Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 9, 2023

REVIEW: The Bushnell, "Hadestown"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through March 12, 2023
by Jarice Hanson

Photo by T. Charles Erickson
In 2019, “Hadestown” took Broadway by storm, winning eight Tony Awards, including best musical and best original score. Anais Mitchell, who wrote the music, lyrics and book, and director Rachel Chavkin worked on crafting the piece for years, and the touring company at the Bushnell delivers a production that honors the blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating a ground-breaking piece of musical theatre.

The story is based on intertwined Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. A brilliant chorus of three “fates” weave the stories together as seven musicians on stage, with the exception of the drummer, who performs backstage, and a talented chorus of singer/dancers perform a total of 32 songs. Nathan Lee Graham plays the MC is as charming and seductive in the role of Hermes, who oversees the developments with a wink and a nod to the audience.   

The cast is first-rate, with special kudos due to the deep-voiced Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades; Lindsey Hailes, as the hard-drinking, fun loving Persephone; Hannah Whitley as the ingénue Eurydice; and on opening night, J. Antonio Rodriguez as the sweet-voiced, love-struck Orpheus. Because this is a company with such difficult vocal demands, audiences might see different performers on different nights, but the production is of such high-quality there is not a weak performer in the troupe.

Visually, Hadestown is stunning. In the first act the scenes are played in a New Orleans-style nightclub. When the action goes “underground” to Hadestown, the set morphs into a semi-industrial factory reminiscent of the film, “Metropolis,” where the soul-sucking work reduces the workers to nameless miners. The critique of capitalism and the mining of the earth become metaphors that update the classic Greek myths and reinforce the timelessness of the stories of love, greed, corruption, and redemption.  

The technical aspects of the show, including lighting design by Bradley King, costume design by Michael Krass, and sound design by Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz are rendered perfectly on the Bushnell stage. A special mention should be given to Eric Kang, music director and David Lai, music coordinator, for creating an acoustic balance in the cavernous Bushnell that makes the words easy to hear, enhancing the lyrical nature of the prose and the very important subtleties of Mitchell’s text. 

While brushing up on your Greek mythology doesn’t hurt—it’s really not necessary in order to understand the unfolding story. One thing is obvious, “Hadestown” deserves all of the praise it received at the Tony Awards, and it is without a doubt, an extraordinary piece of musical theatre. This company works beautifully together to make the treatment of these stories unforgettable.