OPINION: Hadestown is Overrated

Jayden Klaus, Staff Writer

I first heard about Hadestown from a friend of mine in the fall of 2019 as we worked on a high school project. She told me that it was based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with a modern twist. She even played a couple of the songs on the album like “Wait For Me” and “Come Home With Me.” My friend suggested multiple times that I check out it out for myself and despite finding the musical interesting, I didn’t look into it further.

Then in early January 2022, I got a text in a group chat. One of my other friends wanted to invite me and my first friend to come visit her for her birthday. She’s in New York for college and she said that it could be fun for us to walk around the streets of Manhattan together.

“And the best part is that Hadestown is showing that weekend!” my friend exclaimed in the Discord call we were in to arrange the details of the trip. “We should all go see it!”

My friend who had first introduced Hadestown to me was extremely excited for this opportunity and immediately agreed. I was more reserved about it, but decided that it would be fun to go see a show in New York City with two of my best friends. We all purchased tickets and I waited for the day we would be heading to New York to see Hadestown.

I had high expectations for the show as I had heard nothing but heaps of praise from my friends. Also, everything I looked at online said that the show was fantastic. It even received 14 Tony award nominations and winning eight for categories like Best Original Score, Best Musical, and Best Direction. I figured that Hadestown would become another one of my favorite musicals.

Instead, it let me down hard. It just didn’t land with me the way that other musicals, plays, and shows that I’ve seen have. I felt kinda bad about it because my friends clearly had so much fun seeing it while I didn’t.

I did enjoy the music of Hadestown very much. That’s probably the best part of the show. Hadestown is a sung-through musical so the entire story is told through the songs. I’ve only seen one other sung through musical, which was Hamilton, and I thought that it was so cool that the actors sung the entire show. My favorite songs of Hadestown were definitely the opening number, “Road to Hell” and the three “Epic” songs. “Road to Hell” is a fun number that has Hermes setting up the story and introducing all the characters. The three “Epic” songs all have this sweet, beautiful melody telling the love story of Hades and Persephone. Hadestown songs are beautifully composed, written, and performed in general.

There were songs I didn’t really like, however. “Hey Little Songbird” didn’t sit right with me because during that song, Hades is offering Eurydice shelter in the underworld, which she desperately needs, but it felt idiotic to me that she would go along with it. The song conveys that she is doing it out of desperation and lost hope that Orpheus’ song will be able to help them, but I was just annoyed at her making what would be a very bad decision. It also felt really weird to me that Hades would be doing this even though he had said in the previous song, “Chant,” that he would seek out someone who would appreciate everything he’s done if Persephone wouldn’t. It just didn’t feel to me as something that he as a character would do.

I did also like the performers of Hadestown. I was lucky enough to see Hadestown with most of the original Broadway cast. I thought that this was an amazing opportunity that I got to experience. And even though the musical wasn’t overall impressive to me, I was impressed at what the cast did with what they had.

One thing about Hadestown that intrigued me at first, but I later came to dislike, was the decision to have the orchestra onstage. Most shows I’ve seen have them in an orchestra pit but this was different. The orchestra for Hadestown is much smaller than a typical one and the musicians were mostly situated on upstage left and right, with the exception of the percussionist in a sound booth at the very back of the stage. It added an interesting aesthetic and made it seem like the band were also actors in the show.

But, I feel like it negatively affected the entire production moving forward. Because so much of the stage was occupied by the orchestra, there was less space for the actors to move about the stage. Most of the musical takes place in the middle of center stage. Most theater shows make use of the entire stage to tell the story, create action, and have character moments. It’s really interesting what directors can do with the staging when they have the space to do so. However, Hadestown does not have that option with its stage.

Instead, it created a claustrophobic feeling that made me less engaged that I probably would have been if the stage space was bigger.  And even later when the stage expands, it doesn’t do much to mitigate this other than give the actors new places to exit and enter from. It’s really disappointing to see because there were several moments that would have really benefitted from the actors being able to move around a larger space on stage.

Then, there was the climax moment in the song “Doubt Comes In.” This is when Orpheus is leading Eurydice out of the underworld but turns around and sends her back. This is the biggest moment of the entire show and everyone knows it. It’s supposed to hit hard that he turns around, even though we know he will. But, it didn’t land with me. I don’t think it’s because I knew that it was coming but because it wasn’t a very effective climax. The entire song is very slow and methodical. It doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere and more like an interlude before something more exciting and interesting. Even the show’s actual interlude, “Our Lady of the Underground,” has more punch. When Orpheus turns, it feels like it was out of nowhere. I feel that moment would have been more effective if the music had swelled in volume and tension to a sting on the turn to illustrate Orpheus’ conflicted emotions.

I really did have high hopes for Hadestown when I went into the theater to see it. But, it ultimately let me down in several ways. I know that many people online that I’ve seen giving it reviews and my friends have listed it as S tier. However, for me, it just ended up being B tier.

It was fun to see Hadestown with my friends, especially since I got to hang out with my friend who’s in New York. I think that I got more enjoyment out of seeing a show with my close friends than seeing Hadestown itself. I don’t think that Hadestown is the sort of show that I would go see on my own but I might with my friends again.