Reviews round-up: Hadestown 3.6★

Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Grace Hodgett-Young and Donal Finn in Hadestown. Photo: Marc Brenner

Hadestown is an American sung-through musical version of the Greek myth about Orpheus’ attempt to rescue his late wife and love of his life Eurydice from the Underworld (i.e. Hell) with Persephone’s story added to the mix. Written by Anais Mitchell, it began its life 18 years ago as a community project in Vermont and was presented at the National Theatre in 2018 before scooping 8 Tony Awards on Broadway.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and may not be accessible]

Clive Davis in The Times (5★), possibly our most parsimonious critic when it comes to handing out stars, gave Hadestown top marks, saying it’s ‘a reminder of what musical theatre can achieve when it sets its sights beyond the lowest common denominator. ‘ He loved the band: ‘a glorious noise’; he loved the singers ‘Grace Hodgett-Young’s voice has a raw northern edge…Gloria Onitiri is a thunderous, sexy Persephone.’ He concluded that Orpheus and Eurydice’s  ‘final ill-starred journey still touches the heart.’

The Guardian‘s Arifa Akbar (4★) may have held back a star but she still enthused: ‘This is one of the best West End musicals around.’ ‘Every scene becomes a set piece: big, beautiful and emotionally blasting,’ she said in her review.  Sarah Crompton at WhatsOnStage (4★) was similarly smitten: ‘the most exhilarating ride. That band, with its bluesy trombone and folksy guitar is consistently thrilling, the songs are vibrant and smart, the sung-through text is compelling..(Rachel) Chavkin’s direction is direct and impassioned.’ Her only reservation was, ‘the material just doesn’t quite coalesce into the ending I long for.’ Time Out‘s Andrzej Lukowski (4★) was particularly taken by the music: ‘It is essentially a staged concert, but it’s done with such pulsing musical intensity, physical dynamism and heft of meaning that it never feels like one..It’s a musical of beautiful texture and tone.. Mitchell has penned some flat-out brilliant songs.’ Marainka Swann at (4★) enjoyed ‘the quiet power of this singular show, which demonstrates the magic of a shared story, and how such a collective effort can change the world, is undeniable. This spellbinding West End production was well worth the wait.’ Fiona Mountford in the i (4★) talked about being ‘wooed by the hazy, dazy atmosphere of this splendidly sultry show’. Cindy Marcolina at Broadway World (4★) called the singers: ‘an exciting team who carry the intensity and high-stake energy of the tale with precise delivery’ and described Grace Hodgett-Young’s performance as Eurydice as ‘astounding’.

Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph (3★) couldn’t summon quite the same level of enthusiasm: ‘Yes, it can feel like one damned song after another. But it washes over you like a steam bath.’ He praised ‘the rich attention to detail in costuming, choreography, lighting and ensemble flamboyance’ and noted that ‘Donal Finn’s Orpheus can hit heavenly high notes.’ The Stage‘s Sam Marlowe (3★) just about managed to contain her excitement: ‘An uneven, unsatisfying creation, it is light on plot, heavy on pretentious portent – yet it’s fitfully seductive, with Mitchell’s New Orleans jazz-inflected score and Rachel Chavkin’s fever dream of a production both oozing spicy flavour. And the electrifying energy and knockout vocals of the cast come close to blasting away objections.’ The Observer‘s Susannah Clapp (3★) suggested ‘Rachel Chavkin’s production nudges the musical world along but does not remake it.’

It was left to Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard (2★) to sound a sour note: ‘The writer-composer’s score is catchy and eclectic but often bombastic, her lyrics pretentious or nonsensical…the endless reprises start to drag and, oh dear, the words within and in between the songs can be dire’

David Neumann’s choreography was widely but not universally praised: ‘energetic yet precise’ (WhatsOnStage), ‘ethereal’ (Times), ‘pneumatic’ (Time Out).

Hadestown at Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, is booking until December 2024. Buy tickets directly here.

Average Rating 3.6★

Value Rating 40 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls/Circle ticket price. In theory this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

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