‘Hadestown’ Took the ‘Long Road’ From Dartmouth to Broadway

The musical by Vermont-born Anaïs Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin won eight Tony awards.

Hadestown, a Broadway musical that was developed at the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) 2014 summer residency at Dartmouth, won eight Tony awards Sunday, including one for best musical.  

Its Vermont-born creator, Anaïs Mitchell, says the folk opera sprouted from a single lyric that popped into her head one day as she was racing to a gig. The lines that came were, Wait for me, Im coming, in my garters and pearls; with what melody did you barter me from the wicked underworld?’ ” Mitchell told NPR.

“It’s been a really, really, long road with this show and so I share this with so many people,” Mitchell said on the red carpet when she accepted the Tony award for best original score at Radio City Music Hall Sunday night.

Along with the many musicians who have performed Hadestown songs with her in venues ranging from a school bus in Vermont to London’s National Theatre, Mitchell thanked “the force of nature that is Rachel Chavkin and the entire creative team that she and I have built over years.”

Chavkin is the New York Theater Workshop director who worked with Mitchell at Dartmouth to transform Hadestown from what Rolling Stone called “a phenomenal concept album” to a musical play set in a Depression-era industrial underworld. Eurydice leaves Orpheus, her cash-strapped boyfriend, to follow the wealthy and tyrannical King Hades to his underground factory. In pursuit of his lost love, Orpheus makes his way to Hadestown and, through singing, secures his and Eurydice’s release—but only on Hades’ condition that Orpheus resist the urge to look back at his love as they leave. Spoiler: The singer breaks that rule and Eurydice is confined in Hadestown forever.  

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Chavkin says, “The first thing that hooked me was the music. The thing that kept me engaged was its political heart, in particular Anaïs’ vision of human fellowship and how she uses the original myth and image of these two lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, as a metaphor for solidarity and faith and walking with your fellow humans into the darkness.”

Dartmouth is also represented onstage. One of the actors in the Broadway production is Kimberly Marable ’05, who was active in theater productions and in the Sheba dance troupe as an undergraduate.

Hadestown is playing at the Walter Kerr Theater. The NYTW’s 26th three-week summer residency at Dartmouth will again bring professional theater artists to campus to develop works-in-progress to be presented August 3, 10, and 17. Tickets for those performances will go on sale in early July at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected].