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Theatre / Hadestown

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"The gods have forgotten the song of their love."
"On the railroad line on the road to Hell
There was a young girl looking for something to eat
And brother, thus begins the tale
Of Orpheus and Eurydice!"
Hermes, "Road to Hell"

Anaïs Mitchell's Hadestown began life as a small-scale 2006-2007 theatrical production in Vermont before it was turned into a concept album in 2010. In 2016, Hadestown returned to the stage with an expanded story and revised 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, a production at the Citadel Theatre in Alberta Canada in 2017, and a run at the UK's National Theatre from November 2018 to January 2019. It then transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, where it premiered on April 17, 2019. A London transfer of the Broadway version was announced in 2023.

The show is a Setting Update of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a deliberately vague setting that evokes the United States sometime during the mid-20th century. The messenger god Hermes is singing an old tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, a couple who struggle to survive in a harsh world where the seasons are out of joint thanks to Hades and Persephone's deteriorating marriage. While Persephone brings summertime and fills the world with life all too briefly, Orpheus hopes to write a song to bring back spring, and promises Eurydice the world.

When Orpheus is too focused on songwriting to provide, Eurydice is left to the harsh winter. Out of pragmatism, she accepts Hades' offer to come to Hadestown and work forever with food and board, learning too late it's in exchange for her life and memories. Armed only with his music and love for Eurydice, Orpheus sets off for Hadestown to get her back, and perhaps bring back spring as well. Hermes has warned the audience that it's a sad song, a tragedy, but holds out hope that maybe it'll turn out this time — only the Fates know for sure.

The Broadway show began with the following cast:

  • Reeve Carney as Orpheus
  • Eva Noblezada as Eurydice
  • André De Shields as Hermes
  • Amber Gray as Persephone
  • Patrick Page as Hades
  • Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzales-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad as the Fates
  • Timothy Hughes, Afra Hines, Ahmad Simmons, Kimberly Marable, and John Krause as the Workers Chorus

     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

On November 26, 2020 the Original Broadway Cast released a Christmas album titled If the Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album. The album mainly features the actresses who played the Three Fates, Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad, along with supporting features from the rest of the cast.

Way Down Tropestown:

  • Accidental Hero: While he can't save Eurydice, Orpheus ends up saving everyone else outside Hadestown when his song reconciles Hades and Persephone, ending the storm that came over the land.
  • Actionized Adaptation: A mild example compared to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus entered and left the Underworld without much issue aside from the whole turning-back thing. In Hadestown, it's a long, dangerous trek there, and he's already battered before Hades has his workers beat him up and attempt to force him out, with an extended dance sequence much like an abstract action/chase scene. Hades additionally threatens to kill him once he's done singing, though he doesn't follow through.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In mythology, Hades and Persephone have a fairly stable marriage, while in Hadestown, their marriage is on the rocks and has been for some time. By the end, they're both working on trying again.
  • Adaptational Consent:
    • Hades and Persephone's relationship and marriage in the show was consensual from the start, unlike in the original myths where it was initially based on abduction. Indeed, in the NYTW version, Persephone sings to Eurydice that she was entranced by this mysterious man and followed him to the Underground, much in the same way that Orpheus came underground to rescue Eurydice.
    • Hades' seduction of Eurydice is either extremely one-sided, or with Eurydice slowly giving in out of her own will.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Hadestown was, from the start, a more fleshed-out version of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, with additional anti-capitalist themes. The concept album was a revision/adaptation of a small-scale stage musical (also by Anais Mitchell) that had two runs in Vermont, which was a very abstract, sparse experience with relatively little in the way of explicit story — it was after the release of the album that Mitchell began to flesh out the story with more songs ("Road to Hell" and "Chant" and their reprises most notably) to make the setting and the nature of events much clearer.
    • One of the biggest changes made to the production when it came to London and Broadway was the idea of the seasons being thrown out of whack by Hades and Persephone's deteriorating marriage and Orpheus' quest to write a song to bring back spring, which was present to an extent in the NYTW and Edmonton versions but not made as clear or as important.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the concept album and original cast recording, Hades plots to let Orpheus and Eurydice think they've won by letting them go, only to set them up to fail as a means of keeping his workers in line. In the Broadway version, while still politically motivated, his chance is fair without any underhandedness and he honestly doesn't know if they'll make it or not. It's further driven home by Hermes, who explicitly states that it's not a trick, but a test, so it's all up to Orpheus.
    • The concept album and NYTW recording had the Fates outright lie about what Hadestown was like and mock Eurydice for believing their promises of paradise, while in the Broadway version, they tell half-truths and don't engage in gloating, just facts about what will happen now that she's signed the deal. The new notes for the Broadway version say that the Fates are not bullies; they just tell it like it is.
  • Afterlife Express: This is the central conceit of the show which reimagines the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice on a Depression-era train line. Hades' train takes living souls down to Hadestown to work for eternity in exchange for security.
  • All for Nothing: Eurydice gives up her life to go to Hadestown, thinking it's a place of rest and comfort, and learns she sold her soul to perform eternal hard labor. Orpheus risks just as much to travel to Hadestown and rescue her; after many trials, they get a chance to leave safely and together... but after so much doubt has been put into his mind, Orpheus turns to look back at the last second. Eurydice is doomed to Hadestown forever, and Orpheus is left to walk the Earth, forever carrying the guilt of it. Unless they get it right next time.
  • 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 he often forgets practicalities like food and firewood, despite his love for Eurydice.
    • 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 her 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 the Broadway version kidnapped her or if she married him of her own volition and isn't bound by any deal; the off-Broadway production confirmed the latter, that Persephone followed him into the Underworld. They did really love each other once, but she seems not to have a choice about going back to Hadestown. 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, and is noted for being a god of tricksters and thieves. Here, he serves as the narrator of 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?
  • Alto Villainess: The Fates sing in three-part harmony in a lower register than either Eurydice or Persephone. They're also decidedly morally grey, at best.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Eurydice's lamentation over signing her life away in "Flowers" includes metaphors referencing literal death, metaphorical working death, sex, drugs, and sleep, and the situation is ambiguous enough that all or none of them could be true.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Right from the outset, the first sung lines are "Once upon a time, there was a railroad line / Don't ask where, brother, don't ask when", which Mitchell indicates in her annotated lyrics, and calls it "liberating to just have Hermes say: 'Don't ask!'" It's overall implied to be set in the United States during the Great Depression, but it's intentionally kept vague and laden with Anachronism Stews as befitting a myth like this.
