A Broadway theater is always buzzing minutes before a show. But on September 13, it felt that there was more than just a buzz in the Walter Kerr theater. Everyone was buzzing for one person—Lillias White.
Hadestown is a musical written by Anaïs Mitchell back in 2006 depicting the tragic love story of Orpheus and Eurydice from ancient Greek mythology. Many familiar names from Greek mythology are represented in this play—Orpheus and Eurydice, of course, in addition to Persephone, Hades, and notably for this evening—Hermes.
Hermes plays a major role in this musical as the narrator and is present on stage for almost the entirety of the production. And up until the September 13 Broadway production, Hermes has always been played by a man. Most notably by André De Shields who won a Tony for this role in 2019. But Lillias White was about to change that—appearing as the first ever Mrs. Hermes.
This recasting of Hermes is yet another in a growing list of Broadway productions that are moving away from rigidity around what an actor “should” look like in order to play a certain role. We’ve seen people of color playing the founding fathers in Hamilton and the wives of Henry VIII in Six and main character Bobbie was cast as a woman in the latest reopening of Company.
White took to the stage ready to claim her spot as the new Hermes. And that she did. She appeared on stage in a sparkling silver suit and a big smile on her face as the crowd stood for the first of three standing ovations that night. White brought flair, sass and some powerful vocals to the role, differentiating herself from the Hermeses before her.
The cast around White also dazzled. Each actor has a unique vocal range, style and stage presence, making the show fun and exciting. While this particular love story ends in tragedy, the music was infectious, the dancing was fun, and the dialogue was sharp and witty. And of course, seeing Lillias White on her opening night was an absolute honor.