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'HADESTOWN' The North American Touring Company.

Now onstage at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West

Credit: T. Charles Erickson Centre: Nathan Lee Graham and the North American touring company of 'Hadestown'

Joe Szekeres

A Voice Choice for the glorious-sounding vocals and harmonies that soar past the Royal Alexandra roof.

The Hadestown North American touring company held its Canadian premiere on July 7 at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre. According to the touring website, the production is en route to Ottawa after the Toronto stop.

There’s nothing hellish about this heavenly cast whatsoever.

It’s a Voice Choice for the glorious-sounding vocals and harmonies that soar past the Royal Alexandra Theatre roof.

Nathan Lee Graham is Hermes, the god of the Underworld, and serves as the narrator of the story of the young Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) and Eurydice (Hannah Whitley). Hermes introduces all the characters to the audience who will soon play a part in the lives of the young lovers.

Eurydice and the Fates (Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano, and Nyla Watson) inform the audience of the severe weather conditions and famine. Orpheus is the ward of Hermes who introduces the lad to Eurydice and immediately says he will marry the young girl even though they are both poor. Eventually, Eurydice goes to work in hell like industrial version of the Greek Underworld to escape poverty and the cold. In the end, it is Orpheus who comes to rescue her.

Persephone (Maria-Christina Oliveras) soon arrives in the Underworld to celebrate summer. During this time, Eurydice begins to fall in love with Orpheus. Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn), Persephone’s husband, arrives soon after to take his wife back to Hadestown, Hades’ underground factory, where there is never-ending labour by the workers.

Eventually, the stories of the two couples - Persephone and Hades, Orpheus and Eurydice – intertwine with Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, deciding if Orpheus and Eurydice are to remain together forever.
The touring production features powerful imagery that begins with Rachel Hauck's scenic design, which effectively captures the gritty and smoke-filled ambiance of a New Orleans speakeasy. It makes me yearn to experience the real thing someday, even for a half-hour. Bradley King uses individual spotlights during the pre-show and performance to create an eerie and haunting effect. Michael Krass' costume designs are also noteworthy, perfectly reflecting each character’s unique qualities.

The production ranges from quiet love ballads to stirring choral and movement ensemble numbers. Even if someone does not have a strong background in Greek mythology, there’s no need to concern yourself if you think you might get lost. Leave yourselves enough time during the pre-show to read as much of the Programme as possible. There is important information regarding the production and some important glossaries about the meaning of the various Gods in the show.

The exceptional vocals and top-notch orchestral arrangements certainly deserve recognition. Liam Robinson, who served as the Music Supervisor and Vocal Arranger, as well as Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, who worked on the Arrangements and Orchestrations, Eric King as the Music Director, and David Lai as the Music Coordinator, are all responsible for the incredible sound that seamlessly complements David Neumann's stylized choreography and movement. The musical number "Way Down Hadestown" by the Company in Act 1 is a breathtaking showstopper combining the work of each of the aforementioned individuals.

Not only have Director Rachel Chavkin and Anaïs Mitchell (Music, Lyrics and Book) created a fantastic tale of Greek mythology that appeals to a twenty-first-century audience, but also there is an essential connection to some timely social issues that currently wreak havoc on the world we know. For example, our current climate crisis centers prominently and remains a critical element of the story.

In the Programme note, Mitchell speaks about “finding beauty and bravery which become causes for celebration even in hard times. There’s beauty in the struggle for a better world even if we can’t yet see the result of that struggle.”

Mitchell's observation is accurate in acknowledging that we all face struggles in life, especially as we navigate the constant transitions and uncertainties brought about moving forward out of the pandemic.

This exquisite group of artists portrays the essence of beauty and courage of their struggles in the two-and-a-half-hour performance which seems to pass by in an instant.

As the narrator Hermes, Nathan Lee Graham exudes elegance and effortless grace on stage, dressed in what appears to be a dazzling Hermès silver suit. He opens the show with a sleek gesture to undo the button on his suit jacket with great theatrical style. Meanwhile, Matthew Patrick Quinn is captivating as Hades, dressed in a striking black pinstripe suit. His commanding and silky basso singing voice demands attention, and his stage presence as the Underworld patriarch instinctively exudes a powerful sense of foreboding adding to the character’s depth and intrigue.

J. Antonio Rodriguez and Hannah Whitley are sweet as the dreamer Orpheus and world-weary Eurydice. Their performances of emotional ballads like 'All I've Ever Known' and 'Promises' are beautiful. Maria-Christina Oliveras is a stunning and sultry Persephone, and her ‘Livin’ It Up on Top’ with Hermes and Orpheus remains steamy. The ensemble is also terrific to watch and hear during this number. In Act 2, the Workers' Chorus generates compelling visualizations while reprising 'Way Down Hadestown' and in the musical number 'If It's True'.

Final Comments: A must-see to hear, to watch and most importantly to experience.

This ‘Hadestown’ is joy, tremendous joy.

Go see it.

Running time: approximately two and a half hours with one intermission.

‘Hadestown’ runs until August 20 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto. For tickets, visit or call 1-800-461-3333.

HADESTOWN Music, Lyrics and Book by Anaïs Mitchell
Developed and Directed by Rachel Chavkin
Music Supervisor and Vocal Arrangements: Liam Robinson
Choreographer: David Neumann
Scenic Design: Rachel Hauck
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Bradley King
Music Director: Eric Kang

Performers: Nathan Lee Graham, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Matthew Patrick Quinn, J. Antonio Rodriguez, Hannah Whitley, Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano, Nyla Watson, Jordan Bollwerk, Shavey Brown, Ian Coulter-Buford, KC Dela Cruz, Courtney Lauster, Colin LeMoine, Cecilia Trippiedi, Sean Watkinson, Racquel Williams

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