  • Anachronism Stew: As Hermes says, "Don't ask where, brother, don't ask when." It's not just that this is a Setting Update of an ancient Greek myth to the 20th-century United States; the creators have been very open that despite the show being billed as a "Depression-era" show, the setting freely borrows aesthetics from both earlier and later decades. The band's costumes are all from different time periods, and the newspaper Orpheus folds into a flower is an 80s-era flyer for an Aretha Franklin act at Tipitina's.
  • 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.
    • Dogs are mentioned as menaces to beware of, with Hades' guard dogs as threats in "Wait For Me," but the real dog to beware is the one inside your head called Doubt.
  • 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?
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In "Road to Hell," Orpheus is distracted from cleaning tables by a red dishrag and uses it as musical inspiration, missing his cue from Hermes and only noticing the audience when his name's called again.
  • Badass Boast: Hades in "Chant (Reprise)".
    Hades: Young man, you can sing your ditty / I CONDUCT THE ELECTRIC CITY!
  • Bad Samaritan: Hades 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.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eurydice wanted to "lie down forever" in "Hey Little Songbird," and Hades takes her to his Underworld to die.
    Hermes: Eurydice was a hungry young girl, but she wasn't hungry anymore. What she was instead was dead.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Orpheus tries to politely ask Hades to leave with his wife. Hades retaliates by setting the workers on him to beat up the "young man". After Orpheus suffers a BSoD Song, he gets back up and realizes the workers have been repeating his words. He then uses the power to incite a riot, causing everyone in Hadestown to realize they're living a lie. To seal the deal, the staging has him shooting a Death Glare at Hades while doing this, establishing that he's doing this on purpose.
  • Big Bad: Hades, the ruler of Hadestown. The story is based around him luring Eurydice down to Hadestown and Orpheus struggling to rescue her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Aside from the Downer Ending for Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone are at a better place in their relationship than before, ending the deadly storm plaguing the surrounding land. Also, it's implied Hades will let Persephone return to the Earth much earlier than he previously did.
  • Book Ends: "Road to Hell" and "Road to Hell (Reprise)". In the former, Hermes introduces the audience to all the characters of the story — which, he says, is "a sad song, a tragedy," but "maybe it will turn out this time." It doesn't. The song will still be sung again and again, because doing so despite knowing how it ends proves that there is still hope for the world that can be — just like Orpheus wanted. The story ends with all the characters resuming their places at the start of the story.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Eurydice has spent all her life fighting to survive and look out for herself. Her outlook on the world is bitter and blunt, but once she falls in love with Orpheus, he gives her a new hope. Then winter comes again, and desperate not to starve to death, Eurydice accepts Hades' offer to go down to Hadestown in return for never being hungry or cold again. "Flowers" is Eurydice's solo about how hopeless her situation is.
    • Orpheus is a Wide-Eyed Idealist from the beginning of the story. His ability to make one see the way that the world can be is described as a "gift." Even when he finds out that Eurydice has been taken to Hadestown, he wastes no time in pursuing her — believing that she was taken against her will, and determined to save her. Hades brutally informs him that Eurydice came of her own free will before siccing his workers on Orpheus, beating him to a pulp. This, as well as learning that Eurydice left him willingly, causes Orpheus to lament that this may be the way the world really is ("If It's True"). The workers rallying around him gives him enough confidence to lead the riot back to Hades, but unfortunately, he doesn't recover from it. Having his entire worldview shattered causes Orpheus to doubt that Hades would let him and Eurydice go, or that she would even follow him — he turns around to look and make sure, condemning her to Hadestown for eternity.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Persephone takes a moment during "Our Lady of the Underground" to introduce the band to the audience. Prior to this, the last line of Act One is her turning to the audience, asking, "Anybody want a drink?"
  • BSoD Song:
    • "Flowers (Eurydice's Song)" for Eurydice. She's finally free of hunger, but now she'll spend the rest of her existence working herself to an empty husk — already forgetting her own name.
    • "If It's True" and "Doubt Comes In" for Orpheus. In the former, he's just found out that the woman he loves willingly left him, and his plan to bring her back home ended with him being beaten to a pulp by the workers. Now his idealist outlook on life has been destroyed. In the latter, even after he convinces Hades to give them a chance and Eurydice enthusiastically tells him to "take her home," the whole experience has done too much damage to him. He's in doubt that Hades isn't playing some horrible trick on him, and that Eurydice is even behind him at all.
    • "His Kiss, The Riot" for Hades. Even after Orpheus' song has moved him and brought him and Persephone together again, he's now at a difficult decision to make. If he lets Eurydice go, then his workers will see him as weak and overpower him. If he doesn't, then his workers will see him as heartless and riot. It's the most distressed the audience ever sees him in the play.
  • Cabin Fever: Mentioned by name in "Our Lady of the Underground" as one of the many complaints the workers have.
    Persephone: Six feet under getting under your skin/Cabin fever is a-setting in
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Why We Build The Wall" has Hades asking the workers why they build the wall and what it's built to keep out, which they respond to and add onto the song.
  • Canon Immigrant: Eurydice's song "Any Way the Wind Blows" is this. The song debuted on Anais Mitchell's 2014 album xoa, which had a limited release and contained covers of multiple tracks from the original Hadestown album but wasn't directly connected to Hadestown. The song was added to the Hadestown stage show starting with the NYTW run, heavily edited to remove Real Life references and adding narration from Hermes to make it fit with the plot of the show.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Persephone doesn't look kindly on Hades' industrial empire. Not only does the by-product pollution of his furnaces and factories mess with the delicate balance of nature, but Hades treats his workers like slaves; the work is hard and long and the pay is nothing, and when they inevitably work themselves to death? Well, Hades can always find more.
  • Character Development:
    • Orpheus starts the play refusing to take Hermes' sensible advice. He then becomes more thoughtful and introspective when Eurydice goes missing, and follows the god's directions on how to get to his wife and Hadestown. However, he loses his innocence and faith not only in himself, but in people's good intentions, asking in "If It's True" whether this is how the world is after getting beat up by the workers and learning that Eurydice had chosen to leave him. This leads directly to the doubts in her and in himself that ultimately cause him to turn back on the trek to the overworld, trapping Eurydice in Hadestown forever.
