Ashleigh Prince spoke with Matthew Patrick Quinn of Hadestown about his role, the Hadestown production, his career and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. I’ve missed you all so much. I hope you had a wonderful week. Today, we are going way down to Hadestown with Matthew Quinn. Hello, Matthew.
Matthew Quinn: Hi there.
Ashleigh: Matthew plays a very important role in Hadestown, and that is Hades himself. It is a pleasure to speak to you today. It is an incredible show, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack this week. I am very eager to speak with you about the character, about the show and everything in between. Would you like to start off today by introducing yourself to our audience?
Matthew: Sure. My name is Matthew Quinn, and as Ashleigh said, I play Hades in the North American tour of Hadestown. It’s the Broadway production sent out across the country, and we’re very excited to come and perform for you.
Ashleigh: Hadestown is coming to Worcester March 28 through April 2. We are super excited to dive into this musical, it is so hot right now. Everyone is talking about Hadestown, it’s just such an incredible show. I can’t think of one musical theatre nerd who hasn’t been addicted to the soundtrack. I’m curious right off the bat, what drew you to Hadestown?
Matthew: I was introduced to it around the time that it hit Broadway, around 2018 or 2019. I listened to the soundtrack and immediately was mesmerized because the style of music is not something that you would typically hear in a musical theatre production. It’s a very imaginative blending. I guess you could say it’s genre defiant because it’s modern American folk music and New Orleans inspired jazz. You don’t hear those types of music in musical theatre very often, that alone sets it as a very inventive piece. Then you add in the actual plot lines, the storylines that are just so riveting. It takes two ancient Greek myths and just completely reimagines them.
There’s something in the show that everybody can connect with and leaves you feeling a sense of hope.Matthew Patrick Quinn
Matthew: One of the taglines in the show is “Come See how the World Could be.” I feel a lot of people don’t know what that means going in, but if you ask them when they leave, I think they would have a better understanding of what that theme means to them. It can mean something different for each person, but in general, I think people walk away with a sense of hope.
Ashleigh: Yeah, I agree. For those that aren’t familiar with Hadestown, do you want to give a little summary without releasing too many spoilers?
Matthew: It’s two ancient Greek myths that are reimagined and retold, connecting with one another. It’s a completely different style of music. This isn’t giving too much away, but the orchestra is onstage with us the whole time. Every orchestra in every musical is very important, but in our show they’re just as important as the actors on stage because you see them the whole time. The music is a catalyst for expressing the themes of the show. I don’t want to tell you too much about the plot, but just know you don’t have to be a Greek mythology historian to walk away with an understanding of what’s going on. As long as you’re paying attention you will be fine.
Ashleigh: I think that story and the script in Hadestown does a really great job of guiding people through these two stories. You’re right, even if you’re not a Greek mythology pro, you will know what’s going on.
Matthew: The character of Hermes plays as a narrator throughout the show. He repeats a lot of the same lines, but it’s only to remind the audience who this character is and what this character is about. He says the same things about the main characters, Eurydice and Orpheus, who are the younger lovers in the show, and then Persephone and Hades, who are the older lovers of the show. He will continuously remind you that Eurydice was a hungry young girl and that Orpheus was a young man, just so that you don’t forget what’s important about these characters.
Ashleigh: I love that Hermes gets his own moment in this show. I feel like we glaze over him a lot when we’re talking about different stories in the Greek mythos. I’m glad to see Hermes in the spotlight this time.
Matthew: He does a great job. Nathan Lee Graham is our Hermes and he’s fantastic.
Ashleigh: One of the other taglines in Hadestown is “Welcome to Hadestown, Where a Song can Change your Fate.” If we were putting together a spring Broadway playlist, what are your top three Hadestown songs? They don’t have to be songs you’re in, but just your favorites.
