Review: Nevermore (Black Button Eyes Productions)

| January 15, 2018

Kevin Webb and Matt McNabb star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes Productions             


Book/Music/Lyrics by Jonathan Christenson
at Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway (map)
thru Jan 28  |  tix: $30  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Creepy and cool Chicago premiere


Kevin Webb, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Megan DeLay, Jeremy Trager and Jessica Lauren Fisher

Black Button Eyes Productions presents
Nevermore: The Imaginary Life
   and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

Review by Lauren Whalen

Edgar Allan Poe was an iconic American poet and writer, whose “The Telltale Heart” and “The Raven” are instantly familiar even to those who haven’t actually read them. (Fun fact: my first encounter with “The Raven” was when The Simpsonsfirst Halloween special presented the poem in its entirety.) But who was Edgar Allan Poe, really? How did such a talent end up alcoholic and passed-out in a Baltimore hospital where his life ultimately ended? Black Button Eyes Productions, a company known for its fantastical, offbeat shows, seeks to answer those questions in the Chicago premiere of Nevermore, an eerie and ultimately fun musical exploration into the life and death of a legend.

Kevin Webb and Maiko Terazawa star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes ProductionsLuck never seems to find Edgar (Kevin Webb), no matter how beautiful and haunting his words. Born Edgar Poe to an actress and an alcoholic, he’s separated from his family at a young age after his father walks out and his mother dies. Eight-year-old Edgar is taken in by the wealthy, childless Allans – while Fanny (Maiko Terazawa) supports his love of literature, Jock (Matt McNabb) dismisses his passion as frivolous. As Edgar’s life goes on, he falls in love (twice), gives university the old college try, and indulges his fascination with all things strange and ghostly. But even when Edgar becomes the toast of the town, his personal demons threaten to overwhelm his success.

Jonathan Christenson’s book, music and lyrics are witty and smart, paying tribute to Poe’s love of poetry and his obsession with the ghostly. The second act gets a little long, and the play-within-a-play structure isn’t necessary. Black Button Eyes has chosen the perfect venue for Nevermore’s Chicago premiere: The Edge Theater is both spacious and intimate, modern with a touch of old-school auditorium. With director (and Producing Artistic Director) Ed Rutherford at the helm, Nevermore pulls out all the stops with strong production values, though at times it’s a little over the top. A few select moments border on theme-park overdone, and scaling back just a bit would have produced just as effective results, but overall the visuals and sound are darkly gorgeous. Music director Nick Sula leads a small but mighty backstage band, Liz Cooper’s lighting design has a wonderful haunted-house feel, and Derek Van Barham’s choreography is, as always, perfectly spot-on. Rachelle “Rocky” Kolecke’s puppets and props are nothing short of masterful, one of which serves as a character in Poe’s life story.

Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Kevin Webb and Matt McNabb star in NevemoreKevin Webb, Megan DeLay, Matt McNabb and Maiko Terazawa star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes Kevin Webb and Matt McNabb star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes ProductionsKevin Webb, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa, Megan DeLay, Ryan Lanning, Jessica Lauren Fisher and Jeremy Trager

Nevermore also has a vocally strong cast, led by the always incredible Kevin Webb. Webb portrays Poe from age six to adulthood with aplomb, giving the character a trembling vulnerability (that gave the real Poe’s writing such heart) and a determination to win with the hand he’s dealt, that slowly erodes as life gets the better of him. Jessica Lauren Fisher is delightful as Poe’s actress mother Eliza, who appears in flashbacks throughout his life, and Maiko Terazawa shines as Fanny Allan, Poe’s foster mother who is kind and loving, but struggles with mental illness. Despite a few over-the-top touches, Nevermore is thoroughly enjoyable for fans of Edgar Allan Poe, unconventional musicals and the darker side of human (and inhuman) nature.

Rating: ★★★

Nevermore continues through January 28th at Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $30 (students with ID: $15), and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online through (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 2 hours 10 minuters, includes an intermission)

Jeremy Trager, Maiko Terazawa, Ryan Lanning, Megan DeLay and Jessica Lauren Fisher star in Nevermore

Photos by Cole Simon 




Kevin Webb (Edgar Allan Poe), Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa, Jeremy Trager  ||  Understudies: Mike Frale, Maddy Kelly, Peter Ruger


Nick Sula (conductor, keyboard, synth 1), Michael Evans (keyboard, synth 2), TJ Anderson (keyboard, synth 3), Cali Kasten (percussion)

behind the scenes

Ed Rutherford (director), Nick Sula (music director), Derek Van Barham (choreography), Jeremy Hollis (scenic design, technical director), Beth Laske-Miller (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), Robert Hornbostel (sound design), Rachelle “Rocky” Kolecke (props, puppet design), Hazel McCabe-Flowers (stage manager), Cole Simon (photos)

Maiko Terazawa, Ryan Lanning, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Jeremy Trager and Kevin Webb star in NevermoreJeremy Trager and Maiko Terazawa star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes ProductionsKevin Webb and Matt McNabb star in Nevermore at Black Button Eyes ProductionsMatt McNabb, Ryan Lanning and Kevin Webb star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes ProductionsMatt McNabb and Kevin Webb star in Nevermore, Black Button Eyes Productions


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Black Button Eyes Productions, Edge Theatre, Lauren Whalen, Musical

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