‘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 Tuesday, May 16th, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts as the touring production’s Louisville run opened.
The cast of the North American tour of "Hadestown." Photo by T Charles Erickson Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.
“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.
Matthew Patrick Quinn, Hannah Whitley, Dominique Kempf, Nyla Watson and Belén-Moyano the North American tour of "Hadestown." Photo by T Charles Erickson Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.
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.
The messages of hope, love, and persistence in this musical are told throughout this emotional 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 Health Occupations 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.