If you are a fan of macabre humor you will love this insight into Poe offered by Black Button Eyes Productions’ talented ensemble.
A musical written by Jonathan Christenson (book, music and lyrics), it investigates the life of one of America’s favorite poets and novelists purported to be the father of the modern detective mystery as well as a talented spinner of tales of horror and suspense.
Act One covers separation and death in the young boy’s life as well as his proximity to mental illness which together with an active imagination combined to create horrific visions and fantasies.
Act Two continues to explore the impact of his youthful experiences on his life and his work culminating in a suggestion of mystery surrounding his abrupt and unexplained demise.
Though the material is dark it is skillfully balanced by a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps it entertaining and fun.
The production is brilliantly cast. Each of the seven performers Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager could not be more perfect for their respective roles.
There is no competition on stage or mugging for the spotlight. Director, Ed Rutherford seems to have a clear vision that is well executed including important lighting (Liz Cooper) and sound effects (Robert Hornbostel). The surprise treatment of Poe’s great love “Sissy” is charming.
Music Director Nick Sula with the aid of his three piece band including synthesizer does an outstanding job setting and maintaining the fast pace that keeps the action moving.
If you are familiar with the works of Poe you cannot help but anticipate what they will do with his famous poem the “The Raven” which does not disappoint.
If you are a fan of vocal harmony you will love this score. Though lacking a real breakout number, Christenson’s music is very sophisticated and has a modern but slightly nostalgic feel that lends itself perfectly to the historic storyline.
Every performer has a beautiful voice – so much so that I would be willing to watch this as a concert without the splendid costumes of Beth Laske-Miller and campy choreography of Derek Van Barham.
The venue is super comfy with great sightlines and sound system operated by Kirstin Johnson was well modulated making the rapid musical dialogue easy to hear and understand.
This is a short run so get tickets before it can be seen “nevermore.”
DETAILS: Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago through Jan. 28, 2018. For tickets and other information visit Black Button Eyes Productions.
Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is a proud alum of the Egdar Alan Poe Elementary School (K-5) in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood.
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