Tony Award-Winning Musical Hadestown Offers a Captivating Journey at the Van Wezel

You'll be both thrilled and chilled by this touring musical retelling a classic tale of love and loss.

By Kay Kipling January 31, 2024

Cast members of the Hadestown tour at Van Wezel.

You don’t really need to brush up on your knowledge of Greek mythology to appreciate Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, now onstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in a touring production. Whether you’ve studied the stories of gods and goddesses and their human subjects or not, this tale of love and tragedy, told with a distinctly contemporary slant, is timeless and touching.

Songwriter Mitchell’s original songs and story for the show have gone through numerous revisions over the past decade or more, but the Broadway version (directed to Tony-winning acclaim by Rachel Chavkin) is the one you’ll see with this production. It centers on the relationships between king of the underworld Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) and his wife Persephone (Lana Gordon), whom he abducted and who suffers so from remaining underground that he allows her to return to the earth for half of the year; and the singer-songwriter Orpheus (J. Antonio Rodriguez) and the been-around and hungry girl Eurydice (Amaya Braganza).

Lana Gordon as Persephone, center, with cast of Hadestown.

But Hadestown also brings to the stage the three Fates (Marla Loussaint, Lizzie Markson and Hannah Schreer, occasionally taunting those poor human beings) and the Workers Chorus (Sevon Askew, Jamal Lee Harris, Courtney Lauster, Daniel Tracht and Racquel Williams), who labor painfully in Hades’ industrial factory. They might be considered our representatives, forced to mine fossil fuels on behalf of Hades’ capitalist greed, while above, climate change is making the world there almost as hard to live in.

Hadestown is a sung-through musical, and it moves along quickly and inexorably as Mitchell’s songs, many of them sad or frightening, but some lively and fun (in a dark way) spin the story. Hermes (Will Mann, in a costume featuring little wings on his sleeve cuffs) is the god who opens the show and leads us along the journey, a “Road to Hell” convincingly brought to life through Rachel Hauck’s scenic and Bradley King’s lighting design (the latter so crucial to a story often smothered in the darkness). The staging here is clever, especially when the miner/workers are swinging pendulum lamps lighting Orpheus’ way through hell, or when Hades ends Act I with the chilling “Why We Build the Wall.” (And yes, that song was written long before Donald Trump took office. There’s always been someone who wants to build a wall to keep others out.)

Top, Matthew Patrick Quinn and Lana Gordon; below, left to right, Amaya Braganza, Will Mann and J. Antonio Rodriguez.

Quinn is a fine and frightening Hades, with his deep bass voice inspiring shivers and his ego flattening all those who stand in his way. Despite that, he does care for Persephone, who initially appears wearing a bright green dress to symbolize spring, along with toting flowers and bottles of wine to suggest the bounty of the earth. Gordon brings zest to the role, swaggering and strutting to “Livin’ It Up On Top” and “Our Lady of the Underground”; her voice and her moves are both fine, to say the least.

Braganza is a saucy Eurydice, and Rodriguez sings like an angel on the song he’s forever trying to complete, “Epic I,” “Epic II” and “Epic III,” a haunting melody that can charm even Hades. Somewhat surprisingly, the character Orpheus does not really have much definition in the first half of the show, but comes through strong in Act II when it matters, as he rallies the underground workers with “If It’s True” and tries to lead them all out of the depths of despair. Mann is firmly in charge as Hermes, and the ensemble cast impresses throughout, on numbers inventively choreographed by David Neumann.

They’re all backed by a small onstage orchestra, conducted by Eric Kang, that successfully rouses and soothes, according to the tune. Hadestown may feature a Road to Hell, but it’s a trip worth taking.

The show continues through Feb. 4 at Van Wezel; for tickets, call (941) 263-6799, visit the box office or go online at

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