Actor Jordan Dobson’s journey to the hit musical Hadestown

Actor Jordan Dobson is cherishing every moment in the Underworld

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Published: January 27, 2022 | Updated: March 22nd, 2022 at 4:38 pm

Actor Jordan Dobson gets ready backstage for his role as Orpheus
Backstage at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York, Jordan Dobson prepares to go on as Orpheus.

The young man I saw on Broadway two Fridays ago rushes to our Zoom call and immediately apologizes for his late arrival. He is sweet and generous with his time. Jordan Dobson is a busy man right now: he’s performing the lead role of Orpheus in Hadestown until Jan. 30. 

The musical Hadestown tells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It has been on Broadway since March 2019, and was nominated for 14 Tony Awards. It won eight, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

Dobson is taking over as Orpheus from original actor Reeve Carney, as Carney is on break and returns after Dobson’s run ends. 

When we got on Zoom, Dobson had just come from a voice lesson and was now in his dressing room, already preparing for the 7 p.m. performance. As he sits down to tell me about his involvement, I notice how perfect his curly black hair is for the show. It’s great for the mythical Greek look he’s supposed to have, while representing his character’s innocence. It is incredible to have Dobson in front of me after the honor of seeing him perform in his first show ever on Jan. 14. I told him the ending of the show broke my heart.

“​​It is heartbreaking. But what is life without heartbreak?” Dobson responded. “There’s such beauty in the ending to me … I love it, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Dobson was supposed to be part of Hadestown a few times, but it hadn’t worked out until now. He was previously in 2019’s West Side Story — his Broadway debut — and one of his co-stars had been in Hadestown. 

“He was like: ‘Hey, I’m listening to your voice and it sounds really good for Hadestown,’” Dobson recalled. “And I was like, oh, I used to listen to the album.” 

Dobson was already a fan of the show, so he started auditioning for Hadestown’s tour … for Orpheus.

“And I didn’t get it. And they were talking to me about, you know, other parts for the tour,” Dobson said. “And I decided, I don’t know if that’s the best fit.”

Dobson was already in West Side Story and he was happy there. West Side Story was canceled in 2020 and didn’t come back after Broadway’s reopening. 

When Hadestown re-opened, they approached Dobson to be in the show. Due to scheduling conflicts and other commitments, Dobson as Orpheus still didn’t happen. He was doing other projects during the pandemic, like workshopping the Neil Diamond show A Beautiful Noise (which premieres this year).

But then, a few weeks later, Carney’s movie commitment demanded another Orpheus.

“So out of nowhere, they were like ‘Hey, we actually now need someone to play Orpheus,’” Dobson says. “So I came back in and just did a work session. And then they’re like, it’s you.”

Dobson was delighted.

“I have friends that I was auditioning with for the tour,” Dobson said. “And they’re like, ‘I remember being in the room with you for the tour, and now seeing you playing the role on Broadway… how it all came back full circle.’”

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Jordan Dobson poses for a headshot at a studio in the East Village in 2021.

Before he finally performed on Jan. 14, Dobson followed an intense rehearsal process.

“I had a few rehearsals of just me and our resident director in a studio, and me and our music director in a studio, learned all the music first, and then started learning the blocking with the resident director,” Dobson said. 

It’s one thing for Dobson to rehearse in a studio, but the Hadestown set has a giant turntable embedded into the stage that’s used for big moments in the show.

“It was kind of hard to translate the blocking of this show, specifically from a studio to the actual stage, because of the turntables and the hydraulics, and all of that’s going on,” Dobson explained. “So I was lucky enough to be able to, to do a bunch of understudy rehearsals to actually be on the stage with them.”

Dobson would also watch the show every night. 

“There’s so many technical elements to the show that pretty much how many times you try to do it, there’s always room to improve to make the magic as real as possible.”

Dobson said Carney has helped him greatly with the role.

“Reeve has been amazing with answering any questions and guiding me through,” Dobson said. 

Dobson explained that only Carney could help him understand very specific elements about Orpheus, like how to make a rose appear out of your hand in the middle of a powerful scene.

“[Carney] just sits me down and talks me through anything I need to know.”

Dobson also said Carney was in the audience for a show this week, supporting him.

As excited as Dobson was to be in this show, he was also anxious due to the fan base. Hadestown has been a beloved hit for a while, and it has kept its original cast for the most part — Patrick Page, André De Shields, Amber Gray and Eva Noblezada — and they are all on stage with Dobson. 

“You know how fans can be, ‘that’s not the guy from the show, we all know [Carney],’” Dobson said. “But this fanbase has been extremely supportive and extremely excited to see a new Orpheus.”

Dobson was a huge fan of Noblezada, who plays Eurydice. The actor saw her on Broadway when she played Kim in Miss Saigon

“I fangirl over her constantly,” Dobson said.

He also had the same dressing room they used for Miss Saigon for West Side Story, and was freaking out then.

Carney and Noblezada are the usual suspects in the show, but are also a couple in real life. The chemistry between them is absolute, so Dobson was nervous when he stepped in to play Noblezada’s love interest.

“I thought it was gonna be weird,” Dobson said, laughing. “But I fully believe that Eva is completely in love with me every night because she’s such a brilliant actress.”

Dobson said there is pure magic for him in Eva’s eyes during the show and then when they’re off stage, back in their dressing room Dobson asks how Carney is doing.

“Both of them are super cool, they’re just super awesome to hang out with.”

Before he was on Broadway, Dobson wanted to be a band teacher. He involved himself with theater in school, but never thought more of it. After he saw a production of Parade during his senior year of high school, it changed his life.

“I was just floored,” Dobson said. “I was like ‘nothing has ever made me feel like this.’”

While flipping through the playbill, he saw that a girl from Temple University — located in Philadelphia where Dobson is from — was in the show.

“Oh my goodness, she’s in this magical production,” Dobson said to himself, stunned.

So the now-Orpheus decided to go to Temple University and study musical theater.

Temple University professor Amina Robinson expressed how happy she was to hear Dobson was doing so well. 

“I don’t even know that I have words for Jordan,” she said. “There will be Temple University students who come through and who just like go in my chest, grab a piece of my heart and just take it with them out into the world. And Jordan was one of those students … He’s just a sweetheart.”

She taught Dobson and later directed him in The Color Purple. Dobson even got her the job. When the creative team was looking for a Black director, Dobson immediately thought of Robinson. 

“‘Do you know Amina Robinson? You need to call her,’ [Dobson said]. And so they did and I was interviewed, but if Jordan hadn’t said that, I would have never gotten it,” Robinson said. 

Robinson said that The Color Purple with Dobson was one of her favorite experiences of all time. 

She’s also really happy he’s staying true to himself while being in the entertainment industry.

“For Jordan, it’s always about the art … he really gets into the craft of things. And it’s not just about the notoriety, or you know, doing big shows,” Robinson said. “So, he’s the lead in Hadestown and for him it’s a great fun role.” 

Dobson plays Orpheus in Hadestown on Broadway until Jan. 30.

Avatar for Gabriel Veiga

is a graduate student in the Arts Journalism program and a contributor for The NewsHouse.