Advertisement

A Broadway run and 8 Tonys later, ‘Hadestown’ returns to where it first took off: L.A.

A woman wearing an "I Love NY" T-shirt smiles.
Anaïs Mitchell, creator of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Hadestown,” photographed at the Ahmanson Theatre, where her show will play.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Share
1

“Hadestown” last toured California in late 2010. Anaïs Mitchell’s blues-folk concept album, released earlier that year, was gaining steam, so she and a troupe of musicians drove up the coast to put on one-night-only performances in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

“We had 14 people and a dog in a 15-passenger van,” she recalls during an intimate concert on Tuesday night at the Ahmanson Theatre. “We played at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, and we could barely fit on that stage. And who’s in the audience but Dale Franzen, who became the first lead producer of ‘Hadestown.’”

“We’ve had a very long road,” she adds. “It was like a train that kept rolling — and here we are, back in L.A.”

Running through May 29 at the downtown L.A. venue, the eight-time Tony-winning musical reimagines the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in a world where resources and hope are equally scarce. The sensible Eurydice has fallen in love with the idealistic Orpheus but longs for the financial stability guaranteed in the titular underworld — a factory town overseen by Hades and resented by his wife, Persephone.

The retelling of this Greek tragedy, developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin, features lyrics loaded with metaphors and aphorisms about love and hope, delivered with a nearly five-octave vocal sprawl and a howling seven-piece band. (And its whispered observations about climate change, labor unionizing and the intrinsic value of work have only become more relevant since it last played in L.A. all those years ago.)

A woman in a green dress onstage with musicians and actors behind her.
Kimberly Marable plays Persephone on the “Hadestown” tour.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

A man talks to a young couple onstage.
“Hadestown” retells the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as a blues-folk musical.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell — who wrote the music, lyrics and book of “Hadestown” over 15 years — remains notably modest about its widespread critical and commercial success. Before Tuesday’s concert, she expressed delight at the sight of a “Hadestown” bench billboard outside the venue, and the sound of the booming trombone solo that kicks off the show.

“It’s pretty amazing to be opening this show here,” Mitchell tells The Times. “It’s hard to believe it’s the same show from when we were on that tiny stage; it didn’t feel like McCabe’s was the place where you’re gonna get discovered by a Broadway producer.”

“But it was a big part of the story, so this is such a full-circle moment,” she continues. “I just feel this extraordinary sense of awe and humility that this thing is rolling around the country and I kind of have nothing to do with it now.”

Two views of a woman in an "I Love NY" T-shirt.
Anaïs Mitchell, showing off tattoos of her daughters’ names, Rosetta and Ramona, wrote “Hadestown” over the course of 15 years.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

Anais Mitchell has been living in “Hadestown” for 15 years.

June 4, 2019

At 41 years old, Mitchell is in the midst of her own full-circle moment. Since opening the show on Broadway in 2019, she relocated to her parents’ farm in Vermont, where she gave birth to her second daughter — and a new album.

“When the show went up, I couldn’t figure out what my voice was,” she says. “But when I went home and got all that space and time, I picked up the guitar and started to write my own songs again, which I’ve wanted to do for years.

“It was so exciting to just write songs and know they could go anywhere; it doesn’t have to develop characters or move the plot in any direction, it just has to feel right,” she continues. “It’s weird — all the songs are stories from my life, which I’ve often shied away from. But I guess that’s what wanted to come out after working on telling this other story for so long.”

Anaïs Mitchell onstage smiling and holding a guitar.
Anaïs Mitchell performed a concert after “Hadestown’s” first Los Angeles performance.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

Anaïs Mitchell performed with members of the "Hadestown" cast after the musical's first show in L.A.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell performed the songs “Bright Star” and “The Words” from her self-titled album for an audience of American Express cardholders after the “Hadestown” national tour’s inaugural L.A. performance on Tuesday night.

“It reminds me so much of Orpheus,” she explains of the latter, while tuning her acoustic guitar. “It’s about the toll that it took on your love life and your family, trying to develop a Broadway musical for years. It was a lot of writing, but it was mostly a lot of rewriting, trying to find the words.”

With the tour’s music director, Nathan Koci, accompanying her on the banjo and the accordion, Mitchell also performed stripped-down renditions of “Hadestown” songs “Our Lady of the Underground” and “Why We Build the Wall” with members of the cast.

Before singing “Wedding Song” with Nicholas Barasch, who plays Orpheus, she joked, “For one night only, I get to duet with Nick. Morgan [Siobhan Green] gets him every night, but this is my night!”

Advertisement

Anaïs Mitchell seated on a red chair.
Anaïs Mitchell is currently touring her self-titled album.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell tells The Times that she’s “started casting around a little net in my mind” for her next musical, whether on her own again or with a collaborator.

In the meantime, she’s back on tour as well, flying to Illinois after the show’s L.A. opening on Wednesday night for a month of concerts around the country.

“I hope everyone in this touring production gets all the joy and camaraderie of performing on the road that I get on tour,” she says.

“The way it feels to perform the same songs in different cities and see audiences respond to things in their own ways — it’s really special.”

'Hadestown'

Where: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 29. (Check website for exceptions.)

Tickets: $40-$225 (subject to change)

Information: (213) 972-4400 or centertheatregroup.org

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including one intermission

COVID protocol: Proof of full vaccination and booster is required. Masks are required at all times. (Check website for changes.)


Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Runs Aug. 9 through Aug. 21. (Check website for exceptions.)

Tickets: $28-$116 (subject to change)

Information: (714) 556-2787 or scfta.org

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including one intermission

COVID protocol: Proof of full vaccination or negative COVID-19 test is required. Masks are not required but are strongly recommended for all ticket holders. (Check website for changes.)

Advertisement