Rating: ★★★ ½
Venue: Lyric Theatre, London
Cast:  Dónal Finn, Grace Hodgett-Young, Melanie La Barrie, Gloria Onitiri, Zachary James, Bella Brown, Allie Daniel and Madeline Charlemagne 

HADESTOWN takes you on an unforgettable journey to the underworld and back, intertwining two mythic love stories – that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone.

A deeply resonant and defiantly hopeful theatrical experience, HADESTOWN invites you to imagine how the world could be.

Hadestown is currently taking Broadway by storm, so we knew it wouldn't be long until the underworld returned to the West End. The anticipation for the opening night of Hadestown has been building for months, which is why I think I left feeling a little deflated. It's not to say that this isn't a great musical, it's just not quite as great as I was expecting.

Hadestown follows the story of a pair of lovers. One is Hades and Persephone; a forced love. And Eurydice and Orpheus; a tragic love. Persephone is tied to Hades in the underworld for six months of the year, and as the King of Hell, Hades is very much used to getting what he desires. Orpheus is a struggling musician and Eurydice is a starving hopeful. In a dark turn of events, the foursome's fates are intertwined, and we're taken way down to Hadestown.

Our narrator, Hermes (Melanie La Barrie), introduces the story and its characters in 'Road to Hell', with a swagger that only a God could possess. This is particularly helpful for those who aren't familiar with the Greek mythology lore that the show is based around. La Barrie's dominating demeanour captivates the audience throughout, and I feel the decision to make Hermes a woman was an excellent one

The younger leads, Dónal Finn and Grace Hodgett-Young, bring a child-like innocence to the production. Recent WhatsonStage award winner, Hodgett-Young, truly stuns with her vocals. However, the stars of the show for me are Hades (Zachary James) and Persephone (Gloria Onitiri). Onitiri oozes charisma, while James is almost intoxicating as Hades. The low notes he manages to hit throughout are simply staggering. In fact, the pair are so spectacular, I almost felt as though the musical would have worked better simply focused on them.

Anaïs Mitchell, the show's creator and songwriter, packs a punch with the many genres she's managed to squeeze into the production. However, the jazz and folk sound that underlines many of the songs is undoubtedly my favourite. Particular standout numbers of the evening were, "Hey Little Songbird", "Way Down Hadestown" and "When the Chips are Down".

The first act of the show undoubtedly has the best songs, but I just felt there were too many and not enough story arc, which thankfully changes in act two. Act two delves into the nitty gritty of both lovers' stories, and I connected to this half far better.

The set design from Rachel Hauck is simplistic but effective. We're cleverly transformed into a New Orleans-style bar into the underworld with ease. And the costumes from Michael Krass are utterly gorgeous; a special mention must go to Hermes' bejeweled silver suit.

The musical is entirely sung-through, with no dialogue whatsoever. While this may be appealing to some, this can only work if the sound balance is perfect so that every lyric is heard. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. I was sat at the front of the dress circle and the sound simply wasn't as good as it should have been. Having spoke to other audience members in the stalls, this was not the case for them.

"To the world we dream about and the one we live in now", is a quote from the musical that has stayed with me. While I didn't enjoy the musical as much as I'd hoped, I feel as though I left with the message it was trying to convey. A production that's overflowing with undeniable talent and filled with the hope that the world needs at the moment.

You can book tickets to see Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre, here.

**photography by Marc Brenner**

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