Review, Hadestown, Lyric Theatre, London by James Ellis

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I’ve wanted to see Hadestown for sometime. Anas Mitchell has whipped up a frenzy with this Greek myth inspired musical take on the tale. This being it’s West End premiere, can it live up to the hype?

Whilst it might work better as a concept album, it is Mitchell’s songs which are the pulling power of Hadestown. The familiar story has been on stage and screen in varying styles, yet its the lack of innovation which bores here. This is one of the most famous stories in Western literature, with a real opportunity do something interesting with it. Granted the New Orleans style jazz and hearty folk stylings do meld only to a certain degree. Its the former which is punchy and keeps toes tapping. They could have even pushed the jazz even more from this golden band,

My main gripe is that this story (presented as it is) does not fill 2 hours of a show, this is made clear in the second act when Hades stops and pauses as the Furies sing about his indecisions to free our young couple. Some press night jitters also saw a hanky nearly fall and a few instances of mic scratches. We let this slide, as this press and guest night performance had great energy. The ensemble for the show are very impressive in their energy, their diverse apperance another great thing. Musically, they have the least interesting songs, the Fates might just claim that crown.

As a cast they are top tier. A spirit of a bard, Dónal Finn is Orpheus with piercing falsetto and an all round Irish charm. His love: Eurydice is Grace Hodgett Young who is equally matching Finn in voice and atmosphere. Melaine La Barrie is the wise Hermes, the narrator guide who really loves to belt out numbers and use a novelty train whistle of the underworld. Zachary James is Hades in the vain of the comic baddie, not really songs for a singer, more acting songs. He looks a bit like Wesker from Resident Evil and Robotnik from the Sonic franchise. Not much to the depth of the part other then having some mercy for the couple leading to an atmospheric trial home scene. Gloria Onitiri is an easy favourite as Pesephone, of colour and spring lost to the underworld. Some blazing moments with her, really stirring powerhouse songs and good fun too. The Fates: Bella Brown, Madeline Charlemagne and Allie Daniel are analysing and wild sparks to the party, their harmonies a revelation. 

Rachel Chavkin could have done more with this show as director. Something about it not filling it’s true potential, yet the show has become a hit. Some costumes and set pieces might not have wowed as much as they should. Steam punk, art noveau and the Wild West all seem to be a part of this, though only in suggestion. If kept shorter this could have worked better, the songs though getting love and the all round gun-ho attitude is what makes this memorable.  

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