‘Hadestown’ opens in Chicago at last. What is this show?

·2 min read

The musical “Hadestown” opens Wednesday night at the CIBC Theatre in the Loop. What with pandemic tour delays, this will be the first time this musical has played in Chicago and you have less than two weeks to catch it.

“Hadestown” is still running on Broadway starring André de Shields. It was the big winner of the 2019 Tony Awards and was Tribune critic Chris Jones’ favorite Broadway show of that year; the story is based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology. But what exactly is this show again? Our short “Hadestown” primer:

The cast, creatives and creation: “Hadestown” was written (music, lyrics and book) by Anaïs Mitchell, developed with and directed by Rachel Chavkin. Before its off-Broadway run in 2016, an earlier version played in Vermont and it was a concept album. After a London production in 2018, “Hadestown” opened on Broadway. On tour, the de Shields role of Hermes is played by Levi Kreis, previously the star of the long-running Chicago show “Million Dollar Quartet.” Morgan Siobhan Green of Decatur plays Eurydice. Kimberly Marable of the Broadway company is Persephone and Nicholas Barasch is Orpheus. Also in the cast, Ian Coulter-Buford is an Illinois Wesleyan alum and Kimberly Immanuel has graced the Marriott stage. (And lest we forget, de Shields made his professional debut in the 1969 Chicago production of “Hair.”)

The story: The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (spoiler alert) has its ups and downs. From Greek mythology, versions by Virgil and Ovid, Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope. He falls in love with Eurydice, who dies not long after they are married. Orpheus, protected by the gods, travels to Hades to see her. The god of the underworld tells Orpheus he can take Eurydice back with him under one condition, she has to follow behind and he must not turn to look at her as they travel. Only a short distance from the edge of the underworld, Orpheus loses his faith and looks back. Chicago theater fans may remember this story from Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” created at Northwestern and Lookingglass Theatre.

The reception: Along with winning best musical at the 73rd Tony Awards, “Hadestown” received 14 nominations (the most for the year) and won eight, including for best original score. Last summer, “Hadestown” was one of the first shows to reopen in New York after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. The national tour launched in New Orleans in December. Songs include “Wait for Me,” “All I’ve Ever Known,” “Road to Hell” and “Any Way the Wind Blows.”

Through March 13 at CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.; 800-775-2000 and www.broadwayinchicago.com

dgeorge@chicagotribune.com