Walter Kerr Theatre, New York City, (877) 250-2929
This update of a mythical journey into hell has followed its own long road, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. A folk opera conceived by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, it started out as a stage production touring Vermont by school bus, which led to a 2010 concept album, then an off-Broadway adaptation. After runs in London and Canada, the show now arrives on Broadway “with a furnace-like blast of creativity.” A bewitching journey that “pays off at every turn,” it presents a modernized telling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Eurydice descends into the underworld and Orpheus, armed with his lyre, follows to retrieve her. In this anti-capitalist rendition, Orpheus is a guitar-playing dreamer, hell is an infernal factory where grease-smeared workers are lorded over by a pimp-like despot in python boots, and the world above resembles a Depression-era New Orleans. The events are narrated by the sharkskin-suited Hermes and punctuated by the three Fates, a funky girl group. A seven-piece band rings the stage, playing a score that mines folk, jazz, blues, and gospel.
The production is so dazzling you can almost forgive the show’s narrative shortcomings, said Sara Holdren in New York magazine. Orpheus and Eurydice’s relationship and journey lack spark; even the climactic moment “seems strangely empty.” The most striking moment occurs because of a coincidence, said Chris Jones in the New York Daily News. The enslaved workers sing “Why We Build the Wall” a song about a barrier they’re erecting that was written back when Donald Trump was largely a reality TV figure. Heard today, it roars off the stage “with a political ferocity that has not been matched on Broadway in a good long while.” ■