Hadestown returns for a limited engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre now through October 15th. With music, lyrics and book by Anaïs Mitchell, the Tony-winning parable steeped in Greek mythology delivers on so many levels. The story of idealistic young lovers trying to survive amidst the forces of evil speak to our contemporary and universal struggles, both at home and abroad. The electricity in the air during this opening night performance was palpable and the cast more than delivered the goods, serving up its rich New Orleans-style genre-blending score with a vibrant cast and a kick-ass 9-piece orchestra.
The cast was uniformly dynamic with top honors going to Lana Gordon as Persephone and Matthew Patrick Quinn as her devilish husband Hades, king of the Underworld. Ms. Gordon, who starred in the original Broadway production, brings attitude with a capital A as she burns up the stage in numbers like “Livin It Up on Top” and “Our Lady of the Underground.” Quinn’s thundering bass vocals shook the Ahmanson and seemed to emanate from the very depths of hell. With his sinewy, lanky frame and pinstripe suit, Quinn exudes the slithery showmanship of the devil with a beguiling allure. We can see embers of the Trump era in the dystopian underworld Mitchell has created, where the wealth of the few is built on the backs of the exploited masses. There’s even a sly nod to the former occupant of the White House when Hades reaches his hand for Persephone and she swats it away, eerily reminiscent of the real-life hand-swat caught on camera which went viral during the former first couples’ trip to Israel in 2017.
The two lovers at the heart of the show are played by J. Antonio Rodriguez as Orpheus and Amaya Braganza as Eurydice. Rodriguez brings a boyish innocence to the role of Orpheus which is endearing and heartfelt. His vocals were hauntingly evocative, though at times his frequent use of his falsetto “head voice” felt a bit jarring. Having read in the program of Rodriguez’s status as a “dreamer” infuses his casting with an added layer of resonance, particularly with the powerful song “Why We Build the Wall” that closes act one. Rodriguez nailed the earnest innocence of the role, but when it comes to conveying the sexual chemistry with Braganza, his performance didn’t quite flip that switch. Braganza gives a compelling performance as Eurydice and really commits fully to the role, both vocally and dramatically.
Additional highlights from this production include Will Mann as Hermes who serves as the show’s narrator and spiritual guide and the glorious trio of women known as the Fates who serve as a Greek chorus of sorts. Mann is exceptional as Hermes, seamlessly alternating between the showy revivalist razzmatazz and ministerial gravitas required of the role. He exudes an earthy, gritty ebullience which makes the show go down like a smooth glass of Whiskey. Marla Louissaint, Lizzie Markson and Hannah Schreer comprise the Fates who dazzle and delight with their infectious blend of magic every time they’re on stage. Last but certainly not least, the production elements for this show are next level with brilliant set design and lighting to convey just the right ambience. If you want to be dazzled, get thee to the Ahmanson before this show ends its all-too-brief engagement.