Teens who take the Journey to “Hadestown” Return with these Reviews

Nathan Lee Graham and company in the North American tour of “Hadestown.” Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The Tony Award-winning musical “Hadestown” looked to be one of the highlights of this season for PNC Broadway in Louisville — so Arts Angle Vantage invited a group of teens to journey to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and see the opening night performance. They also got experience in reviewing theater.

Our youth-centered arts journalism program is grateful to PNC Broadway in Louisville and notably appreciative of LEO Weekly and Editor Erica Rucker for helping us elevate youth voices and the arts through practicing the values of collaborative journalism.
“Hadestown,” a dazzling musical story of love, sparks awe and touches the heart
By Cheyenne Farnsley | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter 
New Albany High School, Class of 2024
It ain’t for the sensitive of soul, so…
You really wanna go?
Hermes, the messenger god, sings to Orpheus, (J. Antonio Rodriguez,) while pursuing Eurydice who has been lured to the underworld, that is Hadestown. And in this musical, “Hadestown,”
Orpheus: With all my heart
Hermes: Huh, with all your heart…

Well, that’s a start

Hannah Whitley as Eurydice and J. Antonio Rodriguez as Orpheus with the Muses in the North American tour of Hadestown Photo by T. Charles Erickson.


So goes “Wait for Me,” the most popular song in the musical “Hadestown” marking Orpheus’ journey.

On May 16, “Hadestown” opened at the Kentucky Center of the Performing Arts, with its story following the Greek myth of Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) and Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) with Hermes (Graham) as a guide. The cast contributed their talents to bring a tragic yet touching story to the stage that Tuesday night. With the revolving stage that moved with its cast and the intricate setting, the characters took the audience on a journey capable of moving many people (including me) to tears by curtain call.

The story and the performance were impressive, including the in-depth symbolism. The red carnation, pictured on the playbill, made multiple appearances throughout the show. In the number “Wait for Me,” that flower played an almost character-like role. Orpheus presented the red flower to his soon-to-be wife Eurydice after he made his way to her — step by step — to Hadestown. This symbol of love appears numerous times in the musical — even when the gruff Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) regains his love for his witty wife, Persephone (Maria-Christina Oliveras).

The flower’s use was no other than what can be described as romantic and intimate and magnified the on-stage chemistry of the multiple couples. Their relationships, strongly translated from the stage to the audience, made it hard to not gush every time that flower appeared. (Count me in there.) Plus, who doesn’t love a dash of romance and color?

Costume designs by Michael Krass added to the symbolism. In “Livin’ it Up on Top,” Persephone sings, “Who makes the flowers bloom again, in spite of a man?” Oliveras’ strong vocals and flaunty movements portrayed a witty character, asking if “anybody wants a drink?” Dancing around in a tipsy-like way, Persephone sported a bright green dress to represent the season of summer. In another number, “Epic III,” Orpheus sings to Hades, “Where is the man with his arms outstretched? To the woman he loves…” He attempts to help Hades realize the love he has lost for his beautiful wife, Persephone. During this scene, Persephone wore a black dress, representing the wintertime, or better yet, the dullness of her relationship with her husband.

Matthew Patrick Quinn, Chibueze Ihuoma, and Maria Christina Oliveras in the North American tour of “Hadestown.” Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Oliveras’ vocal power matched Persephone’s wardrobe. The actress made her emotion more prominent on stage, even when it was already full of it. Her power was more than obvious as soon as she spoke for the first time in, “How Long?” with heartbreaking lyrics such as “He has the kind of love for her that you and I once had.” (Bring your tissues.) Her black dress with that strong voice was the perfect amount of emotion the numbers in Hadestown needed.

From the use of industrial lights to the smallest details on costumes, the musical provided other hidden meanings to make the production more intimate. David Neumann’s choreography during “Wait for Me” had workers surrounding Orpheus swinging the hanging lights around his character. The lights were close to the ground. The second time the workers swung the lights higher up around him. It made you feel as if you were being taken down to Hadestown with him.

These small effects made the Tony Award-winning performance even more impressive, and visually breathtaking. Rodriguez’s strong vocals as Orpheus and the extremely talented workers (chorus) surrounding him on the revolving stage made this scene memorable.

