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Theatre / Hadestown

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"On the railroad line on the road to Hell
There was a poor boy working on a song
Poor boy singing to himself
Waiting for someone to come along
On the railroad line on the road to Hell
Like this young girl looking for something to eat
Brother, thus begins the tale
Of Orpheus and Eurydice!"
Hermes, The Road to Hell

Touted as a "folk opera", Hadestown is a Concept Album and subsequent musical written and produced by Anais Mitchell. It's a retelling of the Orpheus myth set in a post-apocalyptic world that mimics The Great Depression in the United States. Originally performed as a small-scale stage musical in Vermont, Mitchell extensively revised the work for the 2010 recording, which received critical acclaim which featured the following cast:

  • Anais Mitchell herself as Eurydice
  • Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) as Orpheus
  • Ani DiFranco as Persephone
  • Greg Brown as Hades
  • Ben Knox Miller (of The Low Anthem) as Hermes
  • The Haden Triplets as the Fates.

In 2016, Hadestown was revised again, returning to the stage with an expanded story and tracklist. This version of the show premiered Off Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop, followed by a reading at New 42nd Street Studios in 2017, then a production at the Citadel Theatre in Alberta Canada in 2017, which then went to the UK's National Theatre which ran from November 2018 to January 2019, and finally it transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, where it premiered on April 17, 2019 to critical and popular acclaim with the following cast:

  • Reeve Carney as Orpheus
  • Eva Noblezada as Eurdiyce
  • André De Shields as Hermes
  • Amber Gray as Persephone
  • Patrick Page as Hades
  • Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzales-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad as the Fates.

The Broadway production was nominated for 14 Tonys for the 2018-2019 theatre season and won the following eight:

  • Best Musical
  • Best Original Score for composer Anaïs Mitchell
  • Best Director for Rachel Chavkin
  • Best Featured Actor for André De Shields for his show-stealing performance as Hermes
  • Best Scenic Design
  • Best Sound Design
  • Best Orchestration

Hadestown opens above-ground, with Eurydice worrying about how her lover Orpheus will provide for her in this poverty-stricken post-apocalyptic world. They arrive at an old train depot, where everyone’s talking about Hadestown, a walled city under the ground. Hades, the enigmatic king of Hadestown, comes calling for Eurydice when Orpheus is gone and seduces her to the false promise of wealth and security in his underworld kingdom. With directions from Hermes, Orpheus follows Eurydice underground.


Meanwhile, in Hadestown, Hades indoctrinates his worker-citizens, but when he turns his back, his wife Persephone subverts his efforts by plying her contraband from the outside world in a hidden speakeasy. She takes an interest in the newly arrived Orpheus. Eurydice, unaware that her lover is near, laments her decision to follow Hades. Orpheus moves toward her, but is intercepted by the Fates, who tell him struggling is pointless. Orpheus challenges the Fates, and shortly thereafter Hades discovers both Orpheus and the speakeasy.

In the royal bedroom, Persephone appeals to her husband on Orpheus’s behalf. Orpheus, too, appeals to Hades, and his singing starts a riot in Hadestown. Desperate, Hades comes up with a plan: Orpheus can have Eurydice back if he can walk out of the underworld ahead of her without turning around to make sure she’s there. Orpheus and Eurydice begin their ascent, but when Orpheus reaches the surface, he immediately turns around. Since Eurydice is still in the underworld, she becomes permanently trapped there, and Orpheus is left to Walk the Earth alone.

     Concept Album Tracklist 
  1. "Wedding Song" featuring Justin Vernon (3:18)
  2. "Epic (Part I)" featuring Justin Vernon (2:22)
  3. "Way Down Hadestown" featuring Justin Vernon, Ani DiFranco and Ben Knox Miller (3:33)
  4. "Songbird Intro" (0:24)
  5. "Hey, Little Songbird" featuring Greg Brown (3:09)
  6. "Gone, I'm Gone" featuring The Haden Triplets (1:09)
  7. "When the Chips are Down" featuring The Haden Triplets (2:14)
  8. "Wait for Me" featuring Ben Knox Miller and Justin Vernon (3:06)
  9. "Why We Build the Wall" featuring Greg Brown (4:18)
  10. "Our Lady of the Underground" featuring Ani DiFranco (4:40)
  11. "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" (3:33)
  12. "Nothing Changes" featuring The Haden Triplets (0:52)
  13. "If it's True" featuring Justin Vernon (3:03)
  14. "Papers (Hades Finds Out)" (1:24)
  15. "How Long?" featuring Ani DiFranco and Greg Brown (3:36)
  16. "Epic (Part II)" featuring Justin Vernon (2:55)
  17. "Lover's Desire" (2:05)
  18. "His Kiss, The Riot" featuring Greg Brown (4:03)
  19. "Doubt Comes In" featuring Justin Vernon (5:32)
  20. "I Raise My Cup to Him" featuring Ani DiFranco (2:10)

     Tracklist for the Broadway Production 

Act I

  1. "Road to Hell" – Hermes, Company
  2. "Any Way the Wind Blows" – Hermes, The Fates, Eurydice, Orpheus
  3. "Come Home With Me" – Orpheus, Eurydice, Workers
  4. "Wedding Song" – Eurydice, Orpheus, Workers
  5. Epic I" – Hermes, Orpheus
  6. Living It Up On Top" – Hermes, Persephone, Orpheus, Workers
  7. "All I've Ever Known Intro" – Hermes
  8. "All I've Ever Known" – Eurydice, Orpheus
  9. "Way Down Hadestown" – Hermes, Persephone, The Fates, Workers
  10. "Wind Theme"/"A Gathering Storm" – Hermes, Eurydice, Orpheus, The Fates
  11. "Epic II" – Orpheus, Workers
  12. "Chant" – Persephone, Hades, Eurydice, Orpheus, Hermes, The Fates, Workers
  13. "Hey, Little Songbird" – Hades, Eurydice
  14. "When The Chips Are Down Intro" – Hermes, Eurydice, Hades
  15. "When The Chips Are Down" – The Fates, Eurydice
  16. "Gone, I'm Gone" – Eurydice, The Fates
  17. "Wait For Me Intro" – Hermes, Orpheus
  18. "Wait For Me" – Hermes, Orpheus, The Fates, Workers
  19. "Why We Build the Wall" – Hades, Eurydice, Company
  20. "Why We Build the Wall Outro" – Hermes

Act II

  1. "Our Lady of the Underground" – Persephone, Company
  2. "Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)" – Fates, Eurydice, Hermes, Workers
  3. "Flowers" – Eurydice
  4. "Come Home With Me (Reprise)" – Orpheus, Eurydice
  5. "Papers Intro" – Hades, Hermes, Orpheus
  6. "Papers" – Instrumental
  7. "Nothing Changes" – The Fates
  8. "If It's True" – Orpheus, Hermes, Workers
  9. "How Long" – Persephone, Hades
  10. "Chant (Reprise)" – Hermes, Hades, Orpheus, Persephone, Eurydice, Workers
  11. "Epic III" – Orpheus, Company
  12. "Lover's Desire" – Instrumental
  13. "Promises" – Eurydice, Orpheus
  14. "Word to the Wise" – The Fates
  15. "His Kiss, The Riot" – Hades
  16. "Wait For Me (Reprise) Intro" – Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice
  17. "Wait For Me (Reprise)" – Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice, Persephone, Hades, The Fates, Workers
  18. "Doubt Comes In" – The Fates, Orpheus, Eurydice, Workers
  19. "Road to Hell (Reprise)" – Hermes, Company
  20. "We Raise Our Cups" – Persephone, Eurydice, Company


  • Adaptational Villainy: Aside from the usual treatment, Hades is shown preying on Eurydice here. In the original Greek myths, he was the only one of the Gods of Olympus not to ever have an extramarital affair.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The album is a revision/adaptation of a small-scale stage musical (also by Anais Mitchell) that had two runs in Vermont.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Hermes, who opens and closes the show knowing a bit too much about how this will all end
  • All There in the Manual: To fully understand the setting and plot, you need to read the history and libretto on the official website.
    • All There in the Script: The workers who sing with Hades in "Why We Build The Wall" are called Cerberus in the lyrics on the official site.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Invoked by Hermes and the Fates as they narrate:
    • Instead of being a faithful husband and son of the muse Calliope that loses his wife in a tragic accident, Orpheus is portrayed as a hopeless dreamer that uses music to beat their Perpetual Poverty. His music is his greatest strength, as we see when he tries to reason with Hades, but his love for Eurydice is his greatest weakness.
    • Eurydice is shown to want a better life and chooses to go for it when Hades tempts her. In most versions of her story, she dies due to a wayward snake biting here and some bad luck. The Fates ask us if we should judge her.
    • Hades in Greek mythology was relatively the most faithful god in his marriage. Here, he preys on vulnerable people to recruit them to work in Hadestown.
    • Then there's Persephone. It's unclear if Hades in this version kidnapped her or if she married him of her own volition and isn't bound by any deal. In any case, Hades complains about her staying away too long and says that he misses her.
    • Then there is Hermes. In Greek mythology, he's a messenger of the gods, not a bard. He's also the patron god of medicine. Here he serves as a muse telling the story, in the hopes that the cycle will break. Can we trust Hermes when he sends Orpheus to Hadestown and claims he's telling the tale to break the cycle?
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Eurydice is repeatedly compared to a songbird, first as an inspiration to Orpheus' own musical talents, his muse. After being seduced by Hades, she's compared to a canary kept in a mine and a caged bird that can no longer fly just as Eurydice can no longer return to the surface.
    • Hades is compared to a snake. Like the biblical snake, Hades is a sly tempter who manipulates Eurydice into ruining her life by offering her a choice to stay in poverty with Orpheus or live in safety and comfort in Hadestown. It's also an allusion to the mythical Eurydice's death from a snake bite.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Orpheus delivers one to Hades during "Epic iii":
    Orpheus: And what has become of the heart of that man/Now that the man is King?/What has become of the heart of that man/Now that he has everything?
  • Badass Boast: Hades in "Chant II".
    Hades: Young man, you can sing your ditty / I CONDUCT THE ELECTRIC CITY!
  • Bad Samaritan: Hades. He offers Eurydice a way out of poverty and instability, but it's all a front: once he has what he wants from her, he leaves her to work herself to death for him just like all his other workers. In "Way Down Hadestown II", the Fates imply that most of his workers were 'rescued' from similar circumstances.
  • Basso Profundo: Greg Brown as Hades. His voice has been described as "subterranean."
    • Patrick Page of the Edmonton/London/Broadway productions seems to be continuing this tradition, with bass tones described by reviews as "practically a special effect".
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eurydice wanted to "lie down forever."
  • Big Bad: Hades.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Aside from the Downer Ending for Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone are at a better place in their relationship than before and it's implied he let Persephone return to the Earth much earlier.
  • Break the Cutie: What poverty and starvation, plus Hades, does to Eurydice.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Persephone takes a moment during "Our Lady of the Underground" to introduce the band to the audience.
  • Broken Bird: Persephone.
  • BSoD Song: "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" for Eurydice. "If It's True" and "Doubt Comes In" for Orpheus. "His Kiss, The Riot" for Hades.
  • Cabin Fever: In "Our Lady of the Underground."
    Persephone: Six feet under getting under your skin/Cabin fever is a-setting in
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Why We Build The Wall".
  • Circular Reasoning: The ultimate point of "Why We Build The Wall", is that the people of Hadestown followers are stuck in this. Because they are building a wall, they have work. Because they have work, they believe their neighbors to be jealous of them. And because they their neighbors are jealous of them, they need to build a wall.
  • Cool Shades: Hades wears them while above ground.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "How Long".
  • Crapsack World: Things are bad above ground, where poverty and starvation are always barely an inch away.
    Times being what they are
    Dark and getting darker all the time
    • Crapsaccharine World: For Eurydice, Hadestown; she's built it up in her mind as a paradise of wealth and stability.
      Eurydice: Everybody dresses in clothes so fine/Everybody’s pockets are weighted down/Everybody sipping ambrosia wine/In a goldmine in Hadestown
  • Crowd Song: "Why We Build The Wall".
  • Darkest Hour: "Doubt Comes In".
  • Deal with the Devil: Orpheus makes one with Hades, as in the original myth. He is allowed to bring Eurydice back to the surface unhindered under one condition: she follows behind him, and if he turns to look at her before they've reached the surface she must remain behind forever. Hades correctly guesses that Orpheus won't be able to take it, and he'll turn to look to know that she's still there before they reach the surface.
  • Destructive Romance: Hades and Persephone, touched upon in "How Long". Despite how much they hurt each other just by being near, they still love each other too much to give up on their relationship.
  • Downer Ending: Orpheus looks back just before they're safe, trapping Eurydice in Hadestown forever.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Every time he fails to impress Persephone with his machinery, Hades doubles down, thinking if he makes it more impressive she'll finally get it, when actually she likes him best without all the neon and pretension.
  • Drone of Dread: At the end of "Doubt Comes In," there is a painfully long note when Orpheus looks back at Eurydice too early, breaking his Deal with the Devil.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: Hades' wall isn't keeping out any enemy...
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite his greed and lust for power that leads him to imprison his workers underground until they drop dead, Hades genuinely loves his wife Persephone and wants to make her happy.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Very much the case here. Hades isn't even the god of the dead, but instead the mayor of a ghost town.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Hades to the extreme.
  • Final Love Duet: "Doubt Comes In".
  • Foregone Conclusion: Assuming you're at all familiar with Greek mythology, you can pretty much guess how this one ends- Orpheus fails to bring Eurydice back the surface, and they never see each other again. In the opening song of the theatrical version, "Road to Hell", Hermes outright tells the audience that the story they're about to watch is "a sad tale, it's a tragedy".
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Hermes, naturally, but it's implied that all the gods are this to some extent.
  • Greek Mythology
  • Grief Song: Inverted with "I Raise My Cup to Him", as Persephone and Eurydice sing a "reverse elegy" for Orpheus, who escaped Hadestown but now must Walk the Earth alone.
  • Guttural Growler: Greg Brown or Patrick Page as Hades.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack/Playing the Heart Strings: "Doubt Comes In."
  • Here We Go Again!:
    • "Road To Hell (Reprise)" sees the entire story start over, with Eurydice and Orpheus returning to exactly where they were at the start of the show, ready for the tragedy to begin again.
    • Hermes also laments that Hades and Persephone have the same argument every year.
  • I Will Find You: Orpheus to Eurydice in "Wait For Me", vowing to track her down in Hadestown after she vanishes.
  • The Ingenue: Eurydice.
  • Lady Drunk: Persephone spends a good portion of her time completely wasted.
  • Let's Duet: Many of the songs — "Wedding Day" (Orpheus and Eurydice), "Hey Little Songbird" (Hades and Eurydice), "Wait For Me" (Hermes and Orpheus), "How Long" (Persephone and Hades), "Doubt Comes In" (Orpheus and Eurydice), and "I Raise My Cup To Him" (Persephone and Eurydice).
  • Love at First Sight: "Epic (Part Two)": Hades fell in love with Persephone the moment he saw her in Demeter's garden.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "When The Chips Are Down" is a fatalistic but very jaunty and catchy song.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Hades, who never commits direct violence against Eurydice but instead lures her to Hadestown and away from her husband through seduction and preying on her fear of having to provide for both herself and Orpheus. Even when he's persuaded to give Orpheus and Eurydice a chance to be together again, he manages to come up with a deal that seems fair and which Orpheus will agree to but still ends with Hades getting exactly what he wants.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Way Down Hadestown," through and through.
    • "Chant" becomes this in the Broadway version
  • Melismatic Vocals: Anais Mitchell as Eurydice, particularly in "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)."
  • Minimalist Cast: There's Eurydice, Orpheus, Persephone, Hades, Hermes, and the Fates.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hermes's main function.
  • Not So Different:
    • In a heroic example, Orpheus to Hades in "Epic (Part Two)". It's in an attempt to persuade Hades to let Orpheus bring Eurydice back to the surface by comparing the two of them to Hades and Persephone. Hades is actually moved enough by it to let him try, though not without one condition.
    • Hades, about Orpheus, from "His Kiss, The Riot," though he is recognizing the similarity to Orpheus in himself rather than persuading Orpheus of their similarities.
      Hades: Nothing makes a man so bold/As a woman's smile and a hand to hold/But all alone his blood runs thin/And doubt comes— [Hesitant Dramatic Pause] doubt comes in.
  • Orphean Rescue: The story is based on the myth of Orpheus, though in this case, Eurydice isn't literally dead but instead trapped in an underground city as a worker.
  • The Place: The title, "Hadestown", refers to the titular town Eurydice becomes trapped in.
  • Playing Card Motifs: Orpheus refers to Hades as the "king of diamonds, king of spades"; referring to his being the god of wealth and the Underworld. In turn, Hades refers to Orpheus as a "jack of hearts".
  • Politeness Judo: Orpheus uses his words and music to reason with Hades and begs for his wife's freedom. It works halfway; Hades agrees to let them go, if Orpheus can pass his test.
  • Quarreling Song: "How Long", in which Hades and Persephone argue over whether to let Orpheus go with Eurydice or leave them both trapped in Hadestown, along with their marital problems.
