When October rolls in, there is so much to look forward to, like the start of fall, pumpkin flavored libations and treats at Starbucks, and Halloween at the end of the month. This year, you can also look forward to exploring the musical theatre compositions of Matt Conner. On Monday, October 7, 2013, La-Ti-Do welcomed an assembled cast of Matt Conner’s Nevermore, featuring Dan Cooney, Flo Lacey, Rachel Zampelli, Amy McWilliams, Lauren Williams, and Mary Payne Omohundro. Cooney played Edgar Allan Poe, and the five ladies portrayed various women in Poe’s life, such as his mother and his childhood love, to name a few. Conner began the set by mentioning the poignancy of Nevermore being featured on October 7, 2013, which is the date Poe died in 1849.
Nevermore, originally commissioned by Signature Theatre and premiered in 2006, tells the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s life through his written cannon. Conner takes the poetry of Poe, with its inherently haunting nature, and infuses a contemporary musical theatre sound, which makes for a refreshing and arresting experience. Of the songs performed, my favorite pieces were “Annabelle Lee” and “The Raven.” Both pieces involved the full company, and were with me long after I left the Black Fox Lounge that evening. In both songs, Conner uses the Poe character as the constant, and the female voices come and go throughout, the way people walk in and out of one’s life, and then eventually all of the voices weave together for effect.
Matt Conner explained how Nevermore began: “After the $5.00 purchase of an Edgar Allan Poe anthology found at a local bookstore, the birth of this new musical began. Nevermore takes place on the last night of Edgar’s life in the Streets of Baltimore where he is met by 5 women who journey along with him until his last breath. “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” are among the songs that will be performed. The Cast at La-Ti-Do includes some of the original cast members from the Signature Theatre’s World Premiere in 2006: Dan Cooney (Edgar), Flo Lacey (Mother), Amy McWilliams (Whore), and Lauren Williams (Virginia). Joining the Cast will also be Nevermore Veterans Rachel Zampelli (Elmira, from the Greenbrier, WVA Cast) and Mary Payne Omohundro (Muddy, from the Creative Cauldron, Falls Church, VA Cast).”
The performances by Dan Cooney, as Poe, and Flo Lacey, as Poe’s mother, were standouts for me. Cooney brought an unrelenting strength, both in his chest and head voice, which was helpful as he was the through-line in the selections. Lacey brought a crystal clear sound and heart-wrenching honesty to her songs, especially “Evening Star.”This evening of Nevermore was both entertaining and intriguing, and I am excited to return to La-Ti-Do this month to experience more of Matt Conner’s work. If you were lucky enough to catch this evening’s performance, you have a feel for CoAdd Medianner’s work.
If you were unable to attend, fear not, because there are three more evenings ahead!! The month’s schedule is as follows: Crossings on the 14th, The Hollow on the 21st , and Night of the Living Dead on the 28th. As with every Monday evening at La-Ti-Do, you can count on a couple of things: the warm welcome, and fabulous talents, of hosts DonMike Mendoza and Regie Cabico, and resident pianist Jonathan Tuzman, spoken word and musical theatre performances (in addition to the month’s feature), and, most importantly, the feeling of community that comes from taking in DC’s performing arts community, especially when the audience participation number is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
La-Ti-Do happens every Monday evening at 8:00pm, at the Black Fox Lounge – 1723 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Like their page on Facebook to keep yourself abreast of the goings on of DC’s only weekly spoken word and musical theatre cabaret series, and DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2012 – Special Award Winner.
La-Ti-Do presents: ‘The Musicals of Matt Conner’ October 7-28; This Monday: ‘Nevermore’ by Don Michael Mendoza.
Read Stephen Gregory Smith’s behind-the-scenes column, Letters from the Living Dead, on DC Metro Theater Arts:
Part One: Welcome to my Farmhouse.
Part Two: Finding Ben.
Part Three: Exploring the Farmhouse.
Part Four: Meet Our Cast.
Part Five: My Sweet Baby.
Part Six: We’ll Be Alright.
Part Seven: This house…this place.