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Photo credit T Charles Erickson

Hadestown is worth the wait 

By Ramiro Bustamante Torres, November 23 2023—

With the whistle of a train, Broadway Across Canada opened Hadestown at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium on Nov. 21, performing until Nov. 26. It has been six years since it was on an Alberta stage to be able to welcome the cast and crew to Calgary now. The Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice has been told countless times in many forms, but never so soulfully and bittersweet. Originally developed by Anaïs Mitchell and later revised to the musical it is, the setting is reminiscent of the Southern US and the music matched the folk tunes and jazzy tones. The cast demonstrated the energy needed to immerse the audience and show off their skills. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the myth, it involves Orpheus — a musician who could move the hearts of the gods with his music and impossibly travels to the Underworld to rescue his lover, Eurydice, only to face the harder task of leaving without knowing if she is coming with him or not. The myth of Hades and Persephone also plays an important role and parallels the story of the two young lovers, adding more layers to the storytelling. Any Greek tragedy is in need of the Fates appearing and acting as a chorus reminding everyone there is an order to things and a narrator, here the messenger god Hermes, setting the scene.

Photo credit T Charles Erickson

In the musical, the myth is stretched and adapted to the lives of Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) and Eurydice (Amaya Braganza) as struggling young adults with no money but much love for each other. Rodriguez had a challenging role with a range that requires an actor to be comfortable with a wide range while playing between a naive youth to someone filled with fear in their voice. He juggled both positions so well it felt like the stage might not have been big enough for the energy he added. While you might think that Orpheus is the main character, the story revolves around Eurydice more, and Braganza is not afraid to step forward. Her voice was powerful and soulful, using the second act to further develop Eurydice as a character with the emotion in her voice such as in “Flowers” and “Promises.” 

Looking at the gods of the story, Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) and Persephone (Lana Gordon), the energy they brought on stage was electrifying. Quinn brought down the house with his strong bass tone — way down Hadestown, as the company sang. For the tour, it was a treat to see Gordon reprise her role as Persephone and it really makes you wonder if one day it could be called Persephonetown instead. Her performance showed her prowess and experience, capturing the applause from the audience every time. With her control of voice and energy in “Livin’ It Up On Top” you could tell she is a performer and Persephone’s song in the second act, “Our Lady of the Underground” cemented her presence on stage. Even the change from the fun, wine aunty we all know and love to the aunty that defends her nieces and nephews when they need someone in their corner showed that she knew her role through and through. 

The rest of the cast and musicians really made the performance as well. Will Mann performed as Hermes and he made the role his own. As a narrator and the messenger of this tale, Mann maneuvered the stage with ease and delivered each line and song masterfully to a captivated audience. Casually stealing the spotlight, the Fates (Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson and Hannah Schreer) were always lingering and stating the fears and futures of all. My favourite number and quintessential to the Fates was “Word to the Wise” where we are reminded that not even the King of the Underworld can escape the consequences of his actions. Given the jazzy feel to the musical, there were solos from the musicians such as trombone player Emily Frederickson with sweet slides that deserved more applause in my opinion. 

For anyone who has never seen or heard Hadestown, coming from someone who went in with fresh ears, this is a story worth listening to. The performance will have you laughing and crying to one of the greatest love stories with a message of hope, for both love and community. The message of the power everyone has if they use their voice should not be lost. Hearing “Wait For Me” for the first time, it was a struggle fighting back tears. Even after all the applause, the cast shows a more intimate performance with “We Raise Our Cups” so don’t miss out on the end. Don’t be afraid to clap along with the music and cheer for your favourite tune. This musical is meant to have an audience that responds to the performance.

To see Hadestown or for more information on upcoming Broadway Across Canada productions, check out their website.

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