‘Music and Madness’ kicks off spooky Halloween season

Harry Stoner sits with The Raven in "Music and Madness." (Courtesy)

It’s almost October, and that means the scary season is about to settle in.

Changing Faces Theater Company and Sayla Music Academy are helping it along with a special event: “Music and Madness,” showcasing the creepy poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

“People are ready to get in the spooky mood,” said Sabrina Willis-Bartram, who is directing the theatrical and musical evening with her husband Mike Bartram.

The Bartrams have a copy of Poe’s complete works, and have always wanted to create a show themed around them. Halloween seemed like the right time.

“I just started going through it and earmarking the ones that jumped out at me, that seemed like they would play the best in front of an audience,” Willis-Bartram said.

They focused on the creepier stories; the audience will be treated to favorites like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” along with some less-known works.

But the show isn’t just a recitation of Poe’s writing. It’s a map of his life story as well.

“We kind of wove them together in a way that there’s a loose structure to it,” Willis-Bartram said.

The performance is also anchored by the cellist Carol Ann Loeb and violinist Maribel Alvarez-Munoz, with Chase Loeb providing sound effects. The Loebs own Sayla Music Academy and Alvarez-Munoz is a teacher there.

“We’re doing classical music and different really dark arrangements of music,” Chase Loeb said.

Much of the music is historical — and some pieces, like Chopin’s “Marche Funèbre” and Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” might be familiar — but other parts are improvised.

“The challenge is the timing, because you want the music to build and grow with the actors’ monologue,” Loeb said.

They have to be fast on their feet to slow or speed up pieces so they fit the actors’ lines and each scene, he added.

The actors and musicians ran through the full show for the first time recently, and it all came together, Willis-Bartram said.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” she said. “It’s powerful and magical.”

“Music and Madness” was inspired by Poe’s tragic life. His mother died when he was a toddler and his father abandoned the family. Poe was taken in by adoptive parents, but his adoptive mother also died when he was a young man. His wife died young, too, of tuberculosis.

Poe became an alcoholic, and died young under mysterious circumstances.

“That kind of tells you how sad and lonely his life was,” Willis-Bartram said.

While Poe’s life was a difficult one rocked by pain and loss, he captured those emotions in his stories and especially his poetry, including “Annabel Lee.”

“It’s so hauntingly beautiful and sad,” Willis-Bartram said.

Music and theater lovers — especially those excited for Halloween — are invited to come and enjoy the performance. The performance may be a little too spooky and violent for young children, so it’s rated PG-13.

Ravage and m2 Wines will be pouring, and concession snacks will be available for purchase. VIP tickets include cozy table seating and gourmet hors d’ouevres by Graze Gourmet Food & Events. But tickets for the intimate venue are limited.

“People definitely shouldn’t wait on it if they’re even a little interested in Poe and music,” Willis-Bartram said.

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