It is a truism that great musicals need great songs, and with 8 Tony Awards including ‘Best Musical’ and a Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Theatre Album’ Hadestown has returned to the London stage with the finest of commendations, making its West End premiere at the Lyric Theatre from Saturday 10th February 2024. Featuring songs written by Grammy winning singer-songwriter and BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winner Anaïs Mitchell, blending Americana with New Orleans jazz flavours, the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hadestown won the Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Theatre Album’ and topped Billboard’s Broadway Cast Recording chart.
AUK attended the press launch for the show late last year at Soho’s intimate Jack Solomons which put these great original songs centre stage, in a contemporary reworking of a journey to the underworld and back, intertwining two mythical love stories – that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and of King Hades and his wife Persephone.
Host for the night Cerys Matthews introduced Anais Mitchell, who told the story of the writing of the musical, interspersed with spirited live performances, with full band, of songs from the show including ‘Way Down Hadestown’, ‘Lady of the Underground’, ’Wedding Song’, and ‘Wait For Me’, the last of these the song which in Mitchell’s words “fell out of the sky” while on a late night drive home from a gig. Mitchell herself performed a stripped-back version of ‘Flowers’, on acoustic guitar with fiddle, keys and percussion support.
The musical itself had a long gestation period, from an original album release in 2008 to live shows at London’s Union Chapel in 2010 ( featuring none other than Martin Carthy as Hades), before the concept of developing the work to a full musical with Director Rachel Chavkin took root in 2012, opening in 2016 at the New York Theatre Workshop before a production in Edmonton, Canada and a sold-out run at the National Theatre in 2018.
After further development, Hadestown premiered at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theater, winning 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and it now holds the record for the highest-grossing musical and longest-running show in the theatre’s 100-year history.
Anaïs Mitchell said: “We’re all thrilled to be bringing Hadestown back to London! We truly loved our time at the National Theatre in 2018 and felt so welcomed by your city that it feels like a homecoming to be returning (to the West End)! I’m excited to work in and with the fantastic theatre community of London, and to share the newest version of our show, as there was a great deal of development pre-Broadway based on things we learned at the National! And it’s always a curious gift to witness how this epic myth vibrates differently in different places and times. That is, West End Hadestown will be its own world- born of London and the now- and we can’t wait to discover it.”
On the strength of the preview performances, this is a must-see show for lovers of the Americana genre.