By Melissa Griegel . . .
Cheering was heard in the streets of the Walter Kerr Theater the evening of September 2nd as Tony Award Winning Hadestown celebrated its Reopening Night on Broadway with its first curtain call in 18 months. Hadestown and Waitress with opening dates of September 2nd are the first two Broadway musicals to return to the stage.
Hadestown follows the story of two intertwining love affairs from Greek mythology—that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone. The show was nominated for 14 awards at the 73rd Tony Awards and won eight of them, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The original cast album also won the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
Electricity was in the air even before the Walter Kerr opened its doors. Press, fans, and ticket holders gathered on the streets hours before people were allowed in. Lots of fans wore red, or were adorned with the iconic carnation symbol of the show. Some people even dressed as the characters. For the first time in my theater-going experience, I witnessed a standing ovation during the announcements to turn off your cell phone and avoid taking photos. The audience was just so happy to be part of this momentous opening night, that simply being welcomed brought applause. The thunderous applause continued throughout the show, along with five more standing ovations.
When the majestic André De Shields stepped on the stage the crowd rose to their feet and applauded wildly for ten minutes. De Shields hammed it up a bit and brought the clapping and cheering to an even higher decibel. When it seemed like the cheering would never end and let the show start, De Shields raised his hand, and the audience members obliged and sat back down and let him call out, “A’right?” The fans enthusiastically echoed him back and clapped along during “Road to Hell.”
It was clear that a large portion of the audience had seen the show pre-pandemic, and were so incredibly excited to hear every line and every note, that the energy reverberating in the room was almost palatable. Every slight moment of levity elicited big laughs. Many theater-goers wiped away tears of joy at finally being back at a live Broadway performance, and seeing one of their all-time favorite shows.
The sold-out performance featured most of the original cast, with a few changes, some of which are temporary. Tom Hewitt will be taking over the role of Hades until Patrick Page returns on November 2nd after filming a project. Jessie Shelton, former Swing, will be taking over for Fate Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Mariand Torres will be filling in for Kay Trinidad until January 18th when she returns from maternity leave. The full current cast includes leads Reeve Carney, André De Shields, Amber Gray, Tom Hewitt, and Eva Noblezada, along with Fates Jewelle Blackman, Jessie Shelton, and Mariand Torres. The Workers Chorus is comprised of Anthony Chatmon II, Afra Hines, Timothy Hughes, John Krause, Trent Saunders, and Kim Steele. Malcolm Armwood, Adam Hyndman, Tara Jackson, Yael “YaYa” Reich, T. Oliver Reid, and Khalia Wilcoxon round out the cast in the Swing. The on-stage orchestra is led by Liam Robinson and includes Dana Lyn, Marika Hughes, Michael Chorney, Brian Drye, Robinson Morse, Ben Perowky, and David Lai.
Book, music and lyrics writer Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin joined the cast on stage to thank everyone for being supportive of the show and for being part of this historic moment. Following the curtain call, the audience was invited to join the cast outside of the Walter Kerr Theatre on the closed-off 48th street for a Mardi Gras style celebration, feature singing, band playing, and flowers being thrown to the crowd from the balconies of the multi-tiered fire escape. The escape was newly decorated with flowers to commemorate the occasion. All of the cast members had big bouquets of fresh red roses that they tossed down to the singing and cheering crowd. In addition, the plastic carnations that are handed out at the stage door rained down from above.
Some of the band joined the cast on the balcony and played “Way Down Hadestown” with the theater-goers singing along. The entire cast then sang Bill Withers’ song “Lean on Me.” No one seemed to want to leave, and many people stayed long after the singing was over. Several cast members came out to greet the crowd including Timothy Hughes, Jewelle Blackman, Kim Steele, Malcolm Armwood, and Yael “YaYa” Reich who is making her Broadway debut in Hadestown. Former cast mates Kimberly Marable and Kay Trinidad Karns celebrated outside as well, plus other actors and producers such as Jagged Little Pill’s Celia Rose Gooding and Award-Winning Producer Tom Kirdahy.
The creative team for Broadway features Tony Award winner Anaïs Mitchell (book, music and lyrics), Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin (director), Obie Award winner and Chita Rivera Award Winner David Neumann (choreographer), Tony Award Winner Rachel Hauck (set design), four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Krass (costume design), two-time Tony Award winner Bradley King (lighting design), Tony Award winners Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz (sound design), Liam Robinson (music direction and vocal arrangements), Tony Award Winners Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose (arrangements and orchestrations), Ken Cerniglia (dramaturgy), and Stewart/Whitley (casting).
BROADWAY IS BACK! Go get tickets your tickets now. Proof of vaccination along with a photo ID is required, and masks must be worn.
Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography