Yesyou could say that Hadesville, Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s multi-award-winning musical premiered in 2006. That year, it debuted as a small-scale, limited-run production in New England.
Then again, one could also argue that he got his real start in 2010, when Mitchell distilled his musical and dramatic ideas into a concept album of the same name. The critically acclaimed LP featured Bon Iver’s Ani DiFranco and Justin Vernon, and its 20 tracks would form the heart of the release. Hadesville that Broadway audiences recognize today.
But to trace the true origins of Hadesvillewe would have to go back a few thousand years to a time when the ancient Orphic myth was still in active circulation.
Orpheus, according to legend, was a divine lyricist who fell in love with and married the incomparable beautiful Eurydice. His sudden death eventually compelled him to descend into the Underworld, where he appealed to its ruler, Hades, and Hades’ wife, Persephone, to free Eurydice to the world of the living. Hades agreed, but only on the condition that Orpheus couldn’t look back to confirm that Eurydice was following him from the depths. Tragically, Orpheus’ resolve did not hold.
“The musical actually follows the mythos quite closely. There are very small details that differ, but the outlines are pretty much the same,” says Kimberly Marable. She starred in the original Broadway company and continues her role as Persephone in the nationally touring production of Hadesville arrived in Spokane on July 5.
One change that Marable considers important is that Hadesville‘s Eurydice actively chooses to leave Orpheus and descend into the underworld. She does this out of economic necessity, but it is her own will – “agency”, as Marable succinctly puts it – that brings her to this underground labor camp where she trades the precariousness of freedom for the security of servitude.
It is there that Eurydice meets another pair of lovers, Hades and Persephone, whose relationship to each other and to the world around them is very different.
“Persephone is the goddess of the seasons, nature and the harvest, of life, while Hades is the god of industry and wealth. And when these things are not in balance, things can be out of whack, like the seasons,” she added. said. It gives Hadesville a “climate change talk hint,” something director Rachel Chavkin has also previously acknowledged.
Weaving in current water cooler themes like climate change or economic uncertainty is the way Hadesville sought to give a contemporary twist to a millennial tale. Marable also says that the show’s characters, while rooted in mythos, were given added dimensions. Her own character, Persephone, operates a speakeasy without her husband’s knowledge in order to cling to the world of sunlight and seasons she once knew.
“All of the characters in this musical are multi-faceted because they’re not caricatures. There’s definitely a humanization to it, which makes it more interesting. It really allows the audience to engage with this story from the point from anyone’s view,” Marable said.
Even the antagonist Hades, played by Kevyn Morrow, isn’t portrayed as an outright monster.
“He’s misunderstood. He’s a businessman, as Kevyn likes to say. He wants his wife so badly, and the deal they’ve made is for her to spend six months on top. [ground]. What does that mean to you, either as a god or as a person? Similarly, you have Persephone, who loves being above ground but also loves her husband. It’s complex.”
Appropriately for any show with Orpheus in its central cast, HadesvilleThe narration of is enriched by the music. Mitchell’s songbook incorporates multiple genres – folk, ragtime, jazz, blues and gospel – which was a recurring point of praise for the concept album. Music is so central to Hadesville only six of the band’s seven members appear on stage throughout. Only the drums remain out of sight, and this is more due to physical constraints than anything else.
“I to like music,” says Marable. “It’s such a pleasure to sing, listen and dance. It’s unlike anything else in the musical theater canon. And the fact that it’s pretty much sung is also unique, because the music really has to drive the story.”
Persephone’s own signature number, a sultry entr’acte entitled “Notre-Dame du métro”, is a way for her to tell her personal version of this story.
“The Fates were in my favor when I was given the opportunity to play this role. ‘Our Lady of the Underground’ is by far my favorite song to sing. It’s an opportunity for me to engage with the public and really get dirty,” she says.
“I’m biased, of course, but all music will speak to your soul. There will be songs you can’t get out of your head for days.” ♦
Hadesville • July 5-10; Tue-Sat 7:30 p.m., Sat 2 p.m., Sun 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. • $52-$100 • First Interstate Center for the Arts • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • broadwayspokane.com • 509-279-7000