Nature has healed and broadway is back. My first broadway experience in this new world was Hadestown where maybe if the story is told again, it will turn out different this time. All of the pieces are there, after all.
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College is a different time to be alive. You’re living on your own for the first time in your life, living with other people who weren’t raised the same as you (for better or for worse), and you meet new people you might have never met otherwise. College was the time I listened to more music because when you have 4+ hours of homework everyday banging your head to some music while questioning your life choice to pursue an engineering degree makes it seem less horrible. Even better to suffer with friends. I’ve been a fan of musicals for a very long time and in college I found people who also enjoyed them. I listened to "Be More Chill" for the first time all the way through and "Hamilton" but no other musical had a chokehold on me quite like Hadestown.
Beginnings of Hadestown
Hadestown started as a concept album by Anaïs Mitchell in 2010. This version has very indie / folky vibes in my opinion and from here to the official soundtrack we have now, a lot has changed.
There’s an early Broadway version of the musical and I feel like it refined some of my gripes with the concept album and really brought it together. Plus Chris Sullivan, the guy who played Hermes has this really good bass voice that to me really fits the aesthetic of the show.
Then there’s the version we have now. Some songs were deleted, some melodies changed, some are the same. My favorite is the cast recording with Chris Sullivan.
Overall, the lyrics in Hadestown are artsy oftentimes playing off of earlier songs or drawing parallels between certain characters. I feel like for people who don’t know the songs beforehand might not catch all the nuances.
Hadestown is what I will call a combination retelling of a few Greek myths. It has two overlapping plots for the myth of Orpheus and Euridyce with the mythos of Hades and Persephone but includes other characters like the Fates and Hermes as well.
In case you’re rusty on Greek Mythology...
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is short and sweet but tragic. Our titular main characters get married and then almost immediately Eurydice dies. Orpheus out of love for his wife, goes to the underworld and begs Hades to let her go. Hades says fine you can go as long as you don’t look back until you make it back to the mortal realm. So Orpheus climbs and scrapes his way back out of the underworld and he almost makes it but at the last second he looks back. With a scream his lover is dragged back to the underworld. Some tellings of this myth say afterwards, Orpheus is unable to die until Hades has mercy on him. In "Hades" the video game, Orpheus and Eurydice are forever separated in the underworld.
The myth of Hades and Persephone has been trending all over in recent history. Everyone and their mother has a retelling of this story. Hades, the king of the underworld kidnapped Persephone–a culturally appropriate way of obtaining a wife back then. One small problem, Persephone is Demter’s daughter. Demeter is the Greek goddess of harvest and without Persephone she went on strike demanding her daughter is returned to her. Hades relents but feeds Persephone pomegranate seeds. These seeds bind her to the underworld, so she must spend half the year down in the underworld. That is why she is the Greek goddess of spring.
Hermes is the Greek messenger god.
The Fates are a trio of sisters who show up in Greek mythology to represent someone’s destiny. Really popular in stories about defying your fate or the natural progression of life like this one.
The show starts with Hermes the Greek messenger god setting the scene and introducing our major key players. We’re in the human world and things are rough. It’s probably better to just have him tell you..
After Hermes introduces everyone we set up Orpheus and Eurydice's love story. They meet, they fall in love, they get married. Persephone is dragged back to the undeworld too soon. Hades and Persephone bicker about the state of the Hadestown and the audience gets the idea how much their relationship has soured. Hades wants her to stay with him year round, and Persephone misses the tenderness Hades once showed with her. While Orpheus works on the song that will make things right in the human world, a storm comes and Eurydice dies. She goes to Hadestown and Hades offers her a place with warmth, food, and security and she takes it. Afterwards the Fates point out she signed her life away to work for Hades for eternity and she will eventually forget who she was. When Orpheus finds out she is dead, he pleads Hermes to tell him how to find her and walks to the underworld. Cut to Persephone running a speakeasy of sorts in the underworld where she offers simple things to the spirits who live there. Orpheus finds Eurydice and they talk about the blind love promises they made and promise to be better if they can get out of this. Orpheus is caught by Hades and is given a deal: make him feel something and he'll consider letting him take his wife back. Orpheus is put in a prison of sorts where he convinces the dead to start a revolution about their treatment from Hades. He finishes his song and the hard exterior of Hades, cracks and softens. It's the love song of his youth when he and Persephone first dated. Hades feels conflicted, if he lets Orpheus and Eurydice go, he'll look like a weak king and the revolt will grow stronger. If he doesn't, then he's heartless and he'll never win back his people or his wife. The Fates tell him to leave the fate of the future in the human's hands because they fail alone. So Hermes tells Orpheus they can go if Orpheus can walk without looking back. Of course, he looks back. The play ends with a meta feeling that maybe if they tell the story again, it'll end differently.
Seeing the Show
I am so thankful to be able to go see a few musicals in my life. My parents came with me and they had no idea what this show was about. I gave them the same sort of mythology run down I gave you to prep them. Seeing it in person at the college I graduated from was a surreal experience seeing Broadway in a post-covid world. It was wonderful, nature was healing.
I enjoyed the experience but something felt different. Hadestown no longer resonated with me as much as it did in college. I’m a different person now. A tragic love story I wish would end differently or a failing marriage is something I can’t relate to anymore.
Not only that but Hadestown has the band on stage. It’s cool and something different but feels crowded. Most of the actors stay on stage the whole time and it adds to the crowd. For an intimate story, there’s so many actors and moving parts, it’s hard to know what to look at. Maybe that’s on purpose, as a commentary that if all of these moving parts weren’t happening at the same time, we might get a happier ending for our main couple.
Outfits For Going To See Hadestown
HI used to love Disney Inspired outfits on Pinterest, they were a cool way to dress as the aesthetic of your favorite character. So why not do it for Hadestown?
In the Broadway, Persephone wears a green 1920's dress with ruching. This one is a bit more flowy but has some nice texture to it that you can accessorize to make it more like her character. This one has ruffles just like her sleeves and is gathered up top and flows at the bottom like her dress.
Next up is Eurydice. In the show, she wears dark overalls, a vest, and a yellow hankerchief. Because going to Broadway is a little more dressy, I think an dark overall skirt or dress with a bodysuit underneath or a turtle neck shirt would be awesome for a Eurydice inspired outfit. So we've got our overalls and shirt, next is the vest. Because the overalls are form fitting, I think this vest would give some flow. Lastly is the scarf. I like this one because it has yellow flowers which I think calls back to "Flowers" where she recalls what she misses about being alive.
Hermes is probably my favorite character. The costume for this character has changed over time. In the video above he has stripes just like Hades. However, I think his most defining characteristic would be his shoes. It's mentioned in the first song as "a man with feathers on his feet". You could do feather shoes but I like wingtip shoes aesthetically better.
The Fates are classy, sassy, and all in grey. They dress similarly but distinctly differently. So for our inspired outfits, dress number one is classy, dress number two is flattering with lots of gathering, and dress number three is modern and dressy.
Hades is the primary antagonist but I wouldn't classify him as a villain. He runs Hadestown, he structured it into an electric metropolis. Famously he dons pinstripes, and looks well dressed compared compared to those who works for him. There's so many ways to accomplish this aesthetic. You could go the dress route, jumpsuit route, or business casual. Whatever makes you feel powerful and confident.
Last but not least is our leading man, Orpheus. Orpheus famously wears suspenders, pants, a shirt, and a red handkerchief. Now you're ready to turn the heart of Hades himself.
Thank you so much for reading my post on Hadestown. If you liked this post, please share with your friends and comment below your favorite Greek Myth. I'll see you in the next post!