Broadway Portland offers a must-see rendition of “Hadestown”

Two of the muses from "Hadestown" hold up lanterns.
Photo Courtesy of Broadway Portland

Broadway Portland is closing their 2021-22 season with 2019 Tony Award winning musical “Hadestown,” The show brought Greek tragedy to the Keller Auditorium in a heartfelt, high energy performance.

“Hadestown” opens with sharply dressed Hermes (Levi Kreis) slowly crossing the stage, taking in the gritty atmosphere. As he approaches a double-headed microphone reminiscent of early jazz, the band play their instruments and he begins to tell a familiar story. “Hadestown” is a story of love, loss and hope which follows two parallel relationships as the characters seek to find understanding and safety in a cruel, dangerous world.

Broadway Portland brings this story to life with innovative  lighting, heart-wrenching performances and otherworldly singing. A show full of lofty ideas and difficult tasks, this production of “Hadestown” brought the magic of Broadway to Portland. 

What struck me most was the show’s unafraid use of movement to explore magic in a world full of gods and powerful songs that can make spring come again. Afterall, if Persephone is not doing it herself, you have to give it a shot.

For example, while singing “Come Home With Me” Orpheus, understudied by J. Antonio Rodriguez, describes his vision of a magical world as the ensemble reflects the images with their  bodies. The ensemble performs as wind, water and trees while also supporting him with underscoring vocals. This exemplifies how Orpheus has power to make you “see how the world could be in spite of the way that it is.”

Orpheus brings light and hope to the bleak world of “Hadestown.” He functions as a hopeful counterpart to the practical and witty Eurydice (Morgan Siobhan Green) who brings sharp humor and emotional realism to the stage. For example, when  Eurydice and Orpheus sing their duet “Wedding Song.” Orpheus is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which amuses Eurydice, eventually winning her heart with his evocative voice and positivity.

Both actors bring a skillful tonal quality to their performances, with Orpheus opting for a dreamy falsetto whereas Eurydice adopts a more classical musical theater, almost trumpet-like, sound. As the two lovers begin showing off their vocal prowess, Hades and Persephone preside over them on a balcony, contrasting the two couples’ mortal and god positions.

In “Livin’ it Up on Top,” we get the chance to hear the low alto voice of Persephone ( Kimberly Marabel) as she introduces herself and brings energetic dance to the tavern. Marabel does a phenomenal job bringing an otherworldly quality to her movements, effortlessly switching between quick high energy gestures and slower, more methodical dance. 

However, the tone dramatically changes when Hades (Kevyn Morrow) enters. This is when the stage reaches its full form, with bright lights framing the action and many moving parts representing the mechanical nature of the underworld. Morrow provides a grounded performance that expertly contrasts the whimsical and audacious acting of Marabel. His low bass voice is characteristic of Hades, giving his actions a serious sense of gravitas. 

As Eurydice loses hope, she is brought to the underworld, kicking off Orpheus’s hero’s journey, in which he fights to bring the love of his life back from the underworld. Broadway Portland does an exceptional job bringing this difficult story to life, not missing a single beat in this complex and difficult musical, supported by masterful tech, set and performance.

“Hadestown” is an absolute must watch for anyone interested in jazz, musicals, or just great art. The show runs through July 24. The rest of the run is sold out, but if you can snag a ticket you will not regret it.

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