“To know how it ends” is to know beauty and hope

Broadway’s touring “Hadestown” is at the Orpheum March 15 to March 20 and offers audiences a different experience

Anika Besst, News Editor

On an uncharacteristically warm and wet March evening, the seats of Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theater were full as one of the most beautiful yet heartbreaking Broadway musicals of recent years unfolded. The show had an other-worldliness, as if contemporarily post-apocalyptic, and there was no stopping the powerhouse of an experience that was to be had with “Hadestown.” 

The show tells a version of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, described in the first number as, “a love song, it’s a tale of a love from long ago, it’s a sad song,” all of which capture the essence of “Hadestown” in its simplest form. 

“Hadestown,” which first premiered in 2006, has had a cult-like following that has grown since it opened on Broadway in 2019. It is now on its North American tour, capturing hearts everywhere it goes. 

The show opened in Minneapolis on March 15 with understudies in the lead roles of Eurydice played by Sydney Parra and Orpheus played by Chibueze Ihuoma. Other than a lack of chemistry for the first few songs, the two were beyond phenomenal. Ihouma captured Orpheus’s naivety and hopefulness while Parra carried love interest Eurydice’s simultaneous harshness and vulnerability. 

There were occasionally moments of uncertainty for these two, as well as other cast members, but it did not distract from the story. If anything, these moments displayed the humanity within the characters and the performance. It was touching to share with them the imperfections that did not take away but instead added to the rawness of the show. 

So much of “Hadestown” is sung, and the strength and unique quality of the voices painted the story in deep strokes that blended beautifully with each voice. There was  occasional microphone feedback or sound mixing hiccups, but those moments were rare, especially as the show went on. It was easy to get swallowed into the story like a child listening to a book before bedtime. 

Aside from this retelling of the famous myth being timely and touching, the casting and atmosphere of the show contribute to “Hadestown” being known for offering a different experience than the conventional Broadway musical. The cast features performers of many identities and backgrounds, with four of the five casted leads being members of the BIPOC community. This is something reflected similarly in the original cast as well. 

The construction and set of the show also breaks conventional theatre standards. The fourth wall was broken from the beginning by the role of Hermes introducing all the characters in the first song. As Hermes called their names, they would wave to the audience, a moment when the Minneapolis crowd made itself heard through an out-pouring of anticipatory cheering. And by having a minimalist set painted a rustic, post-apocalyptic greenish gray, it made all moments of color pop. Moments like the red flower Orpheus’s song produces, Persephone’s bag of summer with flowers and wine and the Hell’s orange lights glowing through the thick industrial door to the Underworld. 

The show occasionally felt like it had a few qualms. Part of this could have been the understudies stepping in or it being opening night. In “Wait For Me,” one of the largest numbers of the show, as Orpheus makes his way to the Underworld to save Eurydice, the chorus hooks up caged industrial pendant lights that swing from the ceiling. The moment felt anticlimactic for a song that carries ceaseless hope and care. The lights swung with Orpheus in the middle, but there wasn’t implementation of that lighting or that same energy throughout. It felt oddly out of place and lackluster. It’s as if they knew the moment looked cool, and it definitely did, but wasn’t rooted in any deeper meaning within the show.

This moment was forgivable though. I left “Hadestown” feeling blessed to have had the opportunity to share in the beautiful moment of reflection that is hearing, accepting and telling a story full of love, sadness and hope, something the world faces now more than ever. “Hadestown” will have daily performances at the Orpheum until March 20 before the tour makes its next stop in Des Moines. For more information on future shows and how to purchase tickets visit https://www.hadestown.com/.