By Erin Brody, Arts and Culture Editor
Being a Pittsburgh native, I’ve often gone to the Benedum Center to see shows, and from my experience, Pittsburgh audiences are somewhat notorious for not giving enough praise for a cast’s performance. People leave during intermission, and the theater is usually almost full. The cast of Hadestown knew how to get Pittsburgh riled up and journey with them down the “Road to Hell.”
Hadestown follows the story of a couple named Orpheus (played by Chibueze Ihuoma) and Eurydice (played by Hannah Whitley), two characters from Greek mythology who are trying to get by. Orpheus, being the more optimistic of the two, is a songwriter and is on a mission to write a melody that brings spring back, despite Persephone (played by Lana Gordon), the goddess of spring, being in the Underworld for half the year with her husband Hades (played by Matthew Patrick Quinn), the king of the Underworld.
Eurydice is a hardworking dryad who is doing everything she can in order to live, and once Persephone is summoned into the Underworld too early, Eurydice follows suit in order to make a living for herself and possibly her love. But, what Eurydice didn’t realize was that working in Hadestown meant signing her life away, and Orpheus sets out on a mission to bring her back to the mortal realm, which is possible as long as he doesn’t turn around while he and Eurydice are venturing out of Hadestown.
The lights dimmed in the theater, and the full cast walked onto the stage. No musical flourish, no extravagant sets, no theatrics. The cast simply walked onto stage, took their place in a set that looked like a dingy bar, and sat in silence for a few minutes while Hermes (played by Nathan Lee Graham) personally greeted each cast member. He then turned towards the audience, silently greeted them, ripped open his blazer to reveal a flashy suit, and was greeted with a thunderous applause before singing the opening number.
Despite the seemingly simple set and design of the show, I can say that I have never witnessed a show that was more theatrical and, frankly, magical. Thanks to TikTok, I believe most people are familiar with the song “Wait For Me” from the show, and while one can have chills listening to the soundtrack or watching it through a screen, nothing compares to seeing it live. As Orpheus sings and the whole cast joins him, the song overwhelms the audience, and the set splits up, a visual representation of how powerful his song is.
As for music, the show very much followed an American style. By that, I mean there’s big band, blues, jazz, gospel, and so many genres built into one show. If you ever wondered why jazz was such a craze in the 1920s, this show will be able to show you why.
The musicians are on stage, and their energy is contagious to the cast members, who — while the show is choreographed — let the music move them. It was as if the music was a puppeteer, its melody being the strings that controlled the cast’s dance. And because of that, the audience couldn’t help but catch on to the energy.
Of course, those who are fans of Greek mythology may be wondering whether this is true to the original story. After all, not a single character is wearing a toga, and Hades owns a sweatshop, which makes the audience question the ethics of our world today. Yet, being able to give an old story a modern twist is what makes an adaptation successful. Not only does the musical stay true to the plot of the myth, but it also shows us why “We Raise Our Cups” to ancient stories and why stories like these need to be told after all these centuries: comedies and tragedies happen every day, and telling them time and time again only gives power to those affected.