Hannah Whitley (front left) is Eurydice and J. Antonio Rodriguez is Orpheus (with members of the company) in the Hadestown North American Tour at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco before a run at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by T. Charles Erikson
It seems like only yesterday that the strangely magical musical Hadestown was playing at the Orpheum Theatre as part of the BroadwaySF. Well, it wasn’t exactly yesterday – more like 15 months ago. But the impression the show leaves is so powerful, it seems that hardly any time has passed since those crazy kids Eurydice and Orpheus had their sad adventure in the bowels of hell, all while singing rousing, beautiful songs.
Hadestown has indeed returned, but only for a minute (five days to be exact), and then it heads south (is there any other direction for Hadestown?) to San Jose for another five-day run.
At the risk of repeating myself, let me direct you to my June 2022 review of the national tour. All of that still holds, but we have a different cast putting different spins on their mortal and immortal characters. The most interesting thing about seeing Hadestown a second time is not necessarily the differences in performance (there’s still abundant talent on stage, from the leads to the ensemble to the on-stage band). It’s reveling in how mesmerizing and enveloping the production itself is.
The way that composer/lyricist/book writer Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin turn storyteller theater into such a moody, pulsating theatrical experience is absolutely wondrous. Mitchell’s New Orleans-infused score is a mood all on its own, with a special shout out to the gorgeous arrangements by Liam Robinson. But even without the striking visuals of Rachel Hauk’s set and Bradley King’s lights, the score stands on its own and could almost as captivating simply as a concert.
But it’s so much more than a concert, and toward the end of Act 1, we get one of the truly great modern musical theater moments with Orpheus’ “Wait for Me” as he attempts to walk into hell to retrieve the love of his life. Lights swing, fog swirls and Orpheus (played by J. Antonio Rodriguez in this tour) wails. The number gets a huge ovation because it’s practically a show unto itself.
The power of ritual and fate pulse deeply in Hadestown, which is why multiple viewings and listenings (the the various recordings) are so rewarding. As the company sings at the end, “It’s an old, old tale from way back when / And we’re gonna sing it / Again and again / We’re gonna sing it again.”
And we’re going to be enthralled again and again.
Hadestown continues through Sept. 17 as part of the BroadwaySF season at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes (including intermission). Visit broadwaysf.com. The show runs from Sept. 26 through Oct. 1 as part of the Broadway San Jose season at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 S. Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Visit broadwaysanjose.com.