There’s been a changing of the guard in the underground, with a trio of new leads coming into the Broadway production of Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Solea Pfeiffer, Phillip Boykin, and singer Betty Who are now taking the stage in the Anaïs Mitchell musical, playing the pivotal roles of Eurydice, Hades, and Persephone, respectively. You’d think a show as serious as Hadestown would inspire serious answers to questions, but during a recent joint Q&A, this trio proved to be a group of delightful goofballs who enjoy being with each other, and love the show they’re in even more.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How’s the show going?
Betty Who: Oh, my god.
Solea Pfeiffer: We’re having a blast.
Betty: I think so.
Phillip Boykin: Betty and Solea are amazing. I’m just here.
Solea: Hello!? Do you hear his voice? Booming! No, we are. It is so amazing to be three of us coming together and doing our version of the show at the same time. We’re really finding our show, which, from what people have told us, is really new and fresh. It’s still the show they love, but they’re seeing all kinds of new things.
Betty and Solea, is Phillip Boykin’s voice as terrifying on stage every night as it is in person?
Betty: When he walked into rehearsal on the first day, I was like “Uh-oh.”
Solea: We get such an audible reaction every night when you do that first “I missed ya.”
Betty: Phillip gets some of the biggest, if not the biggest, laughs of the night. We’re getting to see the Phillip Boykin special. It’s an honor. It’s the best.
Phillip: Oh, my goodness.
Phillip, where does Hades fall in your Broadway repertoire of bad guys, and what is it like to play him every night?
Phillip: I just try to have fun with him. I try to make him as human as possible and I don’t think of him as a bad guy or good guy. He’s just who he is. I just enjoy being King.
Betty: And he’s so lovable. That’s been so great about it. It makes it really easy. Something we actually talked about in rehearsals is that we seem to like each other too much. When we finally get to be nice to each other, we’re so happy that we get to be good again. I, at least, feel like I’m waiting for the whole show just to dance with you.
Solea: It’s beautiful to see their energies bouncing off each other. What I see from them is the love story. At the end of the day, there’s such an earnestness from your Hades and Persephone. There’s a real love here.
Phillip: I have, several times, had women come up to me and say that they’ve been married for 25, 30 years and they wish their husbands would allow themselves to show their love the way Hades does eventually. They come to me in tears and love. Hades thinks buying furs and giving her diamonds and decking out the underworld is the only way of showing this love, but Orpheus comes in and cracks that nut and opens up his heart. They love that.
Solea, is it nice to be working in air conditioning again after spending your summer in the park doing Hamlet? Do you see similarities between Ophelia and Eurydice?
Solea: Let me tell you something about that. For anyone thinking about joining a company that’s doing a three-hour, epic, big, ancient show where you go crazy and die, if you can avoid doing it in 90-degree hear, that is what I would say. [Laughs] We ran the gamut of every kind of natural disaster. We had the smoke days, where we’d get there, and they were like “You can’t do the show tonight because the air is toxic.” We had our rain days, our lighting days. I had one day where I was like “If it’s gonna rain, let it be during my mad scene,” and it rained on the exact line and we had to go home, but it was like my dramatic dream. I saw raccoons every day, we weathered the elements, I got really, really tan and sweaty and I loved every minute of it for the most part.
The biggest similarity is that it does not go well for either of them. I’m brought to my death in both of these shows. But at the same time, Ophelia was, in some ways, the blueprint for every tragic ingenue and people have been working off of her ever since. Eurydice goes back even farther. So there’s something to be said for both of these roles where you can imbue different parts of yourself. With Ophelia, there was a certain softness that was really fun to play with, and with Eurydice, she’s all muscle that has to be worn down for her walls to come down. But at the end of the day, these are two women whose demise and their light both came from their love. There’s a lot to explore and a lot to be learned.
Betty, what is it like for you, with your musician’s background, performing in this capacity?
Betty: I feel like touring gave me my 10,000 hours, as far as pushing through and showing up in whatever capacity that you have that day. I don’t want to say I was prepared, but I had a foundation to build off. It’s a different level of physical exhaustion. I wake up and I roll over and it all hurts. I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in the last two weeks.
I thought it would be more similar, but I’m realizing what a different beast Broadway is. I’ve also caught the bug. I don’t know if you get this from me, but I’ve always believed that it’s superhuman to be able to make yourself shine at such a capacity to hit the back wall of a room. That instinct and ability, to me, is something that only gets better with crafting, and I get eight chances a week to make it a little bit better. That really gets me jacked up for probably like six out of the eight shows a week so far. I come in really looking forward to doing it again, and trying to get a little bit closer to making it as alive as I can.