PICKSINSIX Review: NEVERMORE
"Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared..."
What’s It About ... tracing the poet's macabre and troubled life, loves and premature death, Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is framed on a steamer bound for New York, with Poe in and among the Elderado Players, a band of actors who we come to know as all of the characters in his life's story. The Chicago-premiere of this fascinating operatic/sung-through musical, directed by Ed Rutherford, is anchored by the terrific performance of Kevin Webb as Edgar and a marvelous supporting cast who cleverly share Poe's iconic narrator duties all night long.
Why you should see it ... for most of us, Poe’s work is strangely familiar, but, the story behind the storyteller, well, not so much. Imaginary or not, 'Nevermore' includes subtle and not so subtle references of pits, pendulums, ravens, sorted deaths, one-eyed stepfathers and a multitude of other references that would be sorely missed if they were not there. In truth, this production could easily go to a much darker place if not for the artistic choice to allow the music and poetry to tell the tale. In the end, nothing is as it seems and dreams like 'those no mortal ever dared to dream' do come true. Have no fear. Despite whatever you think you know about Edgar Allan Poe, this ‘Nevermore’ will really keep you guessing.
The heart of the story ... abandoned by his actor/father, struggling with the untimely death of his singer/mother and coping with the resettlement of his siblings, young Edgar lands in the House of Allan, and has a brief but tumultuous relationship with his stepmother. Forced to school by his stepfather, he succumbs to melancholy when he is duped into believing that the love of his life has abandoned him. Returning home, he rebels against his stepfather’s authority, thrusts himself into writing and despite all odds, captures the imagination and attention of a celebrated publisher. Success is somewhat fleeting, however, and ultimately leads to loss and despair. How Edgar and the players face the dark edges of his life, with regular doses of delightfully macabre humor, is at the heart of this story and speaks to how Poe lived his own – often outcast and alone, always brilliant and to the brink of madness.
What to watch and wait for ... in a production about Poe called "Nevermore" underscored so artfully by musical director Nick Sula, one would expect that the title song – herein, “The Raven” – would be a standout. And you would be right. You will also like the Misses Duval and every member of the ensemble in a variety of roles - Megan DeLay(Elmira), Maiko Terazawa(Fanny), Jessica Lauren Fisher(Eliza), Ryan Lanning(Henry), Matt McNab(Jock) and Jeremy Trager(Rufus).
Songs in the key of Poe … among the memorable and melodious treasures within the rich Poe-liously dense score are Webb’s superb "The Death of Eliza" … "The Family Poe and Hush! Hush!" … "The Raven"
A few memorable moments … “The children of actors! Are you out of your mind!?!”... “When it comes to the French, beware!” … “There is beauty where there is hope.”
Black Button Eyes Productions
The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
A Musical by Jonathan Christenson
The Edge Theater
5451 N Broadway
through January 28th