    • Eurydice develops in the opposite direction: at first cynical and unwilling to rely on anyone but herself, or to settle down in any one place, she comes to develop complete faith in Orpheus to lead her out of Hadestown and trusts that they can build a life together. Tragically, that faith turns out to be misplaced.
  • Circling Monologue: In the Broadway (and tour) staging, Hades' rant to Orpheus in "Chant (Reprise)" becomes several layers of this. Hades circles menacingly around Orpheus, who's circling in the opposite direction around Eurydice and the workers as, one by one, with each Armor-Piercing Question in their chorus, they break formation to join Orpheus. Meanwhile, Persephone circles Hades, and they even reach out toward each other, almost touching hands before tearing away from each other in opposite directions.note 
  • Climate Change Allegory: The show is implied to be set in a world suffering the effects of climate change. In "Any Way the Wind Blows", Eurydice sings that the seasons used to be stable, but now it's either "blazing hot or freezing cold". Following a massive storm, she winds up in the underground city Hadestown, which Hades has industrialized using fossil fuels in a futile attempt to appease his wife Persephone. For her part, Persephone is unhappy that Hades is forcing her to stay beneath the earth for longer than their allotted six months. Take away the rescue plot, and you have a story about overindustrialization and overconsumption causing climate imbalance, which is abetted by the end of the show after Hades and Persephone reconcile, and he allows her to spend more time aboveground.
  • Coins for the Dead: The "ticket" Hades gives Eurydice so she can go belowground are two coins, referencing Charon's obol — the coins placed on corpses to pay Charon, the ferryman who transports souls to the land of the dead.
  • Colorblind Casting: In keeping with the show's mythical 'any time, any place' setting, all the characters are listed as "Any ethnicity" on the casting call. Hermes and the Fates have also been played by both men and women.
  • Company Town: The realm of Hades is reimagined as one of these — Hadestown is a city where everyone is guaranteed a job, but that job is working in Hades' mines, factories, or the endless construction site of the Wall. Hades is everyone's boss, and the only place to spend any money or have any fun is Persephone's "Our Lady of the Underground" speakeasy. The song "Way Down Hadestown" suggests the whole world of the play is the Company Town of Hadestown, with the "Up Above" world outside of it just the unemployed drifters on the outskirts of it. Specifically, the Fates point out that all of the money in the world — "every little penny in the wishing well, every nickel on the drum" — originates from Hadestown one way or another.
  • Cool Shades: Hades wears a nice pair of sunglasses while above ground both to protect his eyes from the harsh light and to act as The Casanova when seducing Eurydice.
  • Costume Evolution: During development, the characters' costumes changed for each production, with most designs being finalized around the National Theater production in London. Orpheus and Eurydice's outfits would change again for the finalized Broadway release.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "How Long" is between Persephone and Hades as they argue over Orpheus and Eurydice's fate; Persephone wants them free while Hades is obligated to keep them in Hadestown.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Orpheus and Eurydice bump into each other towards the end of "Road to Hell" and become flustered as Hermes watches gleefully. They repeat this at the end of the musical when the story resets.
  • Crapsack World: Things are bad above ground, where poverty and starvation are always barely an inch away. Hadestown is even worse, where workers toil without rest to build an endless wall and other projects that Persephone can't stand, but Hades demands they keep working.
    Everybody hungry
    Everybody tired
    Everybody slaves by the sweat of his brow
    The wage is nothing and the work is hard
    It’s a graveyard in Hadestown!
  • Creation Myth: "Epic I" tells the story of how Hades and Persephone fell in love, and how Persephone spending half the year aboveground and half in the Underworld created the seasons we all live by.
  • Crisis Makes Perfect: Orpheus tries working on the song that will reconcile Hades and Persephone for much of the musical. He gets so in the zone that Hades manages to convince Eurydice to come to Hadestown when Orpheus is busy composing. When does Orpheus finally get it right? When Hades is threatening to kill him after he sings "one more song".
  • Crowd Song: "Why We Build The Wall" is Hades holding a rally to keep his workers in line with the circular reasons for building his endless wall.
  • Curtain Call: This show is unusual in that, technically, "Road to Hell (Reprise)" is the last song in the show proper, and the song "We Raise Our Cups" is sung after the curtain call, with the implication that the actors are now out of character and singing about Orpheus the mythic figure.
  • Dance of Romance: Hades and Persephone's marriage is on the rocks, but Orpheus's song in "Epic III" moves them so much that they begin dancing like newlyweds.
  • Darkest Hour: "If It's True". Hades, after brutally mocking Orpheus for his optimism, orders his workers to beat him senseless, and it seems that nothing can convince Hades to let Eurydice go. Even worse, Eurydice came willingly, instead of by force as Orpheus thought — she lost faith in Orpheus' ability to provide for her and song to bring back spring, leaving for the security of Hadestown. All this ruins Orpheus so badly that he considers leaving without Eurydice, until he realizes the Workers are singing with him and renewing his hope.
  • Dark Reprise: Happens multiple times through the show, which functions as a whole as a metaphor for loss of innocence — as we learn more about the dark nature of the world of the play and of the city of Hadestown specifically, we come back to previous themes (both literal and musical) with a clearer understanding of the darkness behind them:
    • "Way Down Hadestown" and "Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)" is a straightforward example, with the first iteration of the song being a lively party song where Eurydice is being tempted by promises of riches and security in Hadestown, and the second being her dark realization at what Hadestown is actually like.
    • "Chant" and "Chant (Reprise)" are this, first appearing as a Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number establishing everyone's motivations, and the reprise allowing Hades to take over the song and reveal to Orpheus the full extent of his villainous motivations.
    • "Chant" is also, itself, a Dark Reprise of "Wedding Song", with Persephone and Hades' verses a dark reflection of Orpheus and Eurydice's innocent flirting above ground — instead of young lovers jokingly extracting extravagant promises from each other about the future, it's an old married couple flinging barbs at each other about what they've done for each other in the past and how they now feel owed and taken for granted.
    • "Road to Hell (Reprise)" is one for "Road to Hell", bringing back the rousing Opening Chorus and making its title literal, showing us a heartbroken, exhausted Hermes with all the excitement he had to start telling this story wrung out of him by a tragic ending that — we finally learn — he's known was inevitable all along. But see Triumphant Reprise below.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Implied to be Hades' de facto way of bringing new workers to Hadestown. He seeks out the suffering and offers an end to their troubles. In exchange, however, they'll do nothing but hard labor mining riches for him, and over time they will lose all memories of their former life. This is how he convinces Eurydice, starving and freezing cold, to come to Hadestown.
