• By: Karen Temple

A modern take on Orpheus and Eurydice HADESTOWN is not to be missed!

Broadway Across Canada has done it again; the company has brought yet another not-to-be-missed musical to the Nation’s Capital.

Now playing at the National Arts Centre (NAC), HADESTOWN is a modern take on the ancient Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. Metaphors abound in Anaïs Mitchell’s adaptation of the classic literary work that is directed by Rachel Chavkin. You might even be fooled by the opening song, Road to Hell, and think it is an analogy for Ottawa’s failure of a light rail system, but it’s not.

Instead, the first song and the narrator for the evening, Hermes, played expertly by Nathan Lee Graham, introduces the characters and sets the scene for the production. Graham is absolutely superb, and his body movement, especially his arm gestures throughout the performance, reinforce his role as a conductor; although not for a collection of musicians, he leads souls to the underworld. His portrayal of the character is fantastic.

Antonio Rodriguez is also perfectly cast to play an authentic Orpheus, the poet, dreamer and, in this production, a climate activist who manages to fall head over heels in love with the Eurydice despite the darkness and desperation brought on by the harsh climate and desperate times the people of Earth are enduring. It was not love at first sight for Eurydice, played by Hannah Whitley, but the young woman finds comfort in the promise of a better world that Orpheus offers and, in time, weds the young idealists.

Hunger and cold force the poverty-stricken Eurydice to leave and search for food and fuel. While away from Orpheus, she is tricked by the CEO of Hell himself, Hades, who convinces her to travel to the underworld. Back in the underworld, Hades makes it known that he is the boss and that no dissent will be tolerated.

Hades sees himself as some benevolent soul who is providing shelter and purpose to the mindless masses when he, in reality, is a master manipulator whose methods are uniquely selfish. His singing of Why We Build a Wall brought images of Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign to mind, but the song is a calling used to unite the souls in the underworld and keep them complacent.

Tall and lean, Matthew Patrick Quinn’s Hades has a wonderful, deep, resonating voice that makes his portrayal of the heartless king with no regard for moral consequences delightfully threatening.

Themes of climate change ripple throughout the production. Maria-Christina Oliveras’s hilarious portrayal of Hade’s wife, Persephone, reminds everyone that they each have control over the outcome of the planet, while Orpheus, the climate defender, is consumed by a desire to make things right again.

The three goddesses and the chorus are the icing on the cake of a highly entertaining production that wraps up an eight-show stint in Ottawa on Sunday, August 27.

We are fortunate that Broadway Across Canada brings its productions to smaller markets like Ottawa so we can experience world-class entertainment like HADESTOWN in our own community.

Audiences might scratch their heads wondering why the play ends with Orpheus failing in his brave attempt to save Eurydice — two lovers being forever separated — but the takeaway is that we all need to have faith and . . . never disobey the god of the underworld!

Tickets are still available for HADESTOWN at the NAC; click here to purchase yours.

For information on upcoming Broadway Across Canada productions coming to Ottawa, click here.

Photo: T. Charles Erickson