Showstopping “Hadestown” won eight Tony Awards, including Best New Musical, garnering the most wins for the night. The production also had the highest total number of nominations with 14.
Hadestown centers on a modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus’ journey to the underworld to rescue his fiancée, Eurydice, and the musical’s success last night was crowned with a call for more inclusion within Broadway.
Hadestown‘s Jessica Paz made history as the first woman to win for Best Sound Design in a Musical with co-designer Nevin Steinberg, and winner for Best Lighting Design of a Musical Bradley King stole the evening with his powerful acceptance speech: “We need to make Broadway less white, less cis, and less male.”
In a similar theme, Rachel Chavkin won for Best Director for a Musical–the only woman nominated this year in the category–and spoke about her journey in the industry, from performing at bars and free spaces during the day to eventually producing shows. Chavkin worked on Hadestown for six years prior to opening. “It was wildly slow and profoundly organic,” she said backstage of the process.
Her acceptance speech further shined a light on the need for diversity within the industry. “I wish I wasn’t the only woman directing a musical on Broadway this season,” Chavkin said. “There are so many women who are ready to go. There are so many artists of color who are ready to go. And we need to see that racial diversity and gender diversity reflected in our critical establishment too.”
As Chavkin explained, such is not due to a lack of diversity within the community, but rather the struggle to be accepted at a higher level. “This is not a pipeline issue,” Chavkin continued. “It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be. So let’s do it.”
Director Chavkin’s close collaboration with singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, last night’s winner for Best Original Score written for the Theater, elevated Hadestown into the striking musical it is today. “The first thing Anaïs [Mitchell] ever said to me was this is a poetry piece, not a prose piece,” Chavkin mused at the winner’s room. “It takes a long time to read a poem and work on a poem because it’s very spacious in this nugget. It’s like a diamond in that way.”
Mitchell echoed the special quality of the show, musing that the process for creating the musical was almost like a Greek myth in itself. “We felt like we were chipping away at a sculpture that was already in stone,” Mitchell recalled backstage, citing that a minor shift in choreography or the addition of a new note led them to the inevitable creation one step at a time.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical winner André De Shields also felt there was a spiritual essence at play. “I gaze at the stars because the stars gaze at me,” De Shields said backstage. “I felt a kind of completion [after the win] because I wasn’t going to leave Broadway until they gave me what I thought I deserved.”
The 73 year-old De Shields credited his parents’ dreams for his drive; his mother wanted to dance and his father wanted to sing, so De Shields’ Broadway career has embodied both parents’ passions. “When you see me dancing, I’m using my mother’s feet. When you hear me sing, I’m using my father’s voice,” De Shields explained. “This is my karma paid in full. Now I can go about my next 73 years doing what pleases André.”
As for what’s next for De Shields? “Every decision I make is because I’m a triple Capricorn, and Capricorns are mountain climbers. I’m looking for my next peak,” De Shields smiled.
After closing out the night by winning Best New Musical, the Hadestown team looked forward, teasing everything from a potential movie adaptation to upcoming character-themed soundtrack album drops. “It will be global domination on all fronts,” producer Dale Franzen joked.
Franzen too discussed the push for inclusion in Broadway, especially on the commercial front. “As a woman, tonight was an incredible night for women,” Franzen said. “But I’m a Californian, and this has been an eye-opener what it’s like on Broadway. It’s an amazing place but we need to do some work here.”
Perhaps Hadestown’s wins last night embody that changing tide. Co-producer Mara Isaacs spoke on the fantastical journey that is Hadestown, and that maybe one day myth can become reality. “We had a vision for how the world could be,” Isaacs said backstage, holding her Tony Award. “If Hadestown stands for anything, it’s that change is possible, that spring can come again.”