We saw the musical Hadestown last night. It’s a rousing retelling of the tragic Orpheus and Eurydice myth. It is of course a major bummer–no Broadway magic swoops in to rescue the doomed heroes. I felt lightly chided by Hermes at the end, when he said that the reason we watch tragedies is because we hope that maybe, just this once, it’ll turn out differently.
Act I ends with a stunning set piece. Hades, who is depicted as a depression-era robber baron, leads a call-and-response dirge about the importance of building a wall around Tartarus. “Why do we build the wall, my children?” he asks. “We build the wall to keep us free,” they chant back.
While I was watching this, I thought, gosh, it’s is a bit of an anvil-drop, isn’t it? So precisely-tailored to our political moment. This is obviously not a new phenomenon to Broadway, but it still took me out of the story.
Well, apparently I was wrong. The song, with a scenery-chewing authoritarian mogul leading chants about how we need to build a wall… is not about Donald Trump. It was written in 2006, inspired by scenery-chewing authoritarians the world over, and walls throughout history.
Asked about this in 2016, the writer said, “We all know the underworld boss/king archetype when we see it. Let’s not elect him president.” So, first, oops. Second, that’s what we’ve become, a nation led by somebody’s imagining of the chaotic evil king of hell. Great.
Good song, though. Lyrics of the last verse below the fold. Open thread.