Reeve Carney on Descending into London's Hadestown After Soaring in Broadway's Spider-Man

Reeve Carney on Descending into London's Hadestown After Soaring in Broadway's Spider-Man
Eva Noblezada & Reeve Carney in "Hadestown"
(Photo: Helen Maybanks)

Reeve Carney soared above the audience as Spider-Man in the much-chronicled Broadway musical of the same name and this time descends to the underworld as the singing, romantically smitten Orpheus in Hadestown. The Anaïs Mitchell musical, directed by Rachel Chavkin, is running in repertory in the National Theatre’s Olivier auditorium and has Broadway in its sights, which prompted the charming American actor-singer to discuss both the joys of working abroad as well as committing to this musical, wherever it may take him.

How does it feel to have become part of Hadestown, which you joined after its off-Broadway run for the subsequent engagement in Canada [at the Citadel Theatre this time last year] and now here?
I really feel so grateful to be a part of this project. It feels like something that really pushes things in an expansive but still-subtle way. I never saw it at New York Theatre Workshop because I was in Toronto doing Rocky Horror [Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show remake], but what’s amazing here in London is how much the show feels incredibly American and incredibly global at the same time.

Hadestown draws on some of the most enduring legends of all time (including Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone). Was this a landscape you’ve known since childhood?
I actually don’t remember being taught the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as a child, and I wonder sometimes with this show how many people in the audience know anything about the myth. What’s great for the people who do know about the myth and where the story leads is that they still seem to have a sense of disbelief and surprise when they see how it unfolds.

Given Orpheus’s tragic mistake—which [spoiler alert!] is to look back at his beloved if doomed Eurydice—do you ever wish you could rewrite the outcome?
I think what happens to Orpheus is that the mind eclipses the heart, and I can relate to that and I think we all have to fight against that; my hope, too, is that people can empathize with Orpheus and question what they would do themselves if they were put in that position.

How did you come by the complete ease that you share onstage with Eva Noblezada [the Tony-nominated Miss Saigon star who appears opposite Carney as Eurydice]?
That feeling is definitely a goal of mine so I’m happy to hear you say that! Eva is such a living performer and her performance is so alive every night that it feels like we’re literally talking to each other onstage, which is I think what anybody would hope for in a scene partner. We're hoping later in the run that maybe we can do a concert evening together.

What is Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera score like to sing after the Bono and the Edge musical landscape of Spider-Man?
That was midrange rock and roll whereas Hadestown feels more like it was written for my own voice: it’s a high-tenor sing with a bunch of falsetto stuff. I grew up singing in church and sight-reading all the parts—the high notes included—so it feels really fun to use that part of my voice in a musical theater production, and I’ve got a really amazing voice teacher in L.A., Valerie Morehouse, who I work with whenever possible.

Does the National feel like a special place to be?
Definitely. They treat us so well here: everything you would need is here, I feel, and it’s incredibly well-organized. The ability just scenically to sustain different kinds of set builds is pretty remarkable; I’d love to see more shows in the Olivier after I am finished performing here.

Were you looking for a bit of a break from musicals after the rigors of Spider-Man?
In terms of the scale of that show, this is certainly the largest production I’ve been a part of; I have done a few different things onstage and some labs since then, but I think I felt that I did want a break from a long run and the grind that goes with that, even when it’s a grind in a great way. I also wanted time to tour my music, so when I left Spider-Man, I felt as if I needed five years away and that’s almost exactly what it has been.

How long was your commitment in all to Spider-Man?
Three years including previews, but, that was an incredible show for me to start a musical theater career with. Who would have expected it would do 183 previews, but at the time I had no reference point: it didn’t affect me that we were in tech for nine months. I just thought, “This is the way it is.”

Won’t Hadestown be another lengthy commitment all told, as and when Broadway gets folded into the mix, as is the hope?
Yes, but the idea of a long run isn’t difficult when it’s something I love; I wouldn’t want to be part of a long run of something I didn’t absolutely adore, but on Hadestown, that’s no problem at all.

Do you find a poetic justice of sorts in the fact that in your previous show you soared above the audience, whereas in this one your character descends to hell?
[Laughs] You know, I think I gravitate more towards the bizarre and the otherworldly in whatever I’m playing, and when I say “bizarre” I include getting the chance to play Riff Raff [in Rocky Horror]. I knew one of the things I would miss most after Spider-Man is being able to fly every night, but I have other things I get to do in this show like play guitar onstage: string instruments aren’t really meant to run around the stage, and we’ve got a busy revolve. The challenge is to keep the guitar tuned if it bangs against anything.

As for being in London itself, is this a city you knew already?
I’d been here as a tourist quite a bit and first came when I was 19 to audition for Island Records. This is maybe my sixth visit and it’s nice to feel like a temporary resident—like someone who can get to know the city more than two or three days at a time.

Are you OK about being away from the U.S. through the holiday season?
My mom is actually here through Thanksgiving: I flew her out for the opening and she has stayed on, which is awesome. But I find at this time of year that I’m rarely at home anyway, what with touring with my music or whatever. I’m not someone who really attaches those kinds of feelings to a particular place so [being abroad] is OK.

Is there anything about London you’re especially loving?
This may sound like a bit of a joke but I’m definitely a bit of a hamburger guy. Most people who know me will not be surprised to hear that I’ve found this incredible place called Bleecker Burgers and have been going there; I’m probably one of their most frequent customers, though I look forward as well to rediscovering fish and chips!