From top left clockwise: Matthew Patrick Quinn, Lana Gordon, J. Antonio Rodriguez, Will Mann, Amaya Braganza and company in the Hadestown North American Tour 2023. PHOTO: T CHARLES ERICKSON.

Tony-winning, smash-hit, Broadway musical with Alberta roots brings the melodies, makes memories

Originally developed in part at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, the Tony award-winning Hadestown musical is making its return to Alberta in November. Broadway Across Canada’s first show of the ’23/’24 season kicks off on Nov. 21 at Calgary’s Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and audiences won’t be disappointed. Inspired by the Greek mythological love story of Orpheus and Eurydice, the musical is described as a “hell-raising journey to the underworld and back.“ 

What really makes this production special though, is the innovative fusion of folk, jazz and blues music composed by American singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. She started writing songs at just 17, already earning her first award by the time she was 22. Mitchell teamed up with director Rachel Chavkin to develop her album Hadestown into a stage musical in what was more than a decade-long process. 

In 2016, the show debuted in New York and a year later, Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre brought it to life on stage. Since then, the Broadway production of Hadestown won eight Tony Awards in 2019, including the Tony Award for Best Musical, and Mitchell received the Tony for Best Original Score. 

The musical’s touching melodies and lyrics have resonated with audiences as evidenced by its acclaim and awards. Combined with the production’s beautiful visual style, elaborate choreography and unforgettable characters, audiences will be captivated by Hadestown. 

Before the show heads to Calgary for a Jubilee Auditorium run, theSCENE spoke with Mitchell about how her melodies have been transformed into a critically-acclaimed Broadway musical. 

What are your influences as a singer-songwriter and where do you draw inspiration?  

I love heavy lyricists like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Ferron, Tom Waits and Gillian Welch. I also love traditional British Isles balladry. Anything that tells a story or paints a picture, really. I also love ’80s pop music.  

How did you come up with the melody for Hadestown?  

Generally, for me, melody is very organic, like this natural strand in the braid of music, language and feelings. Words are where I really bang my head against the wall and rewrite and rewrite, but melodies pretty much just
arrive, thank goodness. 

Anäis Mitchell created the melodies behind Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hadestown. PHOTO: JAY SANSONE.

How did the process of this turning from a melody to a full-blown musical go? 

Hadestown started as a do-it-yourself theatre show in my home state of Vermont. Then it became a purely audio project. I made a studio album and toured the show in concert form. I always wanted to develop it further for the stage, but it took many years, various moves to New York City and Vermont and back and then meeting Rachel Chavkin and our producers. Overall, it was a 13-year process of just slowly, slowly trying to make Hadestown into the fullest version of itself it could be. 

What was the biggest challenge through this process?  

As a musician entering the world of the theatre for the first time, there was a big learning curve for me in terms of how to make things work not just musically but dramatically. I honestly feel like my time working on the show, especially the last few years heading into Broadway, was like graduate school.  

Were you surprised by the success and progression of what started as a melody into a Broadway musical? 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this little show would land on Broadway. It will always be one of the most beautiful and absurd miracles of my life to have written it. 

What can audiences expect from Hadestown?

It’s a tragic story, but I think our telling of it is very celebratory. Audiences can expect to feel the music with their whole bodies, ideally to laugh and cry and surrender to the visual feast of Rachel Chavkin’s production.

What do you hope audiences get from Hadestown?

I hope audiences are moved and feel a sense of togetherness and resilience in the act of storytelling. 

Hadestown plays at the Southern Alberta Jubilee from Nov. 21-26. 

More on the boards: November Theatre

Made in Italy at Theatre Calgary’s Martha Cohen Theatre 

Until Nov. 11

Every meal tells a story and this one is about family. In this tour-de-force solo show, Francesco, a young Italian immigrant and his father, Salvatore, recall their experiences in 1970s Jasper, AB. 

Sleuth at Vertigo Theatre 

Nov. 18 to Dec. 17 

Famed mystery novelist Andrew Wyke lures his wife’s lover to his country home and convinces him to stage a jewelry robbery. As the stakes rise, it sets off a chain of events that leaves audiences trying to decipher who is truly in control. This Tony-award-winning play full of fun, humour and mystery has been called the ultimate game of cat and mouse. 

A Christmas Carol at Theatre Calgary 

Nov. 30 until Dec. 31 

The city’s favourite holiday classic returns with this wistful timeless tale by Dickens of redemption full with added spectacle. Audiences know and love the story, making it a holiday family tradition for TC: On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who confront him with the consequences of his actions as they show him his past, present and future.

Top Gunn: A Maverick Musical at Jubilations Dinner Theatre 

Now until Jan. 13 

Take a ride on the Highway to the Danger Zone with this parody spin on the fighter-jet franchise starring Tom Cruise. The show stitches together wo classic movies made 30 years apart featuring a movie star that somehow looks like he hasn’t aged a single day.