Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Nevermore

Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. Written & Directed by Jonathan Christenson.

Aside (where I am off point): In order to class up the joint a bit (and because movie night was play night last week) I'm going to talk about Nevermore, a musical about Edgar Allan Poe. I know, I know, unless you live in Canada you can't rush out to see this just yet, but it's doing right well and I expect it'll make the rounds any time now.

Double Aside (to Canadians only): Run out, see it and tell all your American friends how great it was, even if you don't like it. How often do we get things first?

Preconceptions (hoopskirts and dark eye makeup, what was a girl to think?): I grew up as an overly cheerful little goth girl and while I've had to trade a lot of my fishnet for work appropriate sweaters, I'm still a Tim Burton fan in my bones. Needless to say hearing about this play and seeing promo pictures that looked like this: left me pretty excited. The Catalyst Theater company has put on some neat plays and I hoped this wouldn't be an exception.

General Review (could I really spoil the life story of well known, highly biographied, long dead man?): While I know I shouldn't talk about how pretty the costumes were before I talk about the songs, acting or the writing....well, then they shouldn't have made the costumes so pretty (and I shouldn't have been made so shallow). It had all the bustiers, strappy boots, stripes and giant hats I could hope for. And more to the point, the costumes made it very clear which characters where which even when the actors were playing multiple characters.

But on to more substantive thoughts (Oh pretty, so pretty!). The Granville Art Club Theater is a small venue. Some of the shows I've seen there have really felt the lack of the big stage and giant sets. They've looked under-produced and unfin
ished, more like a half hearted dress rehersal than a play. This was not the case with Nevermore. One of it's most noticeable charms was its simple set and small cast. While it could certainly be dressed up to fill a larger space it was perfectly at home in our little theater (and if you get a chance to come here, do. It's a great theater and because it's a bit small there really aren't any bad seats. Even crammed down in the bottom corner, which was all our poor selves could afford). This is a show that could fit anywhere.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the voices and presence of the actors. Nevermor
e only had seven cast members. But the cast managed to make it feel like there was a full chorus. And while there weren't any giant dance number (this isn't a musical about tap dancing, after all) the little awkward clockwork dances were charming. I particularly want to mention Scott Shpeley who played Edgar. The majority of his role was silent except for an occasionally singing with the chorus or a line here and there. He managed to be engaging and expressive (without coming off like a silent street performer). Unfortunately, it wasn't all stop motion dancing and hair sculptures. When you're writing a musical about a famous poet awkward phrasing and painful rhymes are something to be avoided. There was a lot that I liked about this show and a handful of the songs were quite powerful. However, more than a handful of them were not. A lot of unnessary reptition and Yoda-like lines to make the rhymes work.

The full first quarter of the show made me wonder if
I was seeing a pantomime dressed up for a fetish night (there was even a horrifying panto-horse!). Fortunately, as Poe matured in the story, so did some of the songs. Believe me when I tell you, you'll know when you hit the turning point: gruesome cruelty.

Despite having some failings and weak first 25 minutes (excluding the opening number, which was carnvale barker catchy) it was still a good play, not great, but good. Also, credit for being one of the first good musicals I've seen in ages that isn't nearly as old as I am.

There isn't a soundtrack to this show yet, but Catalys
t has put up a couple of videos so that you can have a taste. You can find their main song here, their YouTube playlist here and you can find out about future shows here.

Random Thoughts
: It had quite a bit less men dancing with men than I expected (which was all, all dancing with men).

Well, maybe not all my fishnet and lace:

Photos of the show unscrupulously borrowed from the Catalyst website, all credit to Bretta Gerecke. I wanted to show off how the play looked and somehow, I don't think they'd have appreciated my flash photography in the middle of the show.

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