Matthew: I am a sucker for the songs in musicals that get played the most and are the most recognizable songs. I would say one of the one of the more well-known songs from the show is “Wait for Me” which is Orpheus’ big number towards the end of Act I. It’s just such a beautiful melody, and the melody gets repeated throughout the show multiple times. It’s just a stunning moment in the show as well. I would say the catchier songs, the earworms or the songs you can tap your feet to, are the ones from the Fates. “When the Chips are Down” is one of them. The Fates in the show are three women and they sing as a trio, so you get these tight three-part harmonies and their songs are just so catchy. A lot of the times they’re upbeat. The title song “Way Down Hadestown” is a play on a funeral march that would be heard in New Orleans. It’s really upbeat and exciting, even though in the show it’s the end of spring going into winter, so it’s a somber song in terms of the lyrics but the actual music is very upbeat, similar to what you would hear at a New Orleans style funeral. The celebration of life even though they’re heading into winter. I would say those are my top three: “When the Chips are Down,” “Way Down Hadestown” and “Wait for Me.”
Ashleigh: When it comes to Hades, what is your favorite song to sing in the role?
Matthew: “Hey, Little Songbird” usually gets a surprised reaction from the audience because it’s the first time you hear Hades sing in a very low register, but it’s also very smooth. He’s trying to entice Eurydice to come down to Hadestown. That was fun to sing. “His Kiss, the Riot” is a song that Hades does towards the very end of the show and as an actor, it’s very meaty, for lack of a better term. It’s one of those penultimate, 11th hour, songs and it’s almost an aria in a way. It’s like doing a very intense Shakespearean monologue put to music. As a performer, we love that kind of stuff. It’s a chance to really show my acting chops. Hades doesn’t really do a lot of music that that you would hear on the radio, he’s there to impart fear and push the plotline. In terms of the actual singing, both of those songs are great opportunities for a performer, for an actor.
Ashleigh: I had my music on shuffle on my commute to The Hanover Theatre one time and “Why We Build the Wall” came on. Let me tell you, I was stuck in traffic going “My children! My children!”
Matthew: That, at least the way I do it, is almost just a speech but with music. Everybody else sings the lines, but Hades is like “This is the line. I say it, you sing it.”
Ashleigh: Let’s talk a little bit about you and your history. How did you fall into theatre?
Matthew: I remember when I was a kid, my family watched a lot of news. CNN was always on in the background, and it was boring, but the weatherman was always energetic and funny. For a while I wanted to be a weatherman, it’s such a bizarre thing. As a child, when the TV is on, and the news is on, you’re bored, and you just want to watch cartoons, but the weatherman was always the most enrapturing to me. So, I wanted to be a weatherman and my parents bought my brother and I a video camcorder, and I’m probably dating myself now, and we started making little movies. After that I realized I just wanted to be on camera, I didn’t care about being a weatherman. When I was around 10 years old, I auditioned for my first community theatre production, which was the Wizard of Oz in Phoenix, Arizona at the Phoenix Children’s studio, where I grew up. From there, I got really into doing theatre. The dream of doing film never went away, but theater was more tactile. It was something that allowed me to be around other people that were doing the same thing. With film, you would film something, and you’d show it to your parents, and then you and your friends would watch it but then that would be the end of it. I wanted something that was ongoing, that was more hands on. I continued to do it into high school and after. I went to Pepperdine University and got my degree in acting. After that, I continued and I started auditioning for things. I booked work everywhere. I’ve been all over the world, doing different jobs at theme parks and cruise ships. In 2005, I moved to New York and started auditioning for stuff out of there. That’s how I came to audition for Hadestown in New York City, and that’s what brought me here today. I’ve been doing this since I was very little, but professionally, it started in junior high school.
Ashleigh: It seems you have an affinity for villains. I see in your bio you played several villainous roles for the Disney Cruise Line companies such as Scar, Jafar and Captain Hook. I think it’s an interesting transition into Hades. I’m seeing Scooby Doo Live, was that a villain role in there as well?
