When Amber Gray was auditioning for “Hadestown,” Anais Mitchell’s folk-operatic reimagining of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, she nearly blew it.
The actress, who was making her Broadway debut in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” at the time, couldn’t read sheet music but had prepared for the tryout by diligently listening to the assigned song from the production's buzzy concept album — which had since been tweaked.
“The accompanist was giving me all of these dirty looks, and I was so confused,” she told The Times with a laugh.
Nevertheless, Gray got her ticket to “Hadestown,” which reimagines the underworld as a factory town. She booked the role of Persephone, who has arranged to spend half of the year with her manufacturer husband, Hades, and his ill-treated employees, and the rest of the time elsewhere. When she gets fed up with the bleak setting, she flees the underworld early, leaving Hades to find solace in the town’s new arrival.
“She feels a lot, but throughout the entire show, she fights for what she believes in,” explained Gray of her character. “And she stands up to a man, which is a fun thing to do onstage.”
On Tuesday the production collected a leading 14 nominations, including Gray’s first. She attributes the nomination for featured actress in a musical to director Rachel Chavkin, with whom she worked with on “Great Comet.”
“Writers are desperate to work with her because she's like a midwife to new work,” Gray said. “And as an artist, personally, that’s the work that turns me on the most.”
While the news of her nomination was a thrill — hundreds of messages from loved ones, champagne and flowers at the Walter Kerr Theatre, and even a curtain-call sing-along of the musical’s number “Way Down” — the recent highlight for Gray was the homecoming of her baby son, who spent the last few days in the hospital because of a harsh cold.
“That truly was the best part of my week,” said the actress, 38. “There's nothing like a healthy dose of reality to keep your feet on the ground.”