    • 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.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Eurydice hits it when she realizes how truly screwed she is in "Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)". Then, after the Hope Spot of "Promises", Orpheus and Eurydice fly right past it again when he makes the fateful turn to look in "Doubt Comes In". The opening of "Road to Hell (Reprise)" reveals that witnessing the ending of the story has made Hermes hit the horizon, with Andre de Shields' powerful tenor now broken and nearly silent, trying and failing to rouse himself with his trademark "Aight" only to almost break into tears.
  • 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.
  • Devil, but No God: Hades gets the common conflation with Satan, being the ruler of a Nightmarish Factory that gets compared to Hell and a broker of unfair deals. Meanwhile, the two other gods Hermes and Persephone are powerless to stop him, while Zeus is nowhere to be seen, coming off as this trope.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • "Hey Little Songbird" has Hades, an older, richer man in a position of power, tricking Eurydice, an impoverished, vulnerable young woman, into working for him under false pretenses. Eurydice doesn't realize just what exactly she agreed to until it's too late.
    • "Our Lady of the Underground" reveals that Persephone built her speakeasy around a crack in the Wall that surrounds Hadestown, and charges a "pay-per-view" to let people look through it and see the sky, as though it were a peep-show from the 1930s. Apparently, Hades considers glimpses of the outside world just as obscene and dangerous to public order as Moral Guardians of the '30s saw pornography.
  • Don't Look Back: Hades' test to Orpheus is to see if he can walk out of the Underworld without looking behind him to see if Eurydice is following; since Hades himself doubted Persephone's love, he's seeing just how far the similarities run. As in the myth, Orpheus looks back.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Defied, as Hades initially threatens to kill Orpheus after he sings "one more song" for him. Once Orpheus actually sings it and moves Hades' heart, Hades realizes that killing him will make him a martyr to his workers, while letting him go will make them agitate for freedom, so he arranges the famous test.
  • Downer Ending: Right at the last second, Orpheus turns back to look at Eurydice, damning her to Hadestown for all eternity. Hermes tells the audience that despite it being "a sad tale, a tragedy," they will sing it again and again: because the fact that they do, as if it will be better the next time around, is proof that they all long for what the world could be, despite the way that it is. The musical ends as the story starts anew.
  • Dramatic Irony: In "Chant," Orpheus sings of Hades being deafened by his focus on his work while Persephone blinds herself with wine… all while he can't hear Eurydice and Hermes calling for him and can't see the growing storm above. This also applies to the NYTW version of the song, where Orpheus sang of a love gone wrong while Eurydice grew increasingly angry at him prioritizing singing over providing for them.
  • 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Vermont shows were far more abstract, darker in tone, and much shorter. Early stuff included the song "Everything Written" about fate and the stars, Hermes as a direct minion of Hades who tried to tempt Orpheus away, and Cerberus as the head of security in Hadestown, all of which was changed for the album and later performances.
  • Easter Egg: The Broadway and touring set includes a drinks menu on the wall that can't be seen clearly from the theater seats. The full menu is "Four Seasons Green Shot", "Bottomless Road to Hell", "Lovers' Desire", "God's Honest Truth", "Snake Bite", "Aphrodite's Dilemma", "Cerberus' Triple Snap", "Demeter's Fury", "Evelyn's Double Punch", and "Abita Amber". The latter two are references to the double-headed microphone, nicknamed Evelyn, and New Orleans, respectively.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: Hades' wall is ostensibly built to keep poverty out, but is really meant to keep his workers busy and contained inside Hadestown.
  • 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, and everything he does is for her in some way despite going the wrong way about it.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Hades is the king of the Underworld, and acts as the antagonist for much of the play. In classical mythology the Underworld was where everyone was supposed to go when they died, and it wasn't really a terrible place unless you'd been absolutely awful or thoroughly annoyed the gods while you were alive, but here it's a Nightmarish Factory and an affront to the natural order. At the same time, though, it's not taken to the same extent as other portrayals of Hades, as he genuinely loves his wife even if it's misguided and agrees to give Orpheus a fair chance to leave when he proves his worth.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: In the Broadway production, all the gods — and only the gods — have a bit of glitter to their costumes to indicate their divinity.note 
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Hades, portrayed by Patrick Page in the Broadway version, has an extremely low and gritty bass voice. The first time the audience hears it is when he's bringing Persephone back to Hadestown: "I missed ya."
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Road to Hell" is a very old-fashioned song where Hermes and the Chorus go through the cast and introduce the setting of the show and the characters one by one with No Fourth Wall. Mitchell said she intended the opening of the show to evoke both the idea of Hermes as an informal storyteller and to pay homage to ancient Greek epics, which would typically begin with an enumeration of the gods and heroes who appear in the narrative (and giving each of the gods mentioned their due praise to avoid their wrath).
  • Fantasy Americana: The show takes the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and transplants the characters and mythology into a post-apocalyptic setting based on 1930s America, where the underworld is a factory and the way to there is an old railroad track.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: In the Broadway version, Persephone's summer gown has extravagant puffy shoulders that are hand-sewn and asymmetrical. The Fates' gowns are also asymmetrical and subtly mismatched with each other.
  • Fate Worse than Death: For both leads.
    • Eurydice will be worked to a state that should cause death, while supernaturally being kept alive so she can keep working; all the while, she will slowly be worn down by the harsh working conditions and implied magic to slowly forget who she is, and lose all sense of identity beyond her place as Hades' eternal slave.
    • Orpheus is forced to walk the Earth without his true love, all the while being plagued with the knowledge that he's responsible for his love's fate and can't go back to retrieve her.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Zigzagged. Eurydice actively chooses to go with Hades rather than simply dying of an accidental snakebite, and Persephone is actively arguing with Hades and undermining his rule rather than only being moved to intervene on Orpheus' behalf at the moment he sings. However, Eurydice remains a helpless victim of Hades' power who has to trust entirely in Orpheus to save her, and no one questions the fact that Persephone cannot actually overthrow Hades as Top God or change his rules herself — all she can do is try to persuade him to be merciful and reconcile to bring back spring.
  • Final Love Duet: "Promises" has a reprise of the Wedding Song as Orpheus and Eurydice reaffirm their love for one another, and if they get through this, all they'll need is each other from now on.