Matthew: No, actually, I played Shaggy in Scooby Doo. It was very, very different, I think. When it comes to Disney, I’m tall and thin, and my voice is low when I want it to be, so that just lent itself to being be able to play the bad guy. Most of my work has gone between comedy and being evil. I did a production of Matilda as Harry Wormwood, Matilda’s father, and had to blend clown comedy as well as just being overly bad, just comically evil. Hadestown was exciting to me because it proved I don’t necessarily always have to be as cartoony as some of these other things I’ve done, I can play serious. You look at my resume and there’s a moment there where you think “This guy can only do really over the top cartoon type style.” I said to myself “No, I can do better than that.” This has been a great opportunity to prove that to myself.
Ashleigh: At The Hanover Theatre, we have a Conservatory where we teach all ages acting, singing and dance. I’m curious, if someone wants to be good at being bad, recommendations would you make to someone that’s interested in diving into the role of villain?
Matthew: Always remember that they are people too and ask: Why have they gotten to the point where they are? Why are they considered “a villain?” What brought him to that point? There must be something in their backstory that caused them to get to that point. I’m a huge “Star Wars” fan, and it’s the same thing about Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. The biggest plot point for Luke is to try to prove that his father has good in him, he came from a place of goodness and it was circumstance that forced him to become who he is. If a younger person is trying to audition for a villain, don’t just go for the exterior twirling of the mustache, intense screaming voice type representations. You must remember to ask yourself why. Why am I considered a villain? Is there anything in the character’s story that I recognize in my own life? I would say never go into the audition of a villainous character just trying to play bad. There are many levels to what makes a person “bad.”
Ashleigh: I think once you’re seeing the show, you can get why Hades is having a tough time. I mean, Hades and Persephone are not exactly couple goals.
Matthew: Exactly. That’s what I try to explain when people ask me to explain the role of Hades. They will ask “Why is he such a bad guy?” Immediately, I always say, “There’s your problem right there. I don’t think he’s necessarily bad, it’s more that he’s misunderstood. He’s a product of the circumstances that he’s been through.” This is just Greek mythology, not giving away the plot of Hadestown, but his wife, Persephone, leaves him for six months out of the year to return to above ground because she came from the earthly realm, and he is in the underworld. When she leaves for those six months, it fills him with fear, doubt and jealousy. He fears that she’s not going to return to him, that maybe she’s just done, she’s left and she’ll never come back. Throughout those six months, this jealousy and doubt poisons him, and it sours their relationship and affects the lives of the living and affects the souls of the dead. And so that’s where we come into the beginning of the plot of Hadestown, is we’re at this point where their relationship has really soured over the years because of this fear, doubt and jealousy that that fuels him to make the choices that he makes. I’m trying not to give too much away, so I’ll just leave it there.
Ashleigh: Yeah, we’ll put a cap on that, but I think you’re right. He’s struggling with a lot, and we’ll watch it all unfold on stage. I’m not sure if I mentioned this already, but Hadestown itself has won, I think eight Tony Awards®, including rock musical. It’s a Grammy Award winner. It’s amazing and it’s unlike anything else in our season. I highly recommend that if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, head to TheHanoverTheatre.org and get them now because you do not want to miss out on this incredible show. It would be so unfortunate, let’s just say that it would be a tragedy. Do you have any parting words for our audience, one last thing to really nudge them to get those tickets?
Matthew: Don’t make your decision as to whether you choose to see this show based on whether you think you know enough about the show, rely on the praise and the awards it has won. Know that in many of the cities that we go to, the show has been selling out and that’s just because of how good it truly is.
Ashleigh: It’s gorgeous in more ways than one. Like I said, go to TheHanoverTheatre.org and get your tickets now. Tickets start at just $39, and always be sure to get your tickets directly through us or through our box office because we will give you the best experience and best price, unlike third party sellers. Make sure you interact with us, and we’ll take care of you as you prepare for this incredible Broadway show. Matthew, thank you so much for joining us today, t’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Matthew: It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Ashleigh: All of our listeners out there, we’ll see you next week with more Behind the Scenes.