Hadestown reviews show the West End and Broadway are far from the same

Donal Finn in Hadestown
Donal Finn in Hadestown

The opening of Hadestown in London has highlighted the subtle differences between the West End and London.

An unquestionable hit on Broadway, eight-time Tony Award winning Hadestown received a much more mild reaction following its press night at the Lyric Theatre this week.

Let’s be clear: The reviews for Hadestown are certainly positive, but haven’t quite matched the five-star raves the show received in New York.

Criticisms ranged from the show’s ending (spoiler alert for those not into Greek mythology) to its “one-note” political message.

Hadestown is far from the first Broadway mega-hit to receive a lukewarm reception this side of the Atlantic.

Rent, the iconic pop-rock musical by the late Jonathan Larson, ran for over a decade on Broadway. The West End run lasted just 18 months, and left empty handed at the Olivier Awards.

Then there’s the Tony and Grammy Award winning Jagged Little Pill, which has seemingly stalled on its way to London.

On the other hand there are musicals like Legally Blonde, running three times longer in the West End than it did on Broadway.

So what exactly is it that makes the critics and audiences in London and New York so subtly different?

Honestly it’s hard to say.

Anecdotally, West End theatregoers seem to prefer musicals that offer light-hearted escapism from everyday life. Broadway meanwhile looks to do better with slightly more darker shows reflecting real life.

There are other differences too – from ticket price to audience demographics. Could these factors influence which shows prove successful?

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter.

The fact that the West End and Broadway are not carbon copies of one another enriches theatre variety, allowing more shows to flourish than would otherwise have the chance.

And in the long run, success isn’t limited to the big stages.

Although Rent may have not have run for years or picked up awards in the UK, we all still know there are five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes in a year.

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.