"We did this two years ago, [and] it was a regional premiere of the work," says Michael McKelvey, Doctuh Mistuh Productions’ artistic director. “A friend of mine sent the soundtrack and I thought it was one of the most inventive things I’d seen, so I brought it here to Austin.”
That 2016 production of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe was a big hit for Doctuh Mistuh, selling plenty of tickets and winning a handful of awards. Given the popularity of the show and it’s appropriateness for the Halloween season, it made sense to bring Nevermore back this October.
“The holiday season was coming up – Halloween -- and the guys from Penfold said, ‘Do you want to do a revival?’” McKelvey says. “And I wasn’t doing anything else, [so] I said ‘Yeah!’”
He originally thought it’d be easy to throw the show together again.
“We kept the show pretty much intact. The costumes by Glenda Wolfe were these amazing, Tim Burtonesque costumes… [and] she kept the whole show together,” McKelvey says. “We kept a lot of the same prop pieces – we had these very exaggerated, strange looking baby puppets – they’re not really puppets, but these figures. Teresa Carson built all of that [and] and we kept all of that intact, so we knew we’d do a remount. And then I kept most of the same cast,” All signs pointed to an easy revival.
“And then before I knew it, I went, ‘Oh, this show’s really hard!’” McKelvey says. It’s a pretty complicated show, even if you’ve done it before. It’s got some elaborate sets, costumes, and props, and it’s a musical.
“The music’s really hard, too – they speak in this kind of rhyming, metered verse [in addition to the songs],” McKelvey says. “There’s over 450 sound cues in it, too. It’s just a lot.”
Despite the difficulty of restaging Nevermore, McKelvey’s happy to be revisiting the show and to change things up a bit this time. “We reinvented I think about 25 percent of the show.”
Nevermore is based on Poe’s life and death, but it’s by no means a straight biography of the author. “It’s a very loose bio of him – it involves him and his work,” McKelvey says. “It’s really telling his story … through his poems and how they interact with his life.”
“And then the end of the show really tackles the subject of his death, which is one of folklore,” says McKelvey. “I mean, there’s been so many different retellings of how we really died. I’m not sure anybody knows the facts. He was found in an alley on a damp evening … but no one really knows what brought him to that alley. That’s why it’s called The Mysterious Death.”