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Betty Who describes the difference between performing as a pop star and live on Broadway

In her own words, “Hadestown”’s new Persephone bares her soul in this revelation about the demands of pop music versus theater.

Betty Who takes a bow after her first performance as Persephone in “Hadestown” on Broadway (Credit: Andy Henderson)

The week before I made my Broadway debut in “Hadestown,” I saw the incredible Sean Hayes play Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar.” I had just finished another day of “Hadestown” rehearsals. Details of where to stand and when to stand there were seeping out of my very tired and overworked brain. I found that seeing shows while I was in rehearsals kept me inspired  — there are hundreds of people in this city who remember where to stand and when!! They remember tap dances and scene changes and when to interrupt someone so that it doesn’t feel anticipatory. The faces of Broadway in 2023 made me feel like there was hope for me. Like I, too, would one day not only remember every moment of my “Hadestown” staging but also be able to enjoy it — be able to bring it to life.

I took my seat at the Belasco Theatre and realized, not even three minutes into this play, that there were tears in my eyes. My breath had already caught in my throat, and Sean hadn’t even come onstage yet. I mean, we’re only just getting started here! No huge plot points have been revealed, there is zero feasible reason for my overly emotional response. But I look at Emily Bergl, playing Oscar’s wife June Levant, as she sets the scene for us, giving the audience the context we need to jump into this world with these characters. And I realize why I’m already crying.

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