  • Finger Gun: Hades uses finger guns to emphasize his points in "Chant (Reprise)" as he lectures Orpheus on their shared marital struggles.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Hades has renovated the Underworld into a nightmarish factory full of unnatural light and heat where his workers toil endlessly, which greatly displeases Persephone since it isn't supposed to be that way.
  • Fisher King: Hades and Persephone's deteriorating marriage is responsible for the inclement weather plaguing the world, with their argument in "Chant" causing an increasingly bitter storm up top that Eurydice becomes caught in.
  • Flowers of Nature:
    • A red bloom is a consistent Flower Motif throughout the show, symbolizing lost springtime.
    • Persephone, the goddess of spring, wears and carries bright flowers when aboveground.
  • 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, "Road to Hell", Hermes outright tells the audience that the story they're about to watch is "a sad tale, it's a tragedy".
  • Gender-Inclusive Writing: The West End production removed all references to Hermes' gender, with Orpheus's "Mister/Missus Hermes" being replaced with "Excuse me, Hermes" in "Wait for Me."
  • The Ghost: Persephone's mother is repeatedly mentioned (though not by name) throughout the show as part of Hades and Persephone's past, but does not appear. It is implied that she's no longer around due to some past calamity.note 
  • Ghost Amnesia: A combination of the endless work in Hadestown and being in the Underworld causes shades to lose their memories and senses of selves until they're just another cog in Hades' machines.
  • Green Aesop: The theatrical version of the story links the setting's climate imbalance to Hades' actions — specifically, his selfishness, industrialization of the Underworld, and reliance on fossil fuels plays a part in the breakdown of his marriage to Persephone, who despises it all.
  • Global Warming: Due to Hades and Persephone's deteriorating marriage and the heavy industrialization of the Underworld, the world above only has summer and winter, and either one can come at a moment's notice. Orpheus's quest is to write a song to fix things and bring back spring and fall, putting the weather back in order.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy:
    • Persephone, due to her alcohol habit and domestic disputes, forgets about spring and lets Hades walk over her even when she has room to protest.
    • Hermes seems very angry and disappointed in Orpheus when Eurydice goes underground, and he's absolutely devastated when Orpheus fails to get her back. And yet he himself does very little to actually try to stop Eurydice from taking Hades' offer or to directly help Orpheus get her back, other than giving him directions to find the "back way" into Hadestown. It's strongly implied that as a god under Hades' rule, he can't do anything to directly help anyone defy Hades.
  • Götterdämmerung: It's heavily implied in the Broadway musical that this has occurred, given the state of the world and hints that Hades and Persephone have taken on the mantles and responsibilities associated with other gods.
  • The Great Wall: Hades has his Workers build an endless wall around the titular city, ostensibly to keep poverty out, but is really meant to keep his workers busy and contained inside Hadestown. The song "Why We Build the Wall" is devoted to the circular reasoning behind the project.
  • Grief Song: Inverted with "We Raise Our Cups", as Persephone and Eurydice sing a "reverse elegy" for Orpheus, who escaped Hadestown but now must Walk The Earth alone.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Crossed with Breaking the Fourth Wall. "Road to Hell" begins with Hermes acknowledging this is an old and well-known myth already ("It's an old song... but we're gonna sing it again"), and "Road to Hell (Reprise)" has him tell us they'll sing it again. This is complete with the whole stage resetting to the opening of the show, with Eurydice — whom we just saw lost to Hadestown forever — reappearing as she was before the story happened, once more asking Hermes for a light; however, we know it is slightly different as Persephone arrives on time.
  • Hakuna Matata: "Living It Up on Top" is about Persephone heralding her return and everyone enjoying the summertime and life she brings. The forgetting-your-troubles aspect is particularly resonant in the Broadway version, where Persephone puts complaints about the weather and hard times out of her mind as she tells Eurydice to take what she can get and make the most of it.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: "Doubt Comes In" features drums akin to a heartbeat as Orpheus makes his way back to the surface with no way of knowing if Eurydice is truly there.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam:
    • Eurydice regrets leaving Orpheus and signing over her life to Hades. When Hermes tells them they have a chance to leave, she promises Orpheus that she will make it up to him. Unfortunately, she never gets the chance.
    • Hades promises to Persephone that he'll let her go and make spring, and he'll wait for her to come in the fall. She says she'll make an honest effort to reconcile with him. Then the story ends, and Hermes restarts it again before they can properly reconcile, though spring does come again.
  • Hellevator: The descent to the underworld is done via a platform in the middle of the stage lowering and rising, with the touring production having an elevator-like door onstage instead.
  • 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. In earlier versions, Hermes also laments that Hades and Persephone have the same argument every year.
  • Held Gaze: "Way Down Hadestown" is blocked so that after Eurydice sings "kinda makes you wonder how it feels" (in reference to Hades seemingly owning everything), the music stops as Hades turns to her and pulls down his sunglasses to look in her eyes. Eurydice stares back until Hermes starts the song up again with "all aboard!"
  • Hope Spot:
    • The second half of Act II is a long string of these. "Epic III" and Hades and Persephone's dance that follows lends credence to the thought that he'd let Eurydice go without a fight. When his conditions are made, Orpheus and Eurydice affirm their love and trust for one another, and even as doubt starts to set in, Eurydice's sections of "Doubt Comes In" bring hope that, even if you know how it ends, maybe this time he won't screw it up. Her final note swells triumphantly… before stopping cold when Orpheus looks back.
    • Invoked by Hermes resetting the story and Eurydice walking back on stage looking for a match to light her candle. Maybe… just maybe this time the tale will end differently.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: This ends up being the core theme of the show — Orpheus' song contains the power of hope that destabilizes Hadestown, restores the workers' individuality, and can bring back spring, and as tragic as the ending of his story is, Hermes can't help replaying it again and again "as though it might turn out this time".
    'Cause here's the thing
    To know how it ends
    And still begin to sing it again
    As if it might turn out this time
    I learned that from a friend of mine
    See, Orpheus was a poor boy
    But he had a gift to give
    He could make you see how the world could be
    In spite of the way that it is
  • Hourglass Plot: Orpheus and Eurydice swap viewpoints by the end of the show, as the formerly idealistic Orpheus grows more cynical from learning Eurydice went to Hadestown willingly and is beat up for his efforts, while the formerly cynical Eurydice grows more optimistic after seeing all Orpheus goes through to rescue her.
  • I Will Find You: Orpheus to Eurydice in "Wait For Me", vowing to track her down in Hadestown after she vanishes.
