Director Eric Schaeffer's cast includes Broadway's Daniel Cooney as Poe, Florence Lacey and Jacquelyn Piro, among others. Helen Hayes Award winner Schaeffer also handles musical staging for the show, which boasts sounds that include gospel and pop.
With music Matt Conner, book by Grace Barnes and lyrics adapted from the writings of American fiction writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe, Nevermore "uses Poe's poetry and short stories as its base and his shifting obsessions with the women in his life as its catalyst," according to Signature. "With hauntingly beautiful melodies, Nevermore breathes new life into Poe's work and explores a twisted true-life tale as bizarre as his classic stories of the macabre."
The title is drawn from Poe's famous poem, "The Raven," about the bird with a knack for omen.
Opening is set for Jan. 15. Performances continue to Feb. 26.
"It's a bold, exciting new musical that breaks boundaries, challenges audiences, and brings Poe's passion and obsessions to life in a most extraordinary way," Schaeffer said in production notes. "What’s particularly exciting about Nevermore is that it breaks many musical theatre conventions. It doesn't have a linear story. I like to describe the show as a cross between an American musical and Cirque de Soleil. The characters come to life and interact in very alarming ways — as people, voices, ghosts, and demons. Nevermore is a journey of death flashing before Poe's eyes. It's a montage, a whirlwind, a dream, a life and a nightmare all in one. But first, and always first, it's theatre." A Signature Theatre commission, Nevermore has been in development for two years. Composer Matt Conner picked up a copy of Poe's poems from a bookstore discount bin and, as an exercise, sat at his piano and tried to put the poetry to music.
"The works of Edgar Allan Poe are more universal than one might suspect at first glance," Conner said in notes. "His words are filled with themes of love, hate, hope, horror, passion, and fear. As a composer, it was particularly his poetry filled with meter, rhythm, and dramatic sounds that inspired me. Even Poe, critically panned in his day for his 'musicality' as a writer, felt that true beauty was the combination of music and poetry. Thus was born the collaboration of Nevermore with a lyricist almost 200 years old."
The Nevermore company includes Daniel Cooney (Broadway's Les Miserables) as Edgar, Florence Lacey (Broadway's Evita, The Grand Tour, Hello, Dolly!, Les Miserables, An Evening With Jerry Herman, ) as Mother, Channez McQuay as Muddy, Amy McWilliams as a Whore, Jacquelyn Piro (Les Miserables and Miss Saigon) as Elmira and Lauren Williams as Virginia.
Conner, a graduate of the Conservatory of Music at Shenandoah University, described the music as "a gospel inspired sound with a mixture of pop that at times is on the verge of rock" that "lifts the listener above and beyond the lyrics to an ethereal journey filled with colors, textures, and emotions."
Nevermore begins at the end of Poe's life, when the master of horror was found semiconscious in Baltimore on Oct. 3, 1849. "Taken to a hospital, he passed from delirium to unconsciousness, but never fully recovered to tell how he had arrived in such a condition," according to Signature.
"Poe's delirious mind" was "an invitation to dramatic exploration for the creators of Nevermore."
According to playwright Grace Barnes (Zander's Boat, American premiere at Signature) she was "resolved that Nevermore not become purely a biographical retelling of Poe's life, but more a response to the poetry, tenuously linked by his relationships with a number of women who had a major influence on his life. And therefore his writing.
"When I reread his poems, I was struck by the amazing imagery driving them, and the fact that no two readers would interpret them in the same way. But I make no claim to be a Poe expert. I approached Nevermore with the simple desire to make the words of Edgar Allen Poe mean more than just a name — or a quote — to audience members. To bring him to life and to explore the relationships which resulted in the poetry that remains with us today."
Matt Conner and Grace Barnes have been commissioned by Signature Theatre to write a musical about the Underground Railroad.
The creative team includes Jenny Cartney (music director), Jonathan Tunick (orchestrator), Derek McLane (scenic designer), Jenn Miller (costume designer), Mark Lanks (lighting designer) and Tony Angelini (sound designer).
Nevermore is the final show artistic director Eric Schaeffer will direct in Signature's current converted-garage location. Two productions remain in the 2005-06 season before the Helen Hayes Award-winning Equity company moves into its new two-theatre complex over the summer.
The grand opening of the new space is scheduled for September 2006 with Schaeffer directing Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.
For more information, contact Tickets.com or (800) 955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org.