During its journey to Broadway, the buzzy Hadestown wasn’t just establishing an ardent fan base. It was also growing and developing from a rousing concert staging into a full work of musical theater.
Early in the process, two performers have been with Hadestown — and their long involvement has given the duo front-row seats to the evolution of a fan favorite.
New York theatergoers will know these two well. Playing Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, is Patrick Page, whose Broadway career has included lengthy, memorable stints in Spring Awakening, Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Lion King. Amber Gray, who last turned heads in the Tony-winning musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, portrays the goddess of spring (and Hades’s wife), Persephone.
Both actors got involved in Hadestown during developmental sessions prior to the musical’s 2016 premiere at the New York Theatre Workshop. Back then, no one was quite sure of the final form that Hadestown would take — not even writer-composer Anaïs Mitchell or director Rachel Chavkin (The Great Comet).
“It was like being Christopher Columbus setting out for the new world,” Page recalls. “We were experimenting. What is it? Is it a concert? Is it a song cycle? Does it want to be a book musical?”
Audiences who caught the 2016 staging will find the Broadway version significantly deepened, thanks to further work done over the course of productions in Canada and the U.K. “You could describe that first version as a theatricalized concert, but now I think it is fully a piece of musical theater,” says Gray. “The story has been fleshed out, and it feels way more rich now.”
As the show has developed, so have Page’s and Gray’s performances as the immortal deities whose relationship is changed by the young lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. “Hades and Persephone are this really messed up, nuanced couple,” Chavkin notes. “Amber and Patrick bring both a gravitas and a sensationalism that is so delicious, mingled with this bottomless pit of heart.”
The emotional grounding of Hades and Persephone’s marriage, complicated by the divine decree that Persephone spend only half of every year with her husband, is what helped Page to find the humanity in the god he portrays.
“I go into the show as a love story,” Page says. “This is a man who is motivated almost exclusively by his overwhelming love and passion for his wife, who he only gets to see six months of the year, and it’s driving him mad, year after year after year after year.”
“Their relationship is really complex and three-dimensional,” Grays adds. “I love that, and I don’t see it all that often on stage. It’s sort of an ancient love affair. They fight really well. They make up really well. These people are really complicated.”
In London, two more talents — Eva Noblezada (Miss Saigon) and André De Shields (The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Full Monty) — joined the cast on the way to Broadway. Noblezada plays one of the show’s young lovers, Eurydice.
“They have wonderful chemistry,” Gray says. “It really is like watching teenage cubs falling in love. It’s very special to watch.”
For Page and Gray, one thing definitely hasn’t changed over the years: They still really, really love the music of Hadestown.
“I’ve been in long runs of shows, and in a way I never again want to hear ‘Be Our Guest’ [his signature song in Beauty and the Beast] unless it’s sung by archangels,” Page says. “But this show — I feel a bit guilty admitting this, but I actually sometimes listen to the songs at the gym, on my own, when I’m not in it. This is a good, good score!”