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“Nevermore” at Encore (Review) March 20, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Simply put, Encore Musical Theatre Company’s “Nevermore” is the best production they have presented. Period.

Dan Cooney is exceptional in a role he originally created for the Signature Theater in Arlington, and here both stars and directs. And he is surrounded by a terrific supporting cast of five women. Weaving lyrics adopted from the writings of Edgar Allen Poe into a cohesive whole telling the story of Poe’s demon-driven life and relationships, the music by Matt Conner is melodic, the Book by Grace Barnes is satisfying, and the performances here terrific.

Set design, sound design, lighting design, orchestra, and costume design are all first-rate here, and the entire production can simply be described as Encore’s first all-around professional caliber offering.

Supporting Cooney (as Poe) are outstanding performances from Elizabeth Jaffe (Virginia); Erin Donevan (The Whore); Thalia Schramm (Elmira), Sonja Marquis (Muddy), and Marlene Inman-Reilly (Mother).

But it’s Cooney’s show from start to finish. He strikes just the right note in every single moment of this 90-minute musical and vocally is at the top of his form. His performance is exceptional — look for his name come award-time in Detroit at the end of the season. Bravo.

When Encore first opened its doors a couple seasons ago, this was the type of musical theater most of us had hoped for and envisioned, not the generic community-theater caliber shows they have generally presented. Curiously, they call this a part of their “On the Edge” series when it should be exactly the type of theater that they should always be producing if they truly wish to consider themselves “professional” and put themselves on the map.

Sadly, I saw the closing performance of this production since I was in Europe since it’s opening a few weeks ago. I would happily have seen this show a second time, and brought more friends along to introduce them to the theater. It’s something Encore should be very proud of. At last.

I say, get rid of the “on the edge” monicker, start doing more productions like this, dump the Annie’s and Sound of Music’s and leave those to the community theaters, and start watching audiences arrive from all over the southeast Michigan area.

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