To Hades and back

OKC Broadway brings the national tour of Hadestown to the Civic Center this month.

“Come see how the world could be, in spite of the way that it is,” croons Hermes, luring the audience in with flowery promises.

Hadestown, conceived and written by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, makes its much-anticipated tour stop at the Civic Center the last week of the month. Originally produced in 2007, Hadestown was an off-Broadway sleeper hit. After the original run closed, the production team released a concept album, and that was it for the show for nearly 10 years. A new, updated production debuted on Broadway in 2019 and went on to win 8 Tony Awards, including best musical. The touring production, which launched in 2021, is essentially the Broadway show on wheels and features a brand-new cast filling the roles.

The concept album and the stage musical have been favorites amongst Broadway diehards, even the ones who haven’t seen it yet. Hadestown is a mashup of two Greek mythologies – Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. In Mitchell’s version, Hades takes a liking to the vulnerable yet scrappy Eurydice and offers her a one-way ticket to his underground realm, where he reigns as king and foreman. The above world is ravaged by climate change, and Eurydice wanders the barren wasteland — in love with Orpheus — but attempting to survive. Eurydice is enticed by the dangerous offer and succumbs to the temptation. Grief stricken, Orpheus follows Eurydice into the depths, vowing to bring her back from Hadestown. The Fates haunt him along the way, and Orpheus embarks on a journey of self-sacrifice to rescue his love.

Hades views himself as a boss — his underworld workers enslaved by their own shortsightedness — so the staging is dark and industrial, evoking images of the mines and railroad chain gangs.

The North American tour stars Maria-Christina Oliveras as Persephone, Chibueze Ihuoma as Orpheus, Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades and Nathan Lee Graham as Hermes. Hannah Whitley is Eurydice.

click to enlarge To Hades and back
Photo provided
A scene from Hadestown

“Hadestown does such a beautiful job taking a story that is rooted in an ancient myth and making it relatable to what it is like to experience life,” Whitley said. “Hadestown has the power to show the uniqueness of the individual, while also displaying the commonalities we all share in the human experience.”

Whitley said one of her favorite things about the show is its contrasts.

“It shows strength and vulnerability, seriousness and silliness, excitement and fear, love and cruelty. I see myself in Eurydice for those same reasons. She’s kind of a tough chick, but she’s also vulnerable. She’s a contrast of all those same elements that are seen in the show. Eurydice doesn’t just explore the idealism of the world. She sees how cruel and scary it can be. But she also sees and experiences hope and love. One of the most relatable experiences in this character is what it feels like to be young and in love for the first time. It’s exciting, but it’s also scary. I remember that fear and how vulnerable it is when you first realize how much you love someone. I think it’s something everyone can relate to.”

The song “Flowers” is Whitley’s favorite to perform.

“It’s a challenging number. I’m completely alone up there on stage, and I’m under a single spotlight. It’s very challenging to perform. It’s also unpredictable from night to night. I have learned to let go and to surrender to that moment. It’s definitely the song that teaches me the most. Hannah from four years ago would’ve been terrified … Anaïs (Mitchell) has created something great and given the world a gift. I’m so thankful for the support of every person and teacher I’ve had, both inside and outside that rehearsal room. I hope everyone in Oklahoma City can come see the show.”

Nearly every Broadway tour that comes to town has a performer in the cast with ties to Oklahoma, and this production is no exception. J. Antonio Rodriguez is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and makes his tour debut with the cast. The Ardmore native will perform the role of Orpheus on opening night at the Civic Center. OKC patrons have previously seen him in The Rocky Horror Show at Lyric Theatre in 2019.

“It feels like a dream come true to return to Oklahoma to perform,” Rodriguez said. “I graduated from OU in 2020, and I didn’t get a real graduation ceremony. My last memory of Norman and OU was leaving school at the beginning of the pandemic, then graduating at home in Ardmore. To be able to come back to the city that I love, with such a beautiful show that has so much to say about the world we dream about, is the greatest gift.”

Hadestown runs Oct. 25-30 at The Civic Center Music Hall.


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