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Cleveland natives shine on stage in 'Hadestown' at Playhouse Square

They call return home a 'dream come true'
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Posted at 10:47 AM, Feb 08, 2023

CLEVELAND — The glitz and glamour of Broadway are on full display in the CLE.

The critically acclaimed Tony and Grammy award-winning "Hadestown" officially started its run at Playhouse Square as part of the Keybank Broadway Series.

The production is garnering major praise—and it is thanks in part to two talented Cleveland natives.

"Hadestown" is a labor of love for the performers.

They say having the opportunity to act it in their hometown is a dream come true.

When actresses Hannah Whitley and Nyla Watson hit the stage in "Hadestown," they do it with pride and they do it for their city.

"We're talking serious Cleveland connection," Whitley said.

"Cleveland born and bred—all day," Watson said.

Performing in the touring Broadway hit as "Eurydice" is a pinnacle career moment for Whitley.

She's a Twinsburg High School graduate with fond memories of Cleveland's theatre district dating way back to childhood.

"I remember my Mom took me to see Lion King, and that was at Playhouse Square. That was the first Broadway thing I ever saw," Whitley said.

Watson, who graduated from Bedford High School and Baldwin Wallace University, has serious, almost surreal ties to Playhouse Square.

Back in the day—she volunteered there as a red coat.

From taking tickets and seating guests to now taking center stage—playing "Fate" and stepping in to play "Persephone," she says are a blessing from God.

"I signed up for the Stars Program when I was in high school, and I used to usher down here to see shows for free." Watson said.

"Hadestown" is a modern-day musical based on ancient Greek mythology's Orpheus and his love Eurydice.

The musical mixes New Orleans style jazz with folk.

It takes the audience on a hell-raising journey of love stories all the way through the underworld.

"People should come to this show cause they'll see themselves, ya know? I think that this is one of those shows where art really does imitate life," Watson said.

Both Watson and Whitley credit their strong faith in God and supportive families for the never-ending support in achieving their success.

Whitley's aunt is beloved Shaker Heights native comedian and actress Kym Whitley.

She credits her for helping her nail the song for the audition which landed her the role. Fresh out of graduating from Ball State—Hannah was working as Whitley's son's nanny at the time.

"She just looks at me and she goes, 'I want you to make me feel something. Do it again.' And I do it again, and she goes, 'that's how you do it!'" Whitley said.

Watson says her heart remains in The Land, regardless of where she performs next.

She praises the city for helping shape her into the star performer she is today.

"I've had Cleveland behind me always. I've always been able to come back to my foundation, and it propelled me forward."

"Hadestown" runs now through Feb. 19 at the Connor Palace.

CLICK HERE for showtimes and ticket information.