  • If We Get Through This…: Before they undergo their final trial, Orpheus promises to Eurydice that he will be there for her and become the husband she wanted, and she in turn promises to be faithful. Sadly, neither of them gets the chance because Orpheus turns around too early.
  • Impossible Task: "Wedding Song" is a straight example of this trope, although the tasks aren't so much impossible as very difficult for someone as flat broke as Orpheus is. Hades and Persephone's verses in "Chant" are an inversion, with Persephone expressing her disgust at the things Hades has already done to try to win her affection.
  • Intercourse with You: An instrumental break towards the end of "All I've Ever Known" has Orpheus and Eurydice dance a stylized ballet to represent making love. Notable in that the song itself isn't about sex, though it does have Eurydice and Orpheus confessing their mutual love.
  • Irony: Orpheus misses Hades taking away Eurydice because he's composing the song that he hopes will convince Hades and Persephone to reconcile and end the storm to the land. Then when he finally sings the song for the couple, it's to save Eurydice. Nevertheless, his song ends up reconciling them after all.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: Zigzagged with "Our Lady of the Underground." While it doesn't advance the plot of the show and mainly acts as a musical palate cleanser, the context of Persephone sneakily serving contraband to Hades' workers gives more insight into Hadestown, the Workers, and Persephone herself.
  • Job Song: Several songs feature the Workers toiling in Hades' factories. Their portions of "Chant" introduce them and the mantra they chant to keep out of trouble, while "Why We Build the Wall" has Hades holding a rally to explain how 'vital' their jobs are. "Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)" has Eurydice being inducted into the fold of Workers and the mines, mills and machinery. Later songs such as "If It's True" and "Chant (Reprise)" subvert the trope by starting out with the Workers at work like normal, but deciding to stop and stand with Orpheus.
  • Jump Scare: Onstage, a steam whistle blows immediately after "Our Lady of the Underground" to signal the workers back to work, and again at the start of "Chant II" when Hades realizes Orpheus is still in Hadestown.
  • Large Ham:
    • Hades chews the scenery during "Chant II" as he revels in his power, threatens to kill Orpheus, and regains control of his workers.
    • Persephone in "Our Lady of the Underground" as she shows off her contraband wares in defiance of Hades.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the theatrical version, Hermes warns Orpheus and Eurydice that their trust in each other is about to be tested in front of “gods and men”, and points to the audience when he says men.
  • Leitmotif: The "la la la la la la la" melody is a recurring theme throughout the show as a song of love.
  • Let's Duet: Many of the songs — "Wedding Song" (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).
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Orpheus in the Broadway staging is a Wide-Eyed Idealist and naive Manchild; he normally gets through life by focusing on his music. Then Hades orders his workers to physically stop Orpheus from rescuing Eurydice. After he spends a song in Heroic BSoD, Orpheus gets back up and sings again, empowering the workers to riot. The staging makes it clear he knows what he's doing.
  • Light Is Not Good: Part of Hades' deepening villainy is shown by him plastering neon lights all over Hadestown. Persephone complains that "it ain't right and it ain't natural" for the place to be so bright in the middle of winter.
  • Love at First Sight:
    • "Epic I" tells of how Hades fell in love with Persephone the moment he saw her in Demeter's garden.
    • "Come Home With Me", where Orpheus declares to Eurydice that he's the man who's going to marry her before he's even told her his name.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "When The Chips Are Down" is a fatalistic but very jaunty and catchy song.
    • The same applies to the opening of the show, "Road to Hell", which remains a peppy party number even as Hermes outright tells the audience "It's a sad song, it's a tragedy!"
  • Magic Music: Orpheus's song, even in its incomplete form, makes flowers bloom from nothing, and is so powerful it splits the wall around Hadestown open to let him in.
  • Magical Realism: The gods' powers and effects on the world are seen through a lens of realism, with the hellish underworld being a mining town and Persephone's upworld contraband being figurative names for drinks and drugs. While Orpheus's song can make flowers bloom from nothing and split open walls, bringing back spring is out of his reach until he's able to repair Hades and Persephone's love, and she leaves early enough to bring spring. Additionally, Orpheus occasionally sings with Voice of the Legion to show his divine musical talent.
  • Make an Example of Them: Hades has Orpheus beaten in "Papers" to show what becomes of trespassers in Hadestown.
  • 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" and "Chant" are sung by the entire cast and feature a lot of dancing and storytelling.
  • Mating Dance: During the instrumental break in "All I've Ever Known", Orpheus and Eurydice have a rather... suggestive ballet dance that ends with Eurydice on top of Orpheus before they lay on the floor to stargaze.
  • Meet Cute: Orpheus is so blown away by Eurydice from the moment he sees her, he asks her to marry him before even introducing himself, then blows her away in return by singing for her with his literal divine voice.
  • Mickey Mousing: A majority of the fight scene in "Papers" is timed to the music, particularly the drumbeats towards the end coinciding with the workers punching and kicking Orpheus.
  • Minimalism: The present action is very much the focus. The past of the characters is brief and relatively unimportant aside from Hades and Persephone, and the world's backstory and setting is largely relegated to behind-the-scenes notes, interviews, and fanon.
  • Minimalist Cast: There's Eurydice, Orpheus, Persephone, Hades, Hermes, and the Fates, plus unnamed workers.
  • Missing Steps Plan: Orpheus's plan to bring back spring lacks a concrete idea of how besides writing a song.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Persephone's springtime powers, love for humanity, and emotion are contrasted with her husband Hades's technology, industrialization, and coldness.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hermes introduces the cast to the audience, sets up the story, and tells Orpheus how to get to Hadestown.
  • Musical Chores: "Chant" and its reprise are structured around the workers of Hadestown singing a dreary work song ("Oh, you gotta keep your head, keep your head low...") while the main characters sing verses over them. Notably, this makes "Chant" a Dark Reprise of "Wedding Song", which depicts a carefree bucolic paradise.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: One of the most heartwrenching ones in Broadway history, at the end of "Doubt Comes In".
    Eurydice: Orpheus, you are not alone
    I'm right behind you, and I have been all along
    The darkest hour of the darkest night
    Comes right before the dawn—
    (gasps as Orpheus turns around)
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The workers have this reaction when they realize they beat up an innocent man on Hades's orders and ask, "Why do we turn away when our brother is bleeding?" in response to a battered Orpheus's song.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One sly reference to the original Greek myths is the "ticket" Hades offers to Eurydice comes in the form of two identical coins or tokens, a reference to the oboloi that were placed over the eyes or in the mouth of corpses in Greek tradition so they could pay the ferryman's toll to enter Hades.
