The hit Broadway musical Hadestown had a night to remember at the 2019 Tony Awards. At the ceremony, which took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and aired live on CBS on June 10, the jazz- and blues-inspired folk opera about love in the underworld took home eight Tonys, including Best Director for Rachel Chavkin (just the fourth woman to win a Tony for directing a musical), and Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score for the composer/librettist and author Anaïs Mitchell. “It’s been a really long road with this show, so I share this with so many people,” Mitchell said Sunday night after receiving the award for Best Original Score. Based on the 2010 concept album of the same name, Hadestown and its Vermont-born creator actually have quite the history with the Saratoga Springs and—surprise, surprise—its premier folk venue, Caffè Lena.
Since 2008, Mitchell has been a regular at Lena’s, performing a number of her musical projects there, including an early version of Hadestown, which Mitchell started working on in 2006. “The common thread of all Anaïs’ albums and projects is her deep engagement with the world around her,” says Caffè Lena’s Executive Director Sarah Craig, who saw Hadestown during its Broadway previews back in early April. “[This] leads her to tackle big themes with the same emotional intimacy with which most artists describe their inner lives.” In 2010, Mitchell stopped by Lena’s on the original Hadestown album release tour, performing many of the same songs that are now featured in the award-winning show. At her most recent show there in 2017, the award-winning singer-songwriter played with Hadestown collaborator and Vermont native Michael Chorney, who shared a Tony on Sunday night for Best Orchestrations with bassist Todd Sickafoose.
In addition to her numerous performances at the Caffè, Mitchell is also featured in the 2013 book about the history of the intimate performance space, Caffè Lena: Inside America’s Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse, as well as the CD box set Live at Caffè Lena: Music from America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967–2013. “For almost 60 years, Caffè Lena has been all about nurturing new talent,” says Lena’s Board President Jim Mastrianni. “To see Anaïs Mitchell’s work rise like this is just an inspiration.”
Based on two classic (and twisted) tales from Greek mythology—but set in an apocalyptic, Great Depression-era landscape—Hadestown follows the young musician Orpheus down into the underworld as he attempts to rescue his fiancée Eurydice from Hades, ruler of Hadestown, and his wife Persephone. The musical debuted Off Broadway in 2016 and had its Broadway premiere at the Walter Kerr Theatre on April 17 of this year.