Changes are coming to the Greek underworld — at least as it appears on Broadway. Australian pop musician Betty Who and Tony nominee Phillip Boykin are set to take over the leading roles of Persephone and Hades, respectively, in the hit musical, Hadestown, starting Sept. 5.
The complex, fraught relationship between Persephone and Hades provides one of the two main storylines in Hadestown. In Greek mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, and Hades (technically her uncle) is allowed to abduct her and make her Queen of the Underworld. In Hadestown, a version of this tale is entwined with Greek mythology’s most famous story of doomed love and music: Orpheus and Eurydice. (If you need a refresher, Orpheus, an elite lyre player, attempts to rescue his lost love Eurydice from the Underworld, and he nearly makes it back to Earth with her, before turning back to make sure she’s there and losing her forever).
For Betty Who — who’s released a steady stream of pop albums over the past few years, most recently 2022’s Big! — joining the cast of Hadestown will mark her official stage debut.
“Hadestown is such a special show for so many reasons, but a huge draw for me personally was the incredible music written by Anais Mitchell,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I have loved Anais Mitchell songs since I was softly sobbing at boarding school to ‘Orion’ on my iPod. YEAH, YOU READ THAT RIGHT IPODS BABY, BEEN A FAN SINCE 2001! I’m so inspired by her songwriting and storytelling in this show, and I literally cannot wait to sing it eight times a week. The opportunity to play Persephone in Hadestown is a dream come true. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Wicked, the trap door, the way I sobbed. The BELTING! Musical theatre was one of my first loves — one of the main reasons I wanted to sing in the first place. So to have arrived at this place in my life, making my Broadway debut (!!!!!!!!!!!). I am just completely overwhelmed and excited. See you in Hadestown!”
Meanwhile, Boykin is a Broadway vet who earned a Tony nomination back in 2012 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his turn as Crown in the revival of Porgy and Bess. More recently, in 2019, he was part of the revival cast of Once on This Island that picked up a Grammy nod for Best Musical Theater Album.
As Boykin noted, joining Hadestown has a particularly special resonance for him: “When I was much younger, I played the role of Orpheus in a musical called Famous Orpheus. I never thought that I’d have the privilege of telling this story in a bright, new, fantastic, and historical way. After seeing the first scene, I was hooked. I fell in love with this masterpiece and am now I’m a huge fan of Hadestown. I can’t wait to join the show and tell this wonderful story.”
Hadestown, written entirely by Anaïs Mitchell, has enjoyed a wildly successful rise since it first debuted in 2006. First, it was an extremely indie touring production in New England; then, in 2010, Mitchell turned the show into a concept album featuring Ani DiFranco, Justin Vernon, and others. The show arrived off-Broadway in 2016, then played in Edmonton and London before officially debuting on Broadway in 2019. It was an immediate hit, winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score for Mitchell, and Best Direction of a Musical for Rachel Chavkin.
News of the new additions to the cast, however, does come as Hadestown prepares to say goodbye to one of its longest-serving cast members. Eva Noblezada, who originated the role of Eurydice on Broadway and earned a Tony nomination for her performance, will have her final performance on Aug. 13. Her replacement will be announced soon.
From Rolling Stone US