I think it is fair to say that after living in NYC for almost 20 years, my “pinch me I get to live in NYC” stance is a permanent condition. But every so often there are days and even perhaps whole weeks that roll along and I am shaken to the core with how grateful I am to inhabit this town. Thanks Don – good idea to move here. I absolutely love it.
These revelations occur especially often during the fall and spring when sauntering through Central Park – always a thrill to see nature in all it’s seasonal glory juxtaposed with the backdrop of a cityscape. It also happens in December as seemingly all of NYC breaks out it’s festive and twinkly holiday finery. Apparently, my affection is cyclical and seasonal (and I as I was reminded at Hadestown I have Persephone – my spirit person – to thank for this). A revelation of gratitude also happened this week when I culminated my theater season with the raw and gritty Oklahoma! and the swooning and sexy Hadestown. What a week and how lucky am I to see have experienced these two works of art in but the span of five days and what a perfect way to close the curtain on Grab Your Group and Go’s Theater Season. While these two shows occupy very different places on the performance arts spectrum, there were quite a few similarities between the two. Here are just a few:
Both take place down south. Oklahoma! is set in Oklahoma (and all that entails with shotguns aplenty, gingham, cowboy boots – some falling from the sky – country music, and chili and cornbread are served at intermission). Hadestown is so far south it is underground (just below New Orleans if I had to guess). Picture me winking playfully here.
Both use light to great effect. Oklahoma!’s lighting is so bright that the audience feels as exposed as the actors for most of the performance. Then when plunged into darkness a whole different sensory experience ensues. Now that I think about it, that dark would not have been quite as dark were it not for our eyes being so assaulted by all of that light for most of the performance. Hadestown is all red light district pulsating energy using shadows and darkness and greys punctuated with hints of red to further plunge you into the despairing underworld.
Both have their musicians on stage and integrated into the action. I love it when the decision gets made to put the musicians on the stage. So powerful and such a visible reminder of how vital the music is to the performance. To view the talented musicians on stage is always a privilege. If I had to pick one of the soundtracks to listen to for eternity I would go with Hadestown for it’s seductive and broody instrumentation and soaring singing voices. My son has had the cast album on non-stop since we saw the show.
Both have small ensemble casts that require lockstep coordination, but offer many stand-out moments for each every member to shine. There are two standouts for me. Ado Annie in Oklahoma! who is almost smug in how much she is enjoying herself out there on stage as she bounces from man to man all innocent and wonton at the same time (not an easy combo to juggle). And hello Hades in Hadestown you dashing silver fox with Johnny Cash’s voice cad. Not sure how you can hover in that come hither alto pitch for so long, but wow you were born to originate and play this role. Don’t get me started on how I feel about the skulking, but charming Curly and well Orpheus – your name in real life should be on that Tony ballot.
Both have circles to navigate. Oklahoma! is presented at the theater in the round with the audience surrounding the stage on an arc of 3 sides. This show is uniquely experiential (recommend sitting on the stage if you can). It is this seating in the round that makes it that much more compelling, but also must provide a myriad of challenges from a choreography perspective as the story is presented from so many sides and angles. Hadestown has a literal circle/cylinder that is the vessel that provides the, more often than not, one-way ticket to hell. Around this circle are more circles that move the cast about in a deliberately deflating going nowhere waiting for Godot scenario.
Both use similar dance styles. This observation is from my son who felt that the Hadestown dancers in hell very much reminded him of the dancer in the dream ballet in Oklahoma!. Very physical. Very deliberate. Very close to the ground at times, super strong, and forceful. The dream ballet in Oklahoma! seems to be capturing the media’s attention with the dancer Gabrielle Hamilton being the deserved media darling for her tour de force – out there – 13-minute sexual awakening. Not easy to do 8 times a week, but wow is she ever doing it. Way to go Gabby! Gabby gets her own special shout out because she is a granddaughter of a close family friend. 🙂
Both shows should be seen and felt and experienced. Even if you hate one or the other (I don’t think you’ll hate Hadestown. However, Oklahoma! has been called the most polarizing show of the season) you will think and you will feel and feeling something is better than not feeling anything at all. Go because these shows are bold. Go because they are innovative. Go because they are creative genius personified on stage. Go because they are pumped to the gills with talent in a variety of creative capacities and they are telling stories we need to hear. These shows are prescient and they are powerful and they should be seen, felt, and heard.
Grab Your Group and GO! GO! GO!