Hadestown at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The North American Tour of Hadestown. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

If Hadestown proves anything to the audience, it’s that music is power….and so is silence. Hadestown opened at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre last evening and continues to run through February 26th. This was my first time seeing the show, but I was no stranger to the music and the story. Back around 2017/2018 when the original live cast recording of Hadestown came out, I was quickly hooked on the intensity of its music and the mythological backing of the tale. After listening to the soundtrack on repeat for ages, I knew this was a show I had to see when I got the chance. Alas, Covid ruined my previous plans of seeing Hadestown on Broadway and so my first live experience of the stage production was at Shea’s last evening. 

If you aren’t familiar with mythology, I would highly recommend doing some research prior to attending the show to give you a better understanding and appreciation of the story. Thankfully, Shea’s Playbill does include a bit of background information on page 24 if you need a quick refresher. The show centers around the story of Eurydice (Hannah Whitley) and Orpheus (Chibueze Ihuoma) while also referencing the tale of Hades (Matthew Patrick Quinn) and Persephone (Brit West). The story is narrated by none other than Hermes (Nathan Lee Graham), the messenger himself. Orpheus is a poor boy who also happens to be the son of a Muse. He possesses a great musical talent with the ability to charm, persuade, and inspire others with his voice and lyre. He falls in love with Eurydice who is a poor girl with a troubled past and little to live for. Their love creates the hope that Orpheus’ music will be able to provide for them all that money cannot and that the winds of fate will be kind. When Persephone is taken back to the underworld by Hades too soon, the world above returns to winter and times are tough for the poor couple. Orpheus promises to finish a song that will return seasons back to order. In the meantime, Eurydice is left to fend for herself facing cold, hunger, and misery. In her desperation, she strikes a deal with Hades to take her away from the pain of life and provide her with a home and a purpose in the underworld. Once Orpheus realizes she is gone, he embarks on a journey to bring her home that ends up being more challenging than he could ever imagine.

Music is a central part of this show, not only because it is a musical, but because Orpheus’ gift centers around music and the power it holds. Orpheus’ pieces throughout the show are no easy feat. His character is considered a high tenor, but so much more is required of the vocalist who portrays him. Ihuoma’s falsetto soars above the audience and leaves us in awe of how he can have such an incredible range. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Hades whose notes feel as though they are as low as the depths of hell. The contrast between his bass and Orpheus’ tenor is truly beautiful symbolism. Quinn is known for his portrayal of villains, which makes a lot of sense once you hear the capabilities of his voice. As I mentioned before, going along with the power of music in this production is also the power of silence. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed silences of such great lengths in a musical. They carry so much weight and bring immense meaning to character interactions. Once a note finally cuts through the silence, you truly feel it cut through your soul and make the impact the music was meant to. 

My personal favorite piece in the show is “Wait for Me”. This has always been my most repeated track when listening to the album and it did not disappoint with its impact in the show. The staging and choreography for this song is incredibly powerful and unique, utilizing work lights and contrasting light and darkness. It is truly a show-stopper and created endless applause so intense that some who were unfamiliar with the show got up thinking it must be intermission. Wrong. It’s just that extraordinary. 

None of the roles featured in Hadestown are easy to portray by any means and they all require such tenacity and raw talent from the performers that I have no idea how they are able to deliver this caliber of performance day after day. Brit West takes you on an emotional roller-coaster through her portrayal of Persephone and has such a vast range of vocal ability. Hannah Whitley as Eurydice is also a power house and has some featured riffs that really bring the house down. Nathan Lee Graham as Hermes really connects with the audience and is very likeable and comical with his delivery. 

Something else I really appreciated was the little details in the costuming. Hades has a sleeve tattoo that looks like bricks and represents the wall he builds in Hadestown. Persephone has 2 dresses that are exactly the same in cut and style but one is bright green for when she is on earth in the spring and summer and the other is black for the underworld. Hermes has small feathers on the cuffs of his jacket to pay homage to his winged-foot mythology counterpart.

I don’t think Hadestown is meat for a casual theatre-goer. I think it is meant for those willing to understand and appreciate the complexity of the story and the music it contains. You should be somewhat aware of what you’re walking into and know that this is contemporary theatre which is a completely different vibe and encounter than classical musicals. Let yourself get lost in the beauty and power of music and love with a theatrical experience like none other. 

Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

For more information, click here.


‘Riverdance’ visit’s Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The 25th Anniversary Show of Riverdance made its way to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre this past weekend with three Buffalo-natives in the cast. This thrilling addition was the cause of several mid-show standing ovations like I’ve never seen before! The excitement filled the air for Erin Lynch, Fiona Dargan, and Kevinah Dargan along with the rest of the incredibly talented cast and production team.

The original Riverdance that premiered at The Point Theatre Dublin 25 years ago has been reimagined in this captivating anniversary show with new additions in lighting, stage designs, costuming, and music. This theatrical show consists mainly of traditional Irish music and dance with occasional features of flamenco, Russian folk dance, and American tap. Even if you aren’t particularly knowledgeable about dance, you’re sure to be fascinated by the effortless movement on stage accompanied with complex rhythms and incredible musical talents. As a dancer myself (primarily trained in classic ballet pointe), I found this performance all the more interesting from a technical point of view. 

Irish Dance and Ballet differ in many ways, but also have a great number of parallels. For example, the idea of having principal dancers backed by a troupe or corpse is the same as well as the overall goal of making even the most intricate routines appear easy and light. Something that differed that I particularly enjoyed was the air of confidence and attitude possessed by the female dancers. Instead of having to appear dainty, sweet, and fragile as is often the goal in ballet, these Irish dancers present themselves with sass, flair, and empowerment. The way they move across the stage is almost unreal in that they just seem to float from one place to another with such speed and power. 

The musicians of this production, especially Emma Frampton, Tara Howley, and Haley Richardson, are extremely talented and make their instrumental “face-offs” exceedingly enjoyable to watch. It seems like everyone is having fun and is so passionate about what they do that you can feel it as an audience member. The Riverdance Singers have the traditional, angelic voices we equate to celtic music that transcends you to the peaceful rolling hills of Ireland and eases your mind so you can only focus on the beauty of their sound. 

The audience continued to be an active participant throughout the show, getting involved with clapping, cheering, and reacting to the performance. The buzz of energy and delight that filled the theatre was unlike anything I’d felt before when attending a typical Shea’s season show. Perhaps it was the attendance of all of the Rince Na Tierne dancers- past and present, young and old- that created such a buzz. The feeling of seeing the possibility of your dreams coming true and turning your hard work and passions into a career like the dancers on stage is made even more achievable and palpable. 

Overall, this is an exciting show you won’t want to miss. Even if you think you’ve seen it before, you’ve never seen it like this! If you missed it in Buffalo, it’s headed to New Brunswick, NJ next. Definitely worth the day trip- you won’t be disappointed! 

For more information, click here.

Pretty Woman The Musical at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The national touring company of “Pretty Woman The Musical.” Photo courtesy of the company.

When looking for inspiration to create a musical, writers will often turn to source material that is already extremely successful. They figure you can’t go wrong with expanding upon something the public already loves, right? For the most part. But you also run the risk of not living up to the expectations of an audience that is already devoted to the movie fandom. In many cases, this has been successful like in Legally Blonde, Heathers, and Waitress. So why not take another cult classic and create a dazzling theatrical experience?

Pretty Woman is a musical based on the hit 90s rom-com of the same title. Who can forget the steamy exchanges between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, the iconic outfits, and the quotable scenes? Coming into Shea’s Performing Arts Centre, I was hopeful the musical Pretty Woman wouldn’t disappoint me as a huge fan of the original movie. I had low expectations, but an open mind. Shortly after the curtains opened–figuratively speaking as the show begins on an already presented stage—I realized that while the show may not be a lifelong classic hit, it sure is FUN! It has all the elements of a fast-moving, razzle-dazzle musical: big numbers, stunning costume pieces, and comedic flair. 

In case you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, Pretty Woman tells the tale of a Hollywood Boulevard hooker, Vivian Ward (Olivia Valli), who falls into luck when she is hired by billionaire businessman Edward Lewis (Adam Pascal) to be his date for a week to various business and social functions. She also takes up residence in his penthouse hotel room for the week and is provided with a complete shopping spree to help her look the part. Vivian is very clear that in her line of business, she mustn’t get attached to any of her clients and thus refuses to kiss Edward on the mouth even though she’ll engage in various other acts with him. This is fine for Edward who finds any form of “strings-attached” relationships to be too challenging with his professional lifestyle. It’s the ages old “will they or won’t they??” that drives audiences wild. 

Although the main focus of the movie is clearly Vivian and Edward, the stage-show brings an additional focal point: Happy Man! Happy Man is portrayed by Kyle Taylor Parker and is hands-down my favorite character of the show. He represents a variety of characters throughout the production including a Hollywood street-dweller, the hotel manager, an orchestra conductor, and a retail store manager. Parker’s ability to morph into different characters while maintaining the same level of comedy was hysterical. The whole scene featuring “On a Night Like Tonight” had me laughing out loud the entire time and really enjoying myself. 

Of course, you can’t forget Broadway’s Adam Pascal. I was very surprised he didn’t receive applause upon his first entrance, but it’s possible not all audience members were aware of his star-status. Adam brought outstanding rock-vocals to the role that are stylistically similar to his work in Rent. However, there was another surprising character who wowed the crowd enough to receive several midperformance ovations: Amma Osei as Violetta during the opera scene. Truly well-deserved. Jessica Crouch has an absolute powerhouse of a voice as Kit De Luca and Olivia Valli very accurately represents Vivian Ward, which isn’t easy considering she’s automatically compared to Julia Roberts.

Overall an issue with this storyline is that it may not have aged well. The concept at its core may come across as a bit “hopeless damsel in distress rescued by a rich, white guy”. Gary Marshall & J. F. Lawton clearly didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel here. They took a classic and reproduced it almost verbatim in a different entertainment medium. Almost all of Vivian’s costumes were even exact replications of the film’s version. Could it be updated? Yes. Should it be updated? Maybe. Of course, then you run the risk of angering fans for not staying true to the original. It’s a challenging line to walk. However, if you’re looking for a fun, feel-good, familiar show, this is the show for you. Major fans of the original movie will be delighted. 

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 20-minute intermission

Show runs until Dec 5, 2021 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.