Underworld Musical Underwhelms

“And think of death as my embrace.”  


Melanie La Barrie as Hermes and company. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

This musical re-telling actually began as a concept album by American singer-songwriter and musician Anaïs Mitchell in 2010. Working with director Rachel Chavkin, Mitchell has developed her songs into a full blown musical.  It went to New York Theatre Workshop in 2016, was staged at the National Theatre in 2018 and returned to New York in 2019 where it picked up eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.

The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice has been much retold.  It doesn’t actually have that much depth.  In the original the beautiful Eurydice was bitten by a snake and Orpheus rescued her from death in the Underworld.  He followed her to the Underworld and his beautiful song was heard by Hades and his wife Persephone.  Orpheus was given permission to lead Eurydice out of the Underworld providing he didn’t look back.  At the last minute, he did and Eurydice died. 

Zachary James as Hades and company. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

In Hadestown, Eurydice (Grace Hodgett Young) is bored by the famous singer (Dónal Finn) searching for his ultimate song and she is hungry and takes a job in the subterranean industrialised complex which is full of slaves.  In a piece of amazing foresight written long before Trump’s wall, Hades (a very tall 6 feet 6 inches, deepest voiced bass Zachary James) is building a wall to keep the needy living mortals out, “Why We Build the Wall” is the strong song. 

Instead of Persephone (Gloria Onitiri) being Hades’ forcefully abducted wife she and he are here a long married, once much in love couple. Persephone sings “Livin’ It Up on Top” as she seeks relief from the boredom in the Underworld.  This is a very different Persephone from Demeter’s Nature loving daughter who brought spring and summer to the world. 

Gloria Onitiri as Persephone (Photo: Marc Brebber)

Anaïs Mitchell’s music has its roots in folk, jazz and blues and is not without charm but I longed for more light in the musical and less of the drudgery of hell.  Rachel Hauck’s design has been squashed into three levels making hell feel like a smaller place, maybe based on the New Orleans  French Quarter with an ironwork balcony.  Michael Krass‘s costumes in hell of slave workers are grim.  The Hell celebrities are Hades in leather coated, pin suited Nazi gear and Persephone in black with an iota of red. 

I liked our guide to the story, Hermes (Melanie La Barrie) in a glorious silver suit, silver hair and silver boots with a personality and powerful singing voice to match.  The Three Fates who support her are Bella Brown, Madeline Charlemagne and Allie Daniel, strong singers and stylishly costumed. 

Choreographically there is too little space for more than the depressing trudge of slave miners or railway workers with stilted geometric moves, circling with Eurydice as one of them.  I believed in Orpheus’ magical voice as Dónal Finn gave us his beautiful falsetto, truly capturing the beauty of Orpheus’ music.  I think I might prefer to listen to the album rather than seeing this incarnation on stage. 

Musical Numbers

Act One

Road To Hell

Any Way The Wind Blows

Come Home With Me

Wedding Song

Epic I

Livin’ It Up On Top

All I’ve Ever Known

Way Down Hadestown

A Gathering Storm

Epic II


Hey, Little Songbird

When The Chips Are Down

Gone, I’m Gone

Wait For Me

Why We Build The Wall

Act Two

Our Lady Of The Underground

Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)


Come Home With Me (Reprise)


Nothing Changes

If It’s True

How Long?

Chant (Reprise)

Epic III


Word To The Wise

His Kiss, The Riot

Wait For Me (Reprise)

Doubt Comes In

Road To Hell (Reprise)


Production Notes


Music Book and Lyrics by Anaïs Mitchell 

Developed with, and directed by Rachel Chavkin




Dónal Finn

Madeline Charlemagne

Melanie La Barrie

Zachary James

Allie Daniel

Gloria Onitiri

Bella Brown

Lauren Azani

AJ King-Yombo

Grace Hodgett Young


Director: Rachel Chavkin

Set Designer: Rachel Hauck

Costume Designer: Michael Krass

Choreographer: David Neumann

Musical Supervisor and Arranger: Sarah Travis

Lighting Designer:  Bradley King

Sound Designer: Jessica Paz,

Nevin Steinberg

Orchestrations: Liam Robinson, Michael Chorney, 

Todd Sickafoose

Musical Director: Tarek Merchant


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Extended and Booking until 23rd December  2024



Lyric Theatre

29 Shaftesbury Avenue

London W1D 7ES

Box Office: 0330 333 4812

Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Lyric Theatre on 21st February 2024