“One October Midnight” Premieres at The Palace

Christiane Olivero

October 18 and 19, The Palace Theater housed the production of “One October Midnight,” a new musical thriller based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. