“See how the world could be in spite of the way that it is.” This is the underlying message in Hadestown, the hit musical by Anaïs Mitchell taking Broadway and the nation by storm. Following the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, this production takes audiences six feet under to learn about life below, and just how far some will go to fight for love. It emphasizes the beauty of music and how it can truly change our lives. The 2019 Tony Awards was a clean sweep for this show, as they took home eight awards, including Best Musical. Following its massive success in New York City, Hadestown has begun touring across the country, and I had the opportunity to go see it playing at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.
If I could use one word to describe my experience of seeing Hadestown, it would be extraordinary. This show is nothing short of remarkable. My attention was grabbed from the moment the actors appeared onstage and my eyes did not wander once. I was truly blown away, not just by the sheer talent of the performers, but by the set, the lighting, and the musicians. Hadestown was a show that I had admired from afar – I had listened to the soundtrack multiple times – but being able to see it up close and appreciate it was something that I will never forget.
The cast of Hadestown was absolutely incredible. These actors moved across the stage like a well oiled machine. It was mesmerizing to see how they interacted with one another. The five ensemble members, known as “workers” in the underworld, were the grounding force that kept the momentum going. They danced and migrated from place to place with such ease, moving swiftly and efficiently. The show truly would not have been as lively without them.
The principal cast members were also all phenomenal in their own aspects. Nathan Lee Graham’s portrayal of Hermes was vibrant and charismatic, and he kept the audience engaged throughout the entirety of the show. He had a gentleness and kindness that made his already likable character even more so appealing.
Chibueze Ihuoma played a fantastic Orpheus. With an angelic yet powerful voice, he made the audience fall in love with his sweetness and determination. When he sang, he immediately pulled everyone in. His chemistry with Hannah Whitley, who played Eurydice, felt so natural and genuine. Whitley is a force to be reckoned with. Every time she came onstage, she owned it. She showed the depth of the character and the internal struggles Eurydice faced beautifully. Her beautiful voice made it obvious why she was selected to play the part.
Brit West’s Persephone was mesmerizing. She was fierce and had a voice that captivated the entire audience. I thought her performance was incredible.
Finally, Matthew Patrick Quinn’s portrayal of Hades. He demanded respect, and did so with a deeply mysterious well of mythological power. I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Matthew Patrick Quinn prior to his performance, where I asked him about his journey with Hadestown and his experience of playing the lord of the dead.
Despite what some may believe based on his stellar performance, Quinn did not envision himself being a professional Broadway actor from a young age. He began performing at a local community theatre in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona in seventh grade, and from there, the rest is history. I was shocked to learn that he never attended any theatre classes or even took voice lessons – as Quinn described it, he was always able to carry a tune, and he just had an “innate desire” to be entertaining. After getting a degree in acting in college, he moved to New York City in 2005 to pursue theatre. He auditioned for Hadestown this past summer, and today he is performing across the country for thousands as the king of the underworld.
Taking on this role proved to be quite the unique – and somewhat challenging – experience for Quinn. In our conversation, I asked him how he approached the role and how he began to understand the character of Hades. He explained that what drew him to the character in the first place was the amount of similarities between him and Hades. In the show, Hades lives with a lot of self doubt, and Quinn said that he does as well – such as wondering if he is fully deserving of the role. When I asked him if a significant amount of research was required on his end to fully become the character and understand the emotional experience he has, he said no. Upon receiving the material, Quinn’s thought was, “Oh, I know this guy!”
Quinn explained to me that being a part of this production has been an incredibly rewarding experience. He has learned more about his abilities as an actor, and said that this show proved to him that you do not know what you are capable of until you step into it.
While he may have now achieved success, being an actor is not without its hardships. When I asked Quinn what this biggest challenge he has faced as a performer, his answer came easily to him: sustaining through the rejection. Over time, he had to learn how to “roll with the punches” and not take anything personally. This is easier said than done, as Quinn explained, but it becomes easier the more you do it. “You will walk out that door and that’s it – you can ask yourself if there were things you could have done differently, but you can’t sit and think on it forever. You have to be able to walk away.”
To any aspiring actors out there, or anyone who is chasing their dreams, Quinn has some advice for you: make sure you have faith in yourself and your abilities. He wants to encourage others to keep learning new skills and to continue to be a “student of life.” His final bit of guidance? Never give up. You are your biggest champion.