American Tour 2022. Photo by T. Charles Erickson. 7 of 10 Belén Moyano, J. Antonio Rodgriguez, Hannah Whitley, Nyla Watson, Dominique Kempf in the Hadestown North American Tour 2023 | Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson

Review by Martha Heimberg

In the midst of an early Texas heat wave, Broadway at the Bass brings the Tony-winning Hadestown to Fort Worth’s sumptuous, cool Bass Hall. The packed house cheered and clapped throughout the evening, for the singers, the dancers, the red-hot band and the whole shebang of Anais Mitchell’s gorgeous, haunting folk opera. Such immediate and growing rapport between cast and audience is thrilling, and the actors and musicians were electric at Tuesday night’s performance. We also serve who only stand and cheer on opening night. 

The North American touring production is directed with daring style and well-grooved precision by Rachel Chavkin  and features David Neumann’s choreography that conjures up rapturous dancers in a 30’s New Orleans-style nightclub and the ominous moves of people in hell. Costume designer Michael Krass throws it all in, including bright, clingy dresses, sharkskin suits, leather aprons and swirling gauzy gowns and turbans for the Fates. From the ensemble’s opening “Road to Hell” to the closing reprise, we want everybody there to keep on rocking and singing and not look back. But we already know that’s not gonna happen. Remember the myth? 

Mitchell’s musical is based on a famous Greek myth about love and doubt. Orpheus, the greatest musician ever, marries Eurydice, who dies from a snakebite on their wedding day. When he travels to the underworld, Hades, god of dead people, is impressed the kid made it and offers him a deal: He can leave with his bride, but only if he walks in front and never looks back to see if she’s still there. 

In Mitchell’s telling, the power-mad King of the Underworld only makes that testy concession to the lovers because his alluring wife Persephone (an earthy Maria-Christina Oliveras), goddess of seasons who splits for the upper world in spring and summer, pleads the case for the young lovers and seduces her cold-hearted husband into giving them a chance to get out together. 

Here, Orpheus (a bravely optimistic Jordon Bollwerk with a virile tenor voice) is a poor young songwriter waiting tables in a New Orleans nightclub. When he meets the hungry, trembling runaway Eurydice (a plucky, full-throated Hannah Whitley), it’s love at first sight. On the spot, he sings, “Come Home with Me”, while the revolving stage in Rachel Hauck’s brilliant set design moves the world around the lovers, and the onstage 8-member band throttles it. (The program noted that in this performance, the excellent Green was the standby for Hannah Whitley’s Eurydice.) Before long, a train whistle and a blast of headlights signals we’ve arrived in the underworld, a smokey, burned out landscape lit with fires “from ancient fossils.” Sweaty workers toil, heads down, when they’re not collapsed in an exhausted sprawl. “That’s how dead people look,” we learn. We tremble along with Eurydice .

J. Antonio Rodriguez, Hannah Whitley in the Hadestown North American Tour 2023. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Our upbeat narrator is Hermes (a charismatic silver-suited Nathan Lee Graham), a charming busybody at his best when leading the ensemble in well-grooved, graceful moves. “We’re gonna sing it again and again,” he says at the reprise of “Road to Hell” at the end of the show. We’ve all been on a wild, rapturous journey, and realize that this “sad song” somehow brings forth hope for a happy ending at every retelling.

What makes Hadestown so fascinating to contemporary crowds?  Could it be that we still recognize something of ourselves in these mythic characters with their big egos and passions played out on the dark, gloomy sets in shimmering songs about poverty and threats to our human community from machinery, climate change and all the other terrors assaulting us. That’s the power of Orpheus’s wonderous song at work. Bollwerk’s Orpheus sings out the notes la la la la  la, moving from a yearning tenor to a choir boy falsetto Even the stars light brighter to help him find his beloved. In fact, everybody on the stage can really sing, so naturally we’re jazzed up and happy in our seats. 

The score is gorgeous, filled with melody and familiar in its bluesy rhythms, but still surprising us over and over. Oliveras, as the swinging Persephone, reluctantly returns to Hades, but loves the memory of “Livin’ It Up on Top”, where she pours wine for revelers and boogies down with nightclub regulars.  She belts it out bigtime in her sassy-meets-brassy duo, “Our Lady of the Underground”, with trombonist Emily Fredrickson, almost a character in the show. 

Matthew Patrick Quinn is a magnetic Hades, towering over men and women alike, and bringing his growling bass and rugged baritone to his numbers, wearing a long leather coat and haute haircut. He offers shelter at a price to starving Eurydice in “Hey, Little Songbird,” telling her he could “use a little canary in his mines.” He bellows commands to his people like a relentless boss in “Why We Build The Wall,” and confides that we do it “to keep us free.” Triple scary when we remember there was no plan for a border wall when Mitchell wrote her amazing songs. Only Persephone can still stoke a little warmth in her wintry husband. 

The Fates, a trio comprised of Dominique Kempf, Nyla Watson and Cecilia Trippiedi, like to predict the future. These whirling women are all over the place, and all together all the time. They ask us, whatcha gonna do “When the Chips Are Down” in song, and remind righteous listeners watching a hungry girl hop the train for security with the devil, that “you can have principles when you got a belly full.” They torment Orpheus as he climbs out of the underworld, determined to trust that his lover is right behind him. Sowhat happens when “Doubt Comes In,” a song and a feeling all can recognize. I thought of William Blake’s visionary Proverbs from Hell: “If the sun and moon would doubt/ They’d immediately go out.”

No doubts about this show. Hadestown is the place to chill in this heat wave. The show is onstage at Bass Hall through July 2. For times and tickets, go to