‘Hadestown’: Soundtrack Review

Haley Bass, Staff Writer

As a resident theatre kid, I have listened to more musical soundtracks than I could count. I have spent long periods of time obsessively listening to modern musicals such as Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress. I’ve even spent time listening to more of the classics such as the Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon. While all of these soundtracks are undeniably amazing, they simply pale in comparison to the soundtrack for Hadestown. Premiering on Broadway in March of last year, Hadestown has already made waves despite its relatively new place on the Broadway stage. At the 73rd Tony Awards last June, Hadestown received an astounding total of 14 nominations- the most of any show that evening- and won eight of them. These awards included both Best Musical and Best Original Score. Considering that a prestigious award ceremony came to these conclusions, who am I to disagree. 

Hadestown revitalizes two classic Greek myths as the center of its storyline. The first is the story of Orpheus, a mortal man said to be blessed by the gods with the gift of music, and his love for Euridice, a poor girl wandering the Earth in search of food and shelter. After falling in love with Euridice quite literally at first sight, Orpheus promises himself to marry her. After he eventually succeeds in his romantic pursuits, he tells her that he would walk all the way to Hell for her if he needed to – not knowing he will soon have to act on this promise. The second story follows the love of Hades, the God of death and the underworld, and his wife Persephone, the Goddess of spring. After a millennia of marriage, both Hades and Persephone find themselves increasingly divided, falling out of the love they once shared for one another. Dismayed by Hades’ single-minded obsession, Persephone finds comfort in her limited time in the overworld, meeting Orpheus and Euridice in the process. The stories are normally entirely separate, but Hadestown manages to weave them together seamlessly. Both of these myths have been told countless times across centuries – but never like this. 

Writer Anais Mitchell first produced her story in a self-proclaimed “DIY theatre project” in 2006. Since then, Mitchell has hardly stopped for air, constantly editing and adding to her masterpiece. Her result: a two hour and two minute, 40-song masterpiece. Because Hadestown was originally born as a concept album, rather than a stage production, it is set apart from other modern musical soundtracks. Mitchell’s story is long and impossibly in-depth, ensuring that one comprehends the full spectrum of the show’s plot simply through their ears. The plot, however, is not the only factor of this show with depth. Mitchell manages to take static characters from Greek mythology and completely transform them, translating them into complex, modern men and women with real goals and emotions. Whereas Euridice is generally seen as a simple plot device in the story of Orpheus, Mitchell gives her new life and motivation. When the Fates lament to the audience of Euridice’s departure they powerfully explain “you can have your principles when you’ve got a belly full,” one example from an entire show full of memorable refrains with the power to change your outlook on life. The show is seamlessly weaved together with stunning critiques of American society, pointing to the dangers of an individualistic consumer culture in ways that will cause you to rethink your focus on material possessions. 

The soundtrack’s power however does not stop with its impeccable writing, the amazing talent of the album’s cast stands out as well. Emboldened by a New Orleans Jazz inspired sound, all of the members of this cast display an array of unique voices that are as diverse musically as they are visually. Whether it’s Patrick Page’s impressive bass, Amber Gray’s funky twang, Reeve Carney’s eerily high soprano, or Eva Noblezada’s unmatched ability to belt the climax of  every song, there are absolutely no weak links in this show when it comes to vocal prowess. What really sets this show apart, however, is it’s most high intensity moments. The climaxes of “Chant,” “Wait for Me,” and “Doubt Comes In” are just a few of the moments in which my breath is taken away from me even after listening to them countless times. The lead actors, ensemble, musicians and writing of these songs are, without exaggeration, completely unforgettable and unmatched by any other musical in my opinion.

I cannot recommend the soundtrack of Hadestown enough. If you find any free time, listening to these songs could provide you with an experience unlike any offered by other musicals. Whether you’re looking for an engaging story, well-defined characters, or breathtaking music, I can guarantee you’ll find it in Hadestown.