Broadway in Portland is ending their 2021-22 season by traveling to hell and back — and my teenage son and I were lucky enough to go along for the ride.
Hadestown, the 2019 Tony Award-winner for best musical, is playing to sold-out audiences at Keller Auditorium now through July 24. We walked into Tuesday’s opening night only vaguely knowing what the show was about, but by the time intermission rolled around, Hadestown had already become my son’s favorite musical of all time. I loved it, too — watching a Greek tragedy was never more fun!
Hadestown is an inventive, knee-slapping, musical retelling of the ancient myths of two pairs of lovers: Orpheus and Euridice, and Hades and Persephone. Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything you learned about Greek mythology in school. The plot is simple, the characters are introduced right away and every song in the show plays a role in moving the story forward. It’s easy to follow, believe and relate to.
The show takes place in two worlds that give off a steampunk vibe: a cafe that evokes Great Depression era New Orleans, and Hadestown, an industrialized wasteland of an underground factory. It’s a love story that sets nature against industry and faith against doubt. And although it has a sad ending, there’s hope, for at the end they begin to tell the story all over again, “as if it might turn out this time.”
Most of the characters and musicians are on stage for the entire performance, which seems only natural as music is such an important part of the story. Anaïs Mitchell’s music, lyrics and book are wonderful, and the national tour cast, led by Tony-winning actor Levi Kreis as Hermes, was top-notch, even with four understudies going on for lead roles. We loved the energy that understudy Lindsey Hailes brought to the role of Persephone. Kevyn Morrow, as sinister Hades, has a deep voice so smooth you’d follow him to the underworld, too. In fact, as we listened to the original Broadway cast recording on the way home, we quickly concluded that we preferred the performers on the national tour.
Hadestown is officially recommended for ages 8 and up. While not inappropriate for young kids (though Persephone is intoxicated most of the show and there are a few references to sex), we think older kids will appreciate it more. The show runs two and a half hours with a 15 minute intermission. Masks are still required at Keller, but proof of vaccination is not. If you’ve got tickets already, the Fates have smiled upon you. As I write, a handful of tickets through resale sites like Vivid Seats are still available. They’re priced from $122 to $450 each. This is a great time to consider an investment in a Broadway in Portland season subscription, so you never miss out on great shows like this one.
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