dry eyes.

In spite of this, I can still whole-heartedly say I adored this show. Whether you’re a lover of Greek mythology or just of brilliant musicals, Hadestown is a hell-raising production that takes you on an unforgettable ride to the underworld and back, with delectable performances and a thoroughly stirring score. 

Reviewer: Olivia Cox

Reviewed: 21st February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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