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Playhouse Square’s touring production of ‘Hadestown’ is one hell of a show




In spite of the fact that the show is about...Hell...or AKA The Underworld, which is not exactly everyone’s favorite topic for discussion you really should make an effort to see this eight Tony’s Award-winning Broadway production. The music is New Orleans flavored (you can taste the Old Bay in the air) and is expertly rendered by an ecliptic orchestral collection of (from left to right) Cello, Violin, Trombone (with Glockenspiel), Upright Piano, Upright Bass and Acoustic Guitar. The drums are cloistered off stage. It is indeed the music that drives this modern Anaïs Mitchell (music, lyrics and book) version of the ancient Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice.


The exuberant Greek god Hermes (Nathan Lee Graham) begins the show by introducing the various characters that includes Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) a cold and starving young girl, Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma) a poor waiter at the bar who is a talented singer and song writer and Hermes’ ward, Persephone (Brit West) Hades’ female companion, Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) the head of the underworld and The Fates (Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano and Nylas Watson) who are the Greek Chorus.


Eurydice enters a run-down bar looking for something to eat when she meets Orpheus who instantly falls in love with her. Eurydice has her doubts as both of them are dirt poor, but Orpheus tells her of a song that he is writing that will bring back the Spring so that their struggles will be over. He sings a short snippet of the song that is the story of the love between Hades and Persephone and a red carnation appears that Orpheus gives to his new love, Eurydice.


Persephone pays a visit to the world above bringing song, laughter and wine to celebrate summertime. Hades come early to collect Persephone who does not really want to return to Hadestown, the site of an underworld factory manned by lost souls. During Persephone’s visit, Eurydice unwisely listens to the Fates as they sing the praises of Hadestown where one is protected, warm and fed. With Persephone’s departure the cold weather returns as food and firewood become scarce once again and Orpheus continues working on his song in desperation.


Back in Hadestown, Hades and Persephone argue, and he leaves in a huff to search for someone who appreciates all that Hadestown has to offer. The Fates convince Eurydice to join Hades and with the cold surging and an empty stomach Eurydice sees no other choice. Eurydice bids farewell to Orpheus before leaving for Hadestown. With his song nearly finished, Orpheus decides to rescue his true love and with Hermes’ instructions on how to reach Hadestown undetected sets off on his long journey. In the meantime, Eurydice signs the contract and becomes a worker, sealing her fate.


There are so many great elements to this show it is difficult to decide where to start with the praise. First of all, Nathan Lee Graham is fantastic as Hermes. He is truly the nucleus of this show. Hannah Whitley as Eurydice has a strong singing voice and stage presence. Chibueze Ihuoma as Orpheus has an amazing vocal range and is a better than average electric guitar player. Matthew Patrick Quinn’s as Hades whose deep baritone is a power unto itself has the very air vibrate when he hits those low low notes. Brit West as Persephone livens up the party with her Dixieland style singing that had everyone tapping their feet. Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano and Nylas Watson as the Fates bring an accordion, violin and tambourine as well as phenomenal singing to the already great mix. The show is directed by Rachel Chavkin.


The gigantic stage set designed by Rachel Hauck is ingenious in its functionality. Michael Krass’s costume design has that off kilter look that adds to the gloom vibe. Bradley King’s lighting adds an entire new dimension to the stage. The sound design by Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz conquers the Connor Palace, and each separate instrument is featured through the show for their solos with the vocals being crisp.


The orchestra is made up of Eric Kang (Conductor/Piano), Kely Pinheiro (Cello), Clare Armenante (Violin), Michiko Egger (Guitar), Emily Fredrickson Trombone/Glockenspiel/Assistant Conductor), Calvin Jones (Double Bass), Eladio Rojas (Drums/Percussion) and David Lai Music Coordinator. While each member is a virtuoso in their own right, special mention must be made of Emily Fredrickson and her work on Trombone. It was dazzling Dixieland Jazz with all the trimmings and really made the show.


Don’t be put off by the seemingly gloomy subject matter (the underworld) or the fact that it is Greek theater. This show has it all...great music, great singing, strong story line, fantastic choreography, cool costuming, a jazzy oddball orchestra and an amazing stage set matched with superb lighting and sound. This is must see theater! It would be a hell of a shame to miss it.


The Playhouse Square touring production of “Hadestown” will be on stage in the Connor Palace Theater in downtown Cleveland, Ohio through February 19, 2023. For more information and tickets go to https://www.playhousesquare.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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