Patrick Page admits to being the “the old man” of “Hadestown” – but “being the one who’s been there the longest doesn’t necessarily make you the wisest,” the Tony nominee jokes. Still, Page now feels it’s time to take his final bow.
Page, who stars as Hades in the musical inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, will have his final performance in “Hadestown” on Dec. 30, TheWrap can announce exclusively.
The fearsome stalwart of the New York stage has been with “Hadestown” longer than any current performer, having originated the role of Hades Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016 before taking it through Canada, London and eventually Broadway, where it’s sat as one of the gems of original, boundary-pushing musical theater for the last three years. Onscreen, Page can currently be seen in “Evil,” “Schmigadoon!” and “The Gilded Age,” and he next co-stars as the pitch-perfect ghostly cohort of Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds in Apple’s holiday musical, “Spirited,” due out Nov. 11.
In an exclusive exit interview with TheWrap, Page recalls being thrown into the deep end with Ferrell, Reynolds and Octavia Spencer for the musical comedy; his interest in a “Hadestown” film adaptation; and, as himself a hard-of-hearing performer, what he really thought about that closed captioning snafu from his Broadway co-star, Lillias White.
Congratulations on such an incredible run in “Hadestown.” Why is now the time for you to take your last bow as Hades?
I think that’s something you feel in your gut, and in your heart. It’’s not a head decision. There comes a time when you’re in a long-running show, where something in your heart says, “I completed my work here.” And I’ve come to that point with a number of long-running shows I’ve done, and there’s no fixed answer as to how or why it occurs. I started with the show in 2016, so that’s six years ago, almost seven. And then through incarnations of the show now in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, at London’s National Theatre and now for two full years on Broadway — two full years of performing and three full years in terms of the actual being of the show because it was interrupted by a year of the pandemic. So it’s just something that you know, your heart says, “OK, now we go.”
I guess that’s the only thing that you can really rely on.
It’s not to do with any kind of dissatisfaction; it’s done with total love and joy. I still adore the role and the show and everything about it. I love going into work. And who’s to say that it might not come back into my life at some point in some form or another. But for now, it’s time to say goodbye.
As you said, you’ve been with the show since 2016. From the currently standing cast, that makes you the longest-running performer who’s been involved with “Hadestown.” Do you at all wear that badge in the ensemble? Are you the patriarch backstage?
Oh, my goodness. I’m the old man. I’m the oldest one in the building. As you say, I’ve seen the show through, you know, the most incarnations. I guess what that means is that if somebody has a question or a concern about something, they could ask me my opinion, but I probably wouldn’t offer it out of the blue. I tried to keep some humility about the fact. You know, being the one who’s been there the longest doesn’t necessarily make you the wisest.
I think what it does is it gives me a real appreciation for the various incarnations of the show, and for the work that’s been done, so that when something happens onstage, I can kind of see the roots of where that tree grew from. It’s sometimes grown into a different tree as different people inhabit a role over time, I’ve seen a number of people play all of these roles. And so that gives me a perspective and some sense of peace that the show itself has a life above and beyond any individual incarnation or any individual performer.
I did want to ask you about something that happened a few weeks back with “Hadestown,” as it relates to the show’s new Hermes, Lillias White. She mistakenly called out an audience member for using a closed-captioning device, thinking it was a recording device. The production responded saying that it is “a reminder that this is an ongoing process needing constant revisiting and renewal.” How can accessibility be better implemented or streamlined in theater so that such hiccups don’t continue happening?
Yeah, I mean, a number of things about that. The first one is, I don’t know if you’re aware, some people are aware, and some people are not. But I am severely hearing impaired. I have about 20% of normal hearing. So I wear hearing aids in order to hear. Right now I’m wearing devices to hear you, but it’s still a little touch and go. And I obviously wear the hearing aids during the show that are calibrated to the show itself, and they are then calibrated differently during the day. And then I wear a different set of hearing aids when I’m on camera that’s in the ear canal. So they don’t show outside the ear at all. So I’m very familiar with the problem of going to the theater as a hard-of-hearing person and not being able to hear. I’m grateful that there are now technologies like these closed-captioning devices that can help with that, because, for me, for example, when I go to a musical even if I’m aware, the assisted-hearing devices that are offered in most theaters, a musical’s band and voices blend in such a way which to my ears sounds like a washed-up sound, and I can’t make out the lyrics. So having the lyrics in front of me is extremely helpful. Having said that, I haven’t used one of those devices yet in the theater. And I don’t attend a lot of musicals for that reason, especially in musicals that are heavily sung through like “Hadestown.”