    • Persephone generically addresses members of the Chorus as "brother" through the show, but it does hit a little differently when she directly calls Hermes "brother", both times asking him to pass around the wine (in "Livin' It Up on Top" and "We Raise Our Cups"). After all, in the myth they were half-siblings.
    • Persephone personifying the Moon as a woman and, specifically, as a pornographic pinup model — comparing letting people see the night sky through the crack in the Wall to a pay-per-view peep-show — is extra resonant if you know the myth of Artemis and Actaeon, and how voyeuristically looking at the Goddess of the Moon nude was an extra taboo act in ancient Greek myth.
  • Nature vs. Technology: Hades and Persephone's marriage is on the rocks in part because Hades keeps turning Hadestown into an industrial artificial city in a misguided attempt to reach out to her. Persephone, a goddess of nature and springtime, finds it appalling and calls it a "neon necropolis". The Broadway version ups the ante by stating that Hades is also keeping Persephone away from the surface for longer periods of time, which throws the seasons out of balance.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The Underworld is reimagined as a mining town where the dead slowly lose all sense of self and memory as they toil endlessly in the factories and mines while building an endless wall for Hades. The set is designed to resemble a massive, rusty oil drum that everyone is trapped in.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Orpheus drops in uninvited to save Eurydice, Hades shows him what happens to trespassers and has his workers beat him until he can barely stand.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • In a heroic example, Orpheus to Hades in "Epic III", especially played up in the Broadway version. 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. This similarity is how he comes up with the test of character at the end.
      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.
    • In the original version of "Chant II," Persephone tells Eurydice that, like her, she fell in love with a man and followed him into the dark. She says that Orpheus's song reminds her how Hadestown and their marriage used to be.
    • Even prior to meeting Hades, Orpheus clearly is able to identify with him in writing "Epic II." The song points out how unfair it is that while his wife is allowed to leave and see exciting new places and meet new people, Hades is left alone in the dark to stew on his loneliness and hope she comes back. This is the first time anyone in the story is willing to play devil's advocate; Orpheus understands what it's like to fall in love with someone you think is too good for you, and be driven to succeed at your job to compensate and pray they don't want more.
  • Oh, Crap!: The moment Orpheus turns around too early and dooms Eurydice, both he and Eurydice's faces go from hopeful glee to terrified regret.
  • Only the Leads Get a Downer Ending: Orpheus and Eurydice end up in the worst position by the end of the play, as they're separated forever. Meanwhile, Hades and Persephone are on the mend and spring returns to the world above, and there's an implication that Hadestown itself will improve.
  • Operation: Jealousy: It's heavily implied that Hades gets Eurydice into Hadestown to make Persephone take notice, as when she confronts him about it, he admits the girl means nothing to him.
  • Phrase Catcher: Orpheus and Eurydice both catch one from Hermes: "Orpheus was a poor boy," and "Eurydice was a hungry young girl."
  • The Place: The title, "Hadestown", refers to the titular town Eurydice becomes trapped in.
  • 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 dreaming of/fighting for a better world, and the characters pledge to sing the story again and again in the hope that this time it will turn out right (and at the end, Persephone brings spring rather than summer, hinting that things might change for the better).
  • Read the Fine Print: Eurydice signed papers in Hades's office without reading them. The Fates inform her that she signed her life away and now has to work on the wall.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: 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.
  • Reset Button Ending: The show proper ends with the tale resetting to the beginning as Hermes prepares to tell the story again in hopes of a better ending, with the only difference being spring arrives instead of summer.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: This being a sung-through show, there is very little spoken dialogue. However, when a character does speak, it's usually in rhyming verse rather than prose.
  • The Runaway: Eurydice makes a living moving from town to town and leaving when it's cold. Earlier versions of the show imply everyone up top was like this to some degree, as Orpheus sings to a crowd of vagabonds who hop freight trains and pick fruit.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The musical takes several liberties with Greek mythology, though most of these are intentional in order to put a new spin on the original stories.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl:
  • Say My Name: At the very last second, Orpheus looks back, trapping Eurydice in Hadestown forever. The last thing the lovers ever say to each other are heartbroken whispers of each other's names.
    Orpheus: It's you.
    Eurydice: It's me. Orpheus...
    Orpheus: Eurydice...
  • Setting Update: The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is moved from the mythical interpretation of Mycenaean Greece to a world largely informed by the United States during The Great Depression.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Orpheus and Eurydice wear worn, very lived-in casual clothes, while Hades wears an expensive leather coat and pinstripe suits.
  • Shipper on Deck: When she returns to bring back summer, Persephone sees the way Orpheus and Eurydice look at each other and gives them a happy, knowing smile. The young lovers remind Persephone of the love she and Hades once shared. "How Long?" has Persephone pleading with Hades to let Orpheus go, as he's nothing more than a boy in love with a girl.
  • Show Within a Show: A hybrid of this and No Fourth Wall — the show imagines itself as a low-budget improvised performance put together by traveling performers in some abandoned warehouse somewhere in the Mississippi Delta in the Great Depression (even though in Real Life it's obviously a high-budget, high-tech Broadway production). Hermes repeatedly talks straight past the fourth wall about how this is an "old song, that was written long ago" and all the current performers are doing is reenacting it, and the actors sing one final song fully out of character ("We Raise Our Cups") after the curtain falls.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Persephone switches outfits at the end of Act 1 from spring green to underworld black as part of going home to Hadestown, while for Act 2, Eurydice wears a worker outfit since she signed Hades' contract. Hades himself ditches his leather coat and sunglasses for a more open three-piece waistcoat as the audience starts to know him more.
  • Snicket Warning Label: In the first song, "Road to Hell", Hermes outright warns the audience that they're about to watch a sad tragedy.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "His Kiss, The Riot" is Hades' soliloquy as he wrestles over what to do with Orpheus, with the climax of the show coming shortly after he makes his decision.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Eurydice and Hades respectively in "Hey Little Songbird."
  • Southern Gothic: Hadestown is very much a tribute to this genre, turning a Depression-era mining town somewhere on the Gulf Coast into a metaphor for the classical Land of the Dead. (Similarly, the score of the musical is Anais Mitchell's own take, as a folk singer-songwriter from Vermont, on the Gothic Country Music genre.)
