If aliens with little knowledge of human beings decided to write a musical about Edgar Allan Poe, but somewhere along the way confused him with one of Tim Burton’s misfits, they couldn’t do much worse than Nevermore: The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. To call it bad—and it is atrocious—is almost to miss the point, since this is a jaw-dropping disaster of unimaginable proportions. I’m not even sure how it exists, it feels more like a joke on 30 Rock: the Edgar Allan Poe musical, where he and his siblings sing, “My name is Henry, / I’m Edgar, / I’m Rosie, / We are the family Poe,” and at thirteen, Edgar (played by the adult Scott Shpeley), cries, “I don’t want to be loved for my tender heart or my gentle disposition!”
It is tempting to write that Nevermore is an insult to a great American writer, but it bears so little resemblance to the man or his work (with the exception of some cute nods to ravens and one-eyed men) that this, too, isn’t quite accurate. Instead, it exists in a world with oversized hardbacks covered in dust and quills with two-foot feathers. The cast, who look more like the members of Blink 182 than nineteenth-century Americans, seem to have been given free reign at Hot Topic, and their hair is gelled into all varieties of mohawks, fauxhawks, and cone-shaped structures that don’t yet have names. True, there is initially some schadenfreude in seeing presumably self-respecting people wheel around like marionettes and sing profoundly stupid lines like (in this case of Edgar’s foster mother), “She made a mean cinnamon toast!” Just as one can enjoy watching a train wreck. But a train wreck lasts at most two or three minutes. Nevermore runs over two hours.