So I’m grateful for those devices. I’m also aware of the other people around me and that I’m in an audience and I’m not alone. I actually haven’t held one of these things in my hand, so I assume that the screen is dark enough and good enough that it doesn’t distract the people who are attending to the person using the closed-captioning device.
What I have learned from having been involved in a number of sort of “incidents” and shows that have become points of contention on the internet, where there’s been some kind of incident that people become involved with or interested in in some way, and then render their opinions on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever it is, is that one actually never knows what’s going on. One should be very hesitant to render an opinion in the absence of all of the facts. So I actually don’t know all of the details of any of this … I don’t imagine that misunderstandings like that will be happening very frequently in the future, and I say that as a person who’s hearing impaired. I think that accessibility everywhere, as we become more aware of just the things everybody’s dealing with on a daily basis, it’s just having some understanding and compassion for one another is the bottom line.
On the topic of musicals, let’s jump into “Spirited.” I was so charmed by this movie. This is your first time working with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, a pair of the biggest talents in musical theater today. What was that like? And looking to their work in “Spirited,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” what makes their work so resonant?
I have not worked with them, and I’m embarrassed to say I was not that familiar — primarily because of my hearing impairment. A show, for example, like “Dear Evan Hansen” is not something that will draw me because I’m not going to be able to enjoy it the way the rest of the audience is enjoying it. But what I what I can do is listen to an album with a headset, and then I can hear it perfectly. But I hadn’t done that. It’s terribly embarrassing to say; nowadays it’s like saying you don’t know about Rodgers and Hammerstein.
And so I was cast in the movie, and I thought, well, I better bone up on these guys. So I got the albums of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “The Greatest Showman” and I started listening. And I said to my wife, “These young men are geniuses.” Every song they write is melodic and stays with me. I’ll listen to something while I’m in the gym working out. And then that tune, you know, “Waving Through a Window,” whatever it is, it’s then in my mind pleasantly for the rest of the day.
I went to Will Ferrell because he isn’t very conversant with the musical theater vocabulary. And he said to me, “These are really good, right?” I said, “Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. These guys are really, really gifted.”
Working with Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds and Octavia Spencer–you were kind of the veteran of musical theater in this “Hollywood” space. Was anyone coming to you for tips or tricks?
[laughs] They sort of treated me that way. It made me giggle because, of course, in the musical theater community, I feel like a little bit of a black sheep, not that anybody treats me that way. I’m not a singer like Brian Stokes Mitchell or any of those traditional, wonderful baritones that sing beautifully. I can’t dance. I’m a little bit of an outlier in terms of the musical theater world, I stumbled into it. To be thought of as an “expert” is silly because I am so not an expert.
What was the energy on set? I imagine with Ryan and Will, in particular, you guys were doing some ad libbing and improvisation.
That is going to be one of the great surprises when people see this movie: It’s hilarious in its own right, separate from being a Christmas movie, separate from being a musical. It is just a great buddy comedy, and they’re a great comedic team. And yes, the mood onset — the director, Sean Anders, is just extraordinary at company-building and giving the sort of the feeling on set that we’re going to have a great time and within the boundaries, anything goes. And so yes, of course, you have these two comic geniuses, and their ad libbing and I’ve got to ad lib back, don’t I? Because there’s nothing written down. And so it’s tremendously fun to sort of be thrown into the deep end of the comedic pool that way.
One of my favorite parts of the film is your big musical number with the initial haunting of Reynolds’ character as Jacob Marley. It’s the first time we see you in full ghostly costume. What was the process for getting into hair and makeup? Were you in that chair for awhile?
The makeup takes about three hours. The extraordinary technicians, what they do is they take out a cast of your own head, and then these makeup artists sculpt this beautiful, outrageous, terrifying corpse on the shape, and then lay it over your face piece by piece by piece, and paint it in an extraordinary detail. I’m happy to be the model for that piece of art. I’ve always enjoyed playing underneath makeup in that way. I’ve always enjoyed mask work, whether it’s the Grinch, or the Green Goblin or the ghost of Jacob Marley, suddenly, you as an actor are released and freed to behave in ways that you would have never thought of behaving if you didn’t have the mask on.
And finally, you teased a bit before there may be an unforeseen circumstance where “Hadestown” plays a role in your life going forward. If we were to ever get a screen adaptation, is that something you would be interested in doing?
Yes, full stop.