Graham as Hermes, my favorite character in the show, was nearly a symbol himself. Dressed in a sprinkle of feathers and a charming smile. He truly blew me and the audience away as soon as he spoke the first couple of lines in the show, “Alright!” Everyone in the room reacted with laughter and cheers. Following this, his opening songs, “Road to Hell,” and “Way Down Hadestown,” made it difficult to take your eyes off him. With his swinging vocals and subtle dance moves, Hermes was the key ingredient that gave this “Hadestown” production its Americana personality.

The workers also elevated the production. Even though they weren’t shown in the bright spotlight, their dance moves and low grunts were heavily effective during numbers, such as “Chant.” The low grunts gave a spooky feel to the performance which connects with the tone of “Hadestown” overall.

Oliveras’ Persephone added a fun twist to the show with her jokes about booze enhanced by her twangy-like singing. Yet, her fun and witty personality was something that Hades himself didn’t even know he needed.

The show began in 2006 as a DIY theatre project in Vermont written by songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and was performed originally in concert. Mitchell later collaborated with director Rachel Chavkin at a theatre workshop in New York in 2016 before “Hadestown” opened on Broadway production in 2019, with their names

— Cheyenne Farnsley

highlighted by shimmering lights on a towering billboard in New York.

From these beginnings to this touring production, the journey and this performance of “Hadestown” succeed as purely heartfelt.

Cheyenne Farnsley, a New Albany High School junior, participates in Features, a section of the school’s yearbook, The Vista. The section covers news-based information. Whenever she isn’t taking names or meeting deadlines, you will find her reading a book or with her cat, Heathy. Cheyenne is planning on pursuing her passion for journalism after high school, in hopes to continue doing what she loves.


A tale from long ago with a fresh, jazzy spin, “Hadestown” speaks to the soul
By Sophia Grimes | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Atherton High School, Class of 2023

The house lights dim. The stage lights brighten on a rustic setting. Hermes faces the audience. He introduces mythical gods, each and every important figure in the tale. The lively music begins. Suddenly, you’re sucked into a world of gods and men with a story to tell. This is songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown.”

Set in a New Orleans-inspired environment seemingly of the Depression Era, “Hadestown” follows a talented man named Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) as he travels far underground to retrieve the love of his life, Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) from the clutches of the King of the Underworld — Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn). Our charismatic storyteller, Hermes (Nathan Lee Graham), introduces us to the lively goddess of Spring, Persephone (Maria-Christina Oliveras), and the haunting goddesses of destiny or the Fates (Dominique Kempf, Belén Moyano, Nyla Watson).

The cast of the North American tour of “Hadestown.” Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Then there are the workers. They are present consistently and never fail to bring the house down with their explosive, energetic performances. In “Livin’ It Up on Top,” the workers reflect the idea of bringing the world back to life as they dance with high levels and sharp movements and establish the energy of the show. Though small in number they make up for it with big and loud presentations that the audience can never look away from. The live musicians interact with the cast, in a way making them characters themselves rather than offstage performers. They remain onstage the entire time (except for the drummer), creating an intimate environment and inviting the audience into the world the performers are building.

When Hermes opens the show in “Road to Hell,” he speaks directly to the audience to create an instant connection outside of the story. Similar situations happen throughout the rest of the performance. When Persephone opens the second act with “Our Lady of the Underground,” she addresses audience members directly and presents the musicians by name. This moment feels more like a conversation rather than a story about a world completely separate from ours.

The music speaks directly to the soul. From swing to blues, every note and every chord is filled with deep emotion and power. Every song takes the show to a whole new level and fills the audience with anticipation for what’s yet to come. The jazz-filled melodies make you feel like jumping up onstage and dancing along to the beat, and the somber tunes pluck at the heartstrings, causing emotions to well up for not just the characters. They create a musical journey that takes the audience through a beautiful story of love and loss.

The show’s technical elements are unlike anything I have ever seen before. Rather than relying completely on the tech crew, the actors take an active role in moments with lighting and set changes. The workers are the most notable in this. In numbers such as “Come Home with Me” and “Livin’ It Up on Top,” they move tables and chairs to configure the set and propel the story forward. It all makes the show much more fascinating to watch.

J. Antonio Rodriguez in the North American tour of “Hadestown.” Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

A perfect example of actors changing sets involves the swinging lights in the iconic song “Wait for Me.” Early in the song, the workers hold the light fixtures and encircle Orpheus as he travels down to Hadestown. By the song’s climax, they have attached the lights to wires from above and let them go. They swing around Orpheus as he adapts to the new obstacles put in his way. What is so alluring about this is the way the audience watches a new environment being built before them and then implemented easily into the show. Even though this world is completely imaginary, “Hadestown” mingles the real and fictional realms. It also reflects our own. The themes of love and loss in this show remain timeless, making the story immensely relatable to an audience of any age.

There is a lot going on, but nothing feels unnecessary. “Hadestown” has fluidity. Its smooth transitions from moment to moment can be accredited to the passion and heart the director has poured into this production. There is not a second onstage where someone looks out of the moment which implies how much the director

— Sophia Grimes

cares about giving a good performance.

Still, this tale is a tragedy just like the myth it is based on. It’s a reminder of the truest theme of “Hadestown”: stories are told for people to learn. An ancient quality of the Greek myths is to leave a message behind. “Hadestown” stays true to these roots in the purest fashion.

Sophia Grimes, an Atherton High School senior, is an active member of the theater program and a writer for the school’s magazine, The Aerial. While she has a passion for acting, she also takes great joy in reading and writing. She plans to attend the University of Kentucky for the upcoming fall semester where she will major in secondary education and minor in theater.


“Hadestown” is like a wild amusement park ride worth taking and savoring
By Trinity Mahaffey | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Jeffersontown High School, Class of 2025

Watching “Hadestown” was like being on one of those sketchy festival rides. So much excitement bundled with nerves stepping into the theater, and instant chills of awe hearing that first note from “Road to Hell.” Going way down under the ground is one hell of a journey, and that’s where I was on Thursday, May 16th, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts as the touring production’s Louisville run opened.
“Hadestown” is a musical that gives a modern retelling of the old Greek myth of Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) and Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) and their journey to the underworld and back. The King, Hades (Matthew Patrick Quin), and his wife, Persephone (Maria Christina Oliveras), also take you down the ride into Hadestown (along with the rest of the cast).  Then there’s the man with feathers on his feet — Hermes (Nathan Lee Graham). He narrates this story while soaring on stage the entire time and introducing and guiding characters with each scene and song.
“Hadestown” has a lot of songs. It relies more heavily on music than dialogue. Even with so many songs, the show isn’t overwhelming because “Hadestown” takes a lot of musical inspiration from folk, blues, country, rock and many more genres that help with the storytelling. Some songs have everyone dancing and jumping on stage, and others are slower, and calmer to help make the audience feel and understand what’s happening. You could tell the music affected the audience. During songs like “Livin’ It Up on Top,” people were bobbing their heads right along with the dancers.
The cast of “13: The Musical” at CenterStage at the Trager Family JCC. Photo by Robyn Kaufman.
Vocally, the actors added a lot of emotion and depth, too. Hades’ rough and deep voice could shake the ground. And that created a nice contrast to Persephone’s twangy and free-going singing. Many songs foreshadow events, and each piece of music in this musical adds more and more to the plot. Transitions between songs or pieces of dialogue go smoothly.
The music adds depth as does the lighting design. Hadestown also has an insane lighting setup. The lights often feel like they are a part of the cast. Being in the audience, I felt like I was on the train to the underworld myself. During one scene, white lights flash over the audience in their seats as a train whistle sounds. The lights were bright orange and yellow when the energy was upbeat, especially when introducing Persephone. They were pink and purple during romantic scenes. The lighting helped shape the sets and stole the show.
Hannah Whitley, J. Antonio Rodriguez and the cast of the North American tour of “Hadestown.” Photo by T. Charles Erickson.


The messages of hope, love, and persistence in this musical are told throughout this emotional

— Trinity Mahaffey

yet thrilling ride. Once you get off this ride called “Hadestown” — one you weren’t quite sure what would happen once you got on — you’re left with the same feeling from the start. Excited, but also still so many nerves urging you to take this whole ride again.

Trinity Mahaffey, a sophomore at Jeffersontown High School, sings in her school’s choir, Bella Voce. Trinity is in her school’s Academies of Louisville program studying under its health pathway and is a historian of HealthOccupations Students of America. She also participates in the archery team, which went to nationals this year. She has experience in dance and theater and sometimes holds a one-person show in her room. Trinity wants to keep being involved with the performing arts and sharing the magic of theater.