  • Spring Is Late: Hades picking Persephone up early and letting her go back late causes the climate to be out of whack, with increasingly long winters and no spring or fall at all. Orpheus's main goal is to write a song so beautiful it will bring back spring.
  • 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, "We Raise Our Cups," happens after the curtain call.
  • Strange Salute: At the end of "Why We Build the Wall," the Workers, Fates, and Eurydice raise their right index fingers high in salute to Hades and the wall.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In both versions of "Wait for Me", Hermes ends each verse on a word that doesn't rhyme with the rest of the verse, and almost rhymes with the last word of the other verses. The first version has "Bottom-land", "Got 'em", and "Cotton"; the lack of rhyme is clearly deliberate with the unnecessary addition at the end of "Bottom-land". Likewise, the reprise has "Undoing" and "Ruin", which normally would rhyme in Andre de Shields' typical dialect (where he would likely say "Undoin'"), but he goes out of his way to pronounce the G in "Undoing".
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop:
    • Eurydice's final, hopeful verse in "Doubt Comes In" swells up and up, until Orpheus turns around. Suddenly all the music stops and there's nothing but a single, discordant violin note and Orpheus and Eurydice saying their last words to each other.
    • "Road to Hell (Reprise)" at first begins with nothing but a few tinkling piano notes as Hermes returns to the stage. After he says, "It's a sad song... and that is how it ends," the music stops entirely.
  • Sung-Through Musical: Almost all of the musical is sung through, and all spoken lines are written in verse, rhyme, and meter.
  • 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 failing 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.
  • Sympathy for the Hero:
    • The three Fates tell us to not judge Eurydice because she was desperate, and desperate people often do what they need to survive a harsh world.
    • Hades does give Orpheus a sporting chance to get his wife back and nullify the contract, since Orpheus's song did reconcile him and Persephone. It's Nothing Personal that he can't look weak in front of his workers, and it's implied he is rooting for Orpheus to actually make it to the surface.
  • 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.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Subverted. When Orpheus and Eurydice reunite, they spend time singing about how Orpheus came through the wall, and his apology for not listening to her. This allows time for Hades to find them before they can escape.
  • Tenor Boy: Orpheus is the young and tragic romantic lead. Contrast with basso profundo villain Hades.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: "Road to Hell" introduces the Fates, the gods, and men in that order. Anaïs Mitchell commented that Breaking the Fourth Wall and directly introducing all the characters — along with the chorus and the band — to the audience at the top of the show as a very old-school theatrical flourish was one of the things they stole directly from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, along with stealing Amber Gray.
  • Triumphant Reprise:
    • "Epic III" is the iteration of Orpheus' song in which he finally finishes it and succeeds in touching Hades' heart.
    • "Wait for Me"'s first appearance is Hermes describing how long and hard the road to Hadestown is, and serves to hammer in how much of a long shot Orpheus' mission is. "Wait For Me (Reprise)" is a hopeful melody as the people of Hadestown (including its two rulers) watch Orpheus and Eurydice's ascent, with a brighter sound to emphasize how much more hopeful the scenario is.
    • Although "Road to Hell (Reprise)" starts as a Dark Reprise of "Road to Hell", it metamorphoses into a Triumphant Reprise in its second half, with Hermes proudly and defiantly shouting that even though Orpheus failed at the end, his dream of a better world lives on.
  • Villain Love Song: "Hey Little Songbird", in which Hades seduces Eurydice.
  • Villainous Advice Song: In "Chant Reprise", Hades gives Orpheus advice as to how to make a woman stay with you, advising such things as "hang a chain around her throat", or "shackle her from wrist to wrist".
    Hades: Take it from a man no longer young
    If you want to hold a woman, son
    Hang a chain around her throat
    Made of many carat gold
    Shackle her from wrist to wrist
    With sterling silver bracelets
    Fill her pockets full of stones
    Precious ones, diamonds
    Bind her with a golden band
    Take it from an old man
  • 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.
  • Villain Respect: Hades is impressed when he orders his workers to beat up Orpheus, and the boy in response sings a songs that encourages a riot. He later says the boy is either brave or stupid.
  • Visual Pun: Hermes doesn't literally have feathers on his feet, but the shoes he wears are wingtips.
  • The Wall Around the World: "Why We Build the Wall" details the workers building a wall around Hadestown, ostensibly to keep poverty out but really to keep them and Persephone in.
  • 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 "Gone, I'm Gone", 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.
  • Wham Shot: Orpheus turning back. Eurydice gasps, the music cuts, the lights are turned on, and everybody stays frozen in dead silence as she's dragged down back to Hadestown for good and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The workers in Hadestown are doomed to an eternal life of hard labor and no rest, and worse, they forget all their memories.
    "Down in the river of oblivion,
    You kissed your little life goodbye.
    And Hades laid his hands on you,
    And gave you ever-lasting life
    And ever-lasting overtime
    In the mine, in the mill, in the machinery.
    Your place on the assembly line,
    Replaces all your memories."
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eurydice and Orpheus both have elements of this at the start. "Epic III" and "How Long?" imply that Persephone used to be this, too.
  • Winter of Starvation: Eurydice is driven to leave Orpheus and take Hades' offer of work and shelter when a winter storm, represented by the Fates, tears away her food and coat and leaves her cold and starving while Orpheus is preoccupied working on his song.
  • 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 is a hellish Company Town where the wage is nothing and the work is backbreaking, all set under sweltering heat and neon lights.
    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. He still tries, though; he tells Orpheus to not neglect Eurydice, warns Eurydice what Hadestown is like, tries to convince Orpheus to give up Eurydice when she vanishes, and when Orpheus is set on finding her, he tells him how to get there safely and gives advice on the road out.

Tropes found in If the Fates Allow: A Hadestown Holiday Album:

  • Christmas Songs: An album of Christmas song covers.
  • Gender Flip:
    • The three Fates (female) sing the roles of the three Magi (traditionally male) in "Song of the Magi".
    • "Winter Song", originally sung by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, is rendered as a male/female duet here. Being sung by the actors who play Starcrossed Lovers Orpheus and Eurydice emphasizes the Distant Duet aspect of the original.
  • Titled After the Song: The album is titled after a line from "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". It's significant because the singers play the Fates.
    Have yourself a merry little Christmas
    If the fates allow

"It's an old song
It's an old tale from way back when
It's an old song
And we're gonna sing it again"