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Review Round-Ups

Did the critics enjoy their trip to Hadestown at the National Theatre?

Anaïs Mitchell's musical has its London premiere ahead of a Broadway run in 2019

Amber Gray in Hadestown
© Helen Maybanks

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage

★★★★

"Its cleverness – and it is a phenomenally smart show – is that it takes that age-old story and makes it spark in many directions. Hades, boss of the Underworld, isn't your common or garden god, but rather a ruler who mines the minerals in the earth, offering his slave workforce ‘freedom' by imprisoning them behind a wall. (The topicality of "Why We Build the Wall" has to be heard to be believed.) And Orpheus and his love aren't fey spirits, but a poor boy and hungry girl."

"With his irritating spiky hair and his sweet expression, Reeve Carney's Orpheus, is a bit too boyband to make me believe his protestations of everlasting love, although I did like the way that Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose provide orchestrations that underline the purity of his sound. Eva Noblezada as Eurydice has a charming presence, and a lovely voice, but I found that when the action focused on the young lovers it dragged – never building up momentum, remaining episodic rather than powering on."

"Chavkin makes joyful use of the many variants of the Olivier's revolve, sending the protagonists spinning round in ever more rapid circles, as the battle takes place between hope and despair, between settling for shutting out the world and using art to make it better."


Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out

★★★★

"The central tragic romance of Orpheus and Eurydice doesn't really work on an emotional level: Reeve Carney's bland, toothy Orpheus is difficult to root for and occasionally unbearable when he starts singing. Not totally his fault. On a record (where Justin ‘Bon Iver' Vernon sang the role!) it's okay for a character disappear for a few songs: here Orpheus is kept on stage, blithely composing his masterpiece while a starving Eurydice literally goes to hell while she waits for him to get on with it. "

"Amber Gray, a regular with Chavkin's avant-garde theatre company The TEAM, is boozily magnificent as a sozzled party girl Persephone. André de Shields, the original Wiz in The Wiz, is scene-stealingly brilliant as a suavely shamanic Hermes. Eva Nobledzada is a sweetly grungy Eurydice. Patrick Page's bowel-quakingly low voice as Hades is practically a special effect."

"Hadestown is not perfect, but it is really, really good. The wonderfully diverse songs of Mitchell's expanded, virtually sung-through soundtrack are the bedrock. "


Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada in Hadestown
© Helen Maybanks


Tim Bano, The Stage

★★★★

"The amphitheatre at Epidaurus that the Olivier is based on is almost reflected back in Rachel Hauck's design, concentric circles with a stage area in the centre and added dive bar feel.

"Hauck has the band spread out across the stage – a guitar here, a cello there – which combine to create a fantastically warm panoramic sound. It's also really exquisitely orchestrated by Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, with glissandoing trombones, freewheeling accordion solos and drums which, in the song "Livin' It Up On Top", sound brilliantly as if they keep skipping a beat."

"Unfortunately Reeve Carney's Orpheus is a bit of a drip. His voice feels strained and his movements clumsy. It not his fault that the production has decked him out in tight black jeans, a waistcoat and guitar, like some Stars in Their Eyes Springsteen knockoff, but it doesn't exactly help."


Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★★★

"[Rachel] Chavkin's production, even in a large space, preserves the rough theatre elements that are part of the show's charm. Rachel Hauck's design suggests some decrepit New Orleans dive, and the band, with Nathaniel Cross prominent on trombone, is vividly present. The performers, headed by Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada as the young lovers, are all good, even if Orpheus's song that wins him an underworld reprieve can't stand comparison with Gluck or Offenbach."

"The standout performance comes from Patrick Page who, as Hades, has a voice that seems to issue, appropriately, from the depths. He is excellently partnered by Amber Gray as a half-pissed Persephone and well supported by André de Shields as a Hermes who periodically sports the kind of fringed umbrella you'd see at a funeral in the deep south."

Patrick Page (Hades) and Amber Gray (Persephone) in Hadestown
© Helen Maybanks 2018


Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

★★★★

"In the hands of Eva Noblezada, Eurydice has the right mix of wariness and innocence. But Orpheus seems airily whimsical, and though Reeve Carney's voice at times calls to mind Jeff Buckley, he brings too little weight to the role, and their connection isn't convincing.

"In truth, it's the other characters who provide real interest. Patrick Page is astonishing as Hades, a business mastermind who claims to afford his underlings freedom even as he shuts them inside his empire.

"The topical significance, especially in the song "Why We Build The Wall", won't be lost on anyone, yet it's Page's ability to appear both thunderous and sophisticated that's remarkable. There's satisfying spark in his relationship with Persephone (a vivid Amber Gray), and André De Shields has a gravelly authority as Hermes, who's a cross between a master of ceremonies and a clairvoyant."


Ann Treneman, The Times

★★

The bad news is that Hadestown, the show, is not nearly as interesting as it should be. The music by the celebrated singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell often feels samey and the lyrics (also by Mitchell) are basic to the point of laughable. "When you're up you're up," they sing. "When you're down you're down." And when you're uninspiring, you're uninspiring."

"I didn't buy that Orpheus and Eurydice were in love for a minute. Their initial dance (choreography by David Neumann) seemed wholly devoid of emotion. Other numbers did flow better although there was a mind-numbing amount of circular walking on the Olivier travelator.

"It's left to the really rather brilliant Page as Mr Hades and his hard-drinking wife Persephone (a sultry Amber Gray) to bring this show to life. He's the big bad guy who likes to build walls and keep everyone down but he has all the best tunes, by far."

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