Review: Hadestown


by Mike Matthaiakis

Hadestown” ascends from its underground roots to make a triumphant debut on the West End stage, bringing with it a devoted legion of fans who have long awaited its arrival. Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera, which began as a concept album almost two decades ago, resonates with glorious melodies and poetic storytelling, enveloping audiences in the timeless allure of Ancient Greek mythology.

As the haunting strains of Mitchell’s score reverberate through the Lyric Theatre, it’s clear that “Hadestown” is a musical experience like no other. The absence of a traditional book writer allows the story to unfold entirely through song, with the charismatic Hermes, portrayed with magnetic charm by Melanie La Barrie, guiding us through the narrative.

Yet, despite the musical’s enchanting melodies and lyrical prowess, there remains a lingering sense of narrative thinness. While the poetic delivery adds a layer of mystique to the storytelling, the characters often feel underdeveloped, leaving audiences yearning for deeper emotional connections.

However, amidst this narrative lightness, Dónal Finn shines as the endearing Orpheus, infusing the character with a newfound innocence and vulnerability that tugs at the heartstrings. Finn’s remarkable vocals, particularly showcased in the stirring anthem “Wait For Me,” elevate the production to soaring heights, capturing the essence of Mitchell’s folk-inspired melodies with poignant authenticity.

Supporting performances from the likes of the superb Gloria Onitiri as Persephone and the talented ensemble cast contribute to the show’s dynamic energy, while Rachel Chavkin’s deft direction keeps the pace brisk and engaging throughout. Against the backdrop of Rachel Hauck’s sprawling set and Bradley King’s evocative lighting design, “Hadestown” unfolds as a visual feast, immersing audiences in a world of enchantment and wonder.

While “Hadestown” may lean heavily on its roots as a concept album, its undeniable brilliance lies in its ability to defy convention and captivate audiences with its unconventional storytelling. As the musical unfolds, weaving a tapestry of love, loss, and redemption, it becomes clear that “Hadestown” is more than just a concert performance—it’s a transcendent journey into the depths of the human soul, destined to leave an indelible mark on all who experience its haunting beauty.

Hadestown” is at the Lyric Theatre, till 22 December, 2024.