Hadestown: E-Town to NYC and a Sense of Pride

Darren Wildeman

With the announcement of Hadestown coming to Broadway, I couldn’t help but feel a certain pride. Which is ironic, because I’m honestly not a huge fan of the show itself; or I’m not of the music anyways it really doesn’t do much for me (although it is growing on me some). The thing that’s really cool is it tried out in my home city. Now some of you might be saying “yeah, so what?” Well here’s the thing. I’m not from Chicago, New York, or one of the bit cities in California or even Florida which frequently get big tours or tryouts of some of these shows pre-Broadway. I’m from Edmonton, Alberta and currently live just outside of it. The theatre scene here is quite limited. We get about six touring shows per season, and the Citadel theatre (which is where Hadestown played and is pictured below) has its own shows and productions featuring local talent. I saw a fantastic production of Once there earlier this year.

“Citadel Theatre Edmonton”  by Citadeltheatre is licensed under  CC BY-SA 4.0

“Citadel Theatre Edmonton” by Citadeltheatre is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I wouldn’t say the theatre scene in my city is dead. However, at the same time it certainly isn’t anything special. Not even for Canada. Toronto has the biggest theatre district in Canada, and the East in general tends to get different tours and have more local shows as well. Theatre here is certainly an afterthought. Being in Canada hockey is the big attraction here (Go Oilers!) that and having one of the biggest malls in the world. Theatre aside my city doesn’t even have a lot going for it culturally.

What few musicians, actors, and other talents that Canada does produce that go big time are almost never from my area. And Canada as a whole doesn’t produce that much for talent in the show business industry. There definitely are some big names but compared to their American counterparts it’s certainly limited. This is also why Come from Away is also kind of a big deal here. Canada not only produced a musical, but a critically acclaimed Tony winning musical; in New York or London this would be just another day, but here that’s kind of big. Which brings me back to Hadestown.

Hadestown itself isn’t Canadian written. The score and book writer Anais Mitchell is from Vermont. But what is significant is Hadestown had its tryout here. In my home city. In my city where hockey king and we’re more well known for being the coldest place on earth for one or two days every few winters (and even colder than Mars one day last year), hitting -40°F in the middle of winter, and typically having snow fall anywhere between September and May (even in June and August on rare occasion) than we are for our theatre scene. When your weather is more well known than your theatre, that is a telling sign. And yet, a soon-to-be Broadway show had its out of town tryout here in the Citadel theatre. Where I can go and see a musical or play.

There is talk that given that Hadestown had a tryout here that maybe Edmonton will become a destination for some other shows to try out. I don’t know if that will happen or not. However, despite not being a huge fan of the show’s music myself, I cannot emphasize enough how darned cool it is that a soon to be Broadway show actually came to my city on a tryout. Not a national tour, but a try out. Pre-Broadway.

Come from Away gives us pride because other than being an incredibly well reviewed and Tony Winning musical, it’s also about us, and how we helped our neighbours to the south on a dark day. It gives our normally humble and nice country a chance to brag a little bit about what we did (although not too much or we’ll have to apologize) and this piece of art a couple of our citizens have created. That in itself is really cool. It’s something else to have a musical written in the USA to come to Canada to try out. They not only came to Canada; they for some reason came to Edmonton. Not Toronto, not Ottawa or even Vancouver. But Edmonton. And that’s a really cool feeling.