“Hadestown” at Proctors is a musical about love
If you want to start a debate about young love ask someone which story they think is more tragic- the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”?
The story of how two lovers meet, fall instantly in love, try to overcome obstacles preventing them to be together and eventually succumb to fate is a story that touches people of any age. This perhaps partially explains why the musical “Hadestown” which modernizes the Orpheus and Eurydice myth has been so popular on Broadway. It appeals to every demographic.
In the national tour production of “Hadestown,” which is at Proctors in Schenectady next Tuesday through March 5, Orpheus is being played by Chibueze Ihouma.
In a recent telephone interview it quickly becomes apparent that if love for the material is a criterion for casting - Ihouma is the perfect choice. He calls himself “a Greek mythology nerd” who deeply identifies with his character on many levels - even being able to relate to his character’s flaws.
When asked about his love at first sight and instant proposal to Eurydice, he acknowledges Orpheus is “a little goofy and immature.” He then explains the character’s behavior, saying, “He’s not a normal person. He’s been gifted with godly abilities.” Those godly abilities are the songs he writes and sings. With them comes the ability to touch the hearts of other humans. His goal in “Hadestown” is to rescue his love from the Underworld and return to the world the season of spring.
Indeed, that journey to the Underworld succeeds because of his songs. Ihouma believes Orpheus’s journey to rescue his love matures him and turns a deep infatuation into unconditional love. “It taught him humanity,” he says.
Ihouma is a Nigerian-American who graduated the Tisch School of NYU. He is on his own journey through “Hadestown.” He grew up in Union, NJ and his world consisted of New Jersey and New York. Not only is a young man of color traveling the country and exploring its opportunities, he is building an impressive resume for the future.
He admits to feeling it was some sort of destiny that he became connected with “Hadestown.” He says that because the show was often described as a jazz-folk-opera he did not know what to expect before hearing the first cast album. All he can say of the experience is “Wow.”
After attending the show he vowed to himself to someday be a part of it and went to an open audition before graduating. He moaned as he revealed that the next day all theater shut down because of COVID. He stayed in school and got his MFA in Drama in 2021. By this time he had an agent and got another audition. He was offered a role as a townsperson and understudy for the role of Orpheus. In June of 2022 he assumed the role of Orpheus full time.
He marvels that as a child who grew up as a second generation American he is now traveling the United States in a dream role. He said he honors the sacrifices his immigrant parents made for him. They wanted him to be a doctor, but they supported his dream to become an actor.
It is not lost on him that Orpheus became a man and a hero because of his ability to sing beautiful songs. He says he doesn’t expect his work in “Hadestown” to change the world, but he hopes it does bring joy and maybe insight about life and love to some in the audience. After a reflective pause, he again utters his favorite word, “Wow.”
“Hadestown” is at Proctors in Schenectady Tuesday through March 6. For schedule and information go to proctors.org or call 518-346-6204.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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