Love, Hope, and 'Hadestown': J. Antonio Rodriguez on the power of connection in Louisville

May 19, 2023 at 10:23 am
"Hadestown" runs through Sunday at the Kentucky Performing Arts Center.
"Hadestown" runs through Sunday at the Kentucky Performing Arts Center.
This story comes to LEO through our partnership with Audience Magazine: Your Performing Arts Connection.

In the world of theater, it is rare to find a production that transcends time, space, and cultural barriers, speaking to the hearts of audiences with a profound message of love and hope. "Hadestown," the critically acclaimed musical that reimagines an ancient Greek myth, has managed to do just that. 

As the show makes its way to The Kentucky Center for a much-anticipated run from May 16 to 21, audiences are eager to witness the powerful performances that have earned it numerous accolades, including eight Tony Awards and a Grammy.

At the heart of this captivating musical is J. Antonio Rodriguez, the talented actor who brings the character of Orpheus to life. As a member of the North American touring production, Rodriguez has been instrumental in conveying the timeless themes of love, hope, and connection that make "Hadestown" an unforgettable experience.

In anticipation of the show's Louisville performances, we had the chance to delve into Rodriguez's journey with "Hadestown," his personal connection to the story, and the impact he hopes the production will have on the local community.

The Journey to "Hadestown"

From humble beginnings to becoming an integral part of a national touring company, Rodriguez's journey to the spotlight is a testament to his passion for storytelling and the power of perseverance. 

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, Rodriguez's love for the performing arts was fostered early in his life. Throughout his career, he has taken on an array of diverse roles, including Emmet Otter in Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas and Ren McCormack in Footloose, which helped lay the foundation for his captivating portrayal of Orpheus.

When the opportunity to audition for "Hadestown" arose, Rodriguez was immediately drawn to the production, its unique retelling of the classic myth and its modern themes, such as climate change and immigration. 

As he stepped into the role of Orpheus, he faced the challenge of embodying a “character with no agenda,” driven solely by love, music, and the pursuit of peace. Embracing this challenge, Rodriguez has given life to Orpheus with a magnetic authenticity that enchants audiences night after night. Reflecting on his experience, he says, "Playing someone with no agenda is so hard as an actor to do. It's definitely a challenge, but it's a welcome challenge."

Joining the "Hadestown" national tour has been both rewarding and demanding, he adds. In his touring debut, Rodriguez has experienced the excitement of traveling and performing across the country, as well as the challenges of life on the road. 

"When I first got this job, it was post-pandemic, so to be fortunate enough to join this tour is truly a blessing,” he said. “Lots of ups and downs. Traveling isn't easy. Our bodies are tired." 

Despite the demands of touring, Rodriguez's passion for the production and the connection he shares with his fellow cast members, including his girlfriend, who is the dance captain, have made the journey worthwhile. 

Story and Themes

"Hadestown" is a mesmerizing reimagining of a well-known Greek myth, transporting audiences to a world where love, hope, and rebirth intertwine with modern themes. 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the story follows Orpheus, a gifted musician, as he embarks on a perilous journey to rescue his love, Eurydice, from the underworld. This modern take on the myth explores contemporary issues, making it a timely and compelling piece for today's audiences.

"It's a different way of telling the story,” says Rodriguez. “This is an old Greek myth that people learned about in school, so to do this modern take on it with themes like climate change and immigration is so important." 

And in a world where representation matters, the diverse cast of "Hadestown" is a breath of fresh air. "There's so much diversity on stage, which I think is something shows tout, but it's not something we really tout in "Hadestown" because it's so normalized for us," he adds. 

The production is further distinguished by its New Orleans-influenced score. "The music is much different from anything on Broadway or anything touring,” says Rodriguez. “This originated as a concept album, so to the ear, it sounds more contemporary.”

The energy and atmosphere of a live "Hadestown" performance are nothing short of electric. From the first note of the trombone to the final curtain, audiences are swept away by the captivating fusion of music, storytelling, and emotion. 

"It really feels like a New Orleans jam the entire time.” says Rodriguez. “Audiences will really like that."

 

A Must-See Show 

"Hadestown's" arrival in Louisville offers a rare opportunity to witness the powerful connection and camaraderie among the touring production’s cast and crew. 

Rodriguez shared a heartwarming tradition that exemplifies their close-knit bond: "When someone is debuting a new track, we all gather backstage and circle up around that person. We put our hands on them. We all breathe together. And someone who is close to that person will say something really inspiring and loving towards that individual to tell them that we're all here together, we're all family, and we're all connected."

The cast looks forward to exploring Louisville during their downtime, with plans to visit local attractions and sample the city's culinary delights. Rodriguez and his fellow performers are eager to immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture, as they embrace the spirit of adventure that comes with life on the road.

Rodriguez believes "Hadestown" will leave a lasting impression on Louisville audiences, saying, "You know, he [my dad] comes home from work every day, tired, usually falls asleep, yet he's always there to support me — and the end of the show got him. If it can move him, it can move anyone." 

With its unique blend of ancient myth, modern themes, and an unforgettable score, this powerful story of love, hope, and rebirth is the must-see show in Louisville. Don't miss your chance to experience the magic for yourself!

Tickets are available by calling 502-584-7777 or online at louisville.broadway.com.

click to enlarge The blue light from the spotlights through the smoke in the theatre during the performance. Lighting equipment. - Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto
The blue light from the spotlights through the smoke in the theatre during the performance. Lighting equipment.