Most people are familiar with the story of Hercules, or at least a version of it, thanks to Disney. People have heard of Achilles and the Trojan War. But what about the stories that have too little fighting and too much tragedy? Stories of poets, cynics, and dreamers, and the fate that strikes them down. Stories like that of Orpheus and Eurydice.
I’ll confess, I didn’t know much about their story until I heard “Hadestown: The Musical,” but after listening to the music, an unlikely combination of Greek tragedy and New Orleans jazz, I was hooked.
“Hadestown” is a cycle – the audience is told in the first song that the story will be tragic, and that line is repeated in one of the closing songs. There’s no avoiding the tragedy, just as there’s no avoiding growing connected to the characters. But for me, there’s something beautiful about refusing to stay quiet just because the story hurts. Change happens and things hurt, but if there’s one thing I took away from this musical, it’s that it’s important to continue to tell the story, continue to remember in spite of the hurt, and choose to remember the good. “Hadestown,” despite being a retelling of a tragedy, doesn’t focus on the tragedy. It remembers how happy Orpheus and Eurydice were, how close they came.
Of course, when it comes to a musical, a good story isn’t the only important part. The music, set, and lighting are all critical to making an impact on the audience. The set isn’t clean, but dark and somewhat rundown, almost feeling like a speakeasy. The characters are close-knit, playing soulful jazz in dark, desperate times. And the lighting brings all of it to life. Brightening when Persephone arrives and darkening after she leaves. Becoming almost pitch black when Orpheus travels to Hadestown. The lighting helps the audience feel as if they’re on the journey with the characters.
There were so many moments that took my breath away. When Orpheus was traveling through the dark with lights swinging around him. When the wall opened to let him in. When he turned around a moment too soon, right as you were thinking, “maybe, just maybe.” There was not a single moment that I wasn’t invested in, not a single moment when I didn’t want to know what happened next, even though I already knew how it ended.
As Hermes says “It’s a tragedy, and we’re gonna sing it anyway.”
Lynn Spahr is a freshman in general studies.