  • Ray of Hope Ending: Like in the myth, Orpheus fails the test and Eurydice is trapped in Hadestown forever; as Hermes reminds us, it's a tragedy. But he also reminds the audience of the importance of telling sad and inspirational stories, and the characters pledge to sing the story again and again, in the hope that this time it will turn out right.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The musical takes some liberties with Greek mythology.
    • Hades gets dosed with Adaptational Villainy — in the myths, he was not the antagonist of the 'Orpheus and Eurydice' story, in fact he broke one of his own rules by allowing Orpheus a chance to earn his wife's death to be undone.
      • He didn't keep souls as slaves, in fact Hades allowed souls to leave the Underworld in order to be reborn once they'd drunk water of the River Lethe.
      • His relationship with Persephone was functional; in fact in Ancient Greece, Hades and Persephone's marriage to each other was considered to be the 'ideal' marriage. Mind you, Hades treated Persephone as his equal, which was a huge deal both then and now.
    • Eurydice did not have sex with Hades and was definitely not seduced by him. In the myths she died as a result of falling into a pit of poisonous vipers.
      • In fact Hades was the only god who didn't have an affair.
    • The River Styx was not a wall, it was literally a river that one had to cross in order to enter the Underworld.
    • Persephone and Hades actually loved each other and they definitely didn't fight. They are always depicted ruling together, and sometimes Persephone acts on her own. Sometimes Persephone is the one who mortals or other deities approach to get results, not Hades. Usually Hades is seen seated on his throne with Persephone standing beside him, but sometimes she is the one who is sat on the throne meanwhile Hades stands up next to her. The tale of Orpheus is an excellent way of portraying how Hades and Persephone ruled together and took the decisions together, sometimes with Persephone persuading him to change his mind.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Justin Vernon as Orpheus (see Voice of the Legion).
  • Shame If Something Happened: "Hey Little Songbird":
    Hades: Always a pity for one so pretty and young/When poverty comes to clip your wings/And knock the wind right out of your lungs/Hey, nobody sings on empty.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Persephone.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "His Kiss, The Riot".
  • Soprano and Gravel: Eurydice and Hades in "Hey Little Songbird."
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Orpheus and Eurydice end as this. Orpheus cannot return to Hadestown to see her and Eurydice cannot go to him on the surface because Orpheus broke the condition that Hades gave when he let the two of them go.
  • Starving Artist: Orpheus is a musician living through an economic depression. As early as "Wedding Song", Eurydice expresses concern that he can properly provide for them. Lampshaded in "Hey Little Songbird".
    Hades: He's some kind of poet and he's penniless
    Give him your hand, he'll give you his hand-to-mouth
    He'll write you a poem when the power's out
  • The Stinger: A rare theatrical version: the final song in the show happens after the curtain call.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • Persephone in "How Long," about both Orpheus (who just wants to see his lover Eurydice again) and Hades (who is tormented by their failed marriage as much as she is).
    • Orpheus to Hades in "Epic III", realizing that despite all his wealth and power, the thing Hades most wants and tries so hard for is what he's already lost: his relationship with Persephone.
  • Take a Third Option: As expressed in "Word to the Wise", if Hades just lets Eurydice go with Orpheus, he looks weak; refusing, however, makes Orpheus a martyr. But, the Fates advise, if he appears to offer mercy while setting Orpheus up to fail, he avoids both traps.
  • Tenor Boy: Orpheus.
  • Villain Love Song: "Hey Little Songbird", in which Hades seduces Eurydice.
  • Villainous Lament: "How Long," in which a surprisingly vulnerable Hades shows bitter regret not for his villainous deeds, but for the dysfunctional nature of his marriage. What's tragic is that both Hades and Persephone seem to truly love each other even as that damaged love pains and tortures them.
  • Voice of the Legion: Orpheus, to indicate his divine musical talent.
  • Wedding Day: "Wedding Song", natch.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In "Hey Little Songbird," Hades tempts Eurydice into leaving the man she loves in favor of a safe, comfortable life. She agrees and eventually comes to regret it. The Fates converse about it in "When The Chips Are Down", asserting that Eurydice shouldn't be judged for her choice since most people would've done the same if they'd been in her position.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eurydice and Orpheus both have elements of this at the start. "Epic, Part Two" and "How Long?" imply that Persephone used to be this, too.
  • Women Are Wiser: Eurydice in "Wedding Song", voicing her concerns for Orpheus's monetary situation, and in "Chant", when she's the one who cares about their dwindling stores of food and firewood. Subverted thereafter, as Eurydice's concerns and her overall innocence lead to her seduction and subsequent imprisonment by Hades.
  • Wretched Hive: Hadestown.
    Hermes: Either get to hell or to Hadestown/Ain't no difference any more!
  • You Can't Fight Fate: As Hermes says, the ending never changes, no matter how many times you sing the song.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Hades and Eurydice sleep together after he brings her to Hadestown. He's picked up multiple women this way before and then dropped them cold, according to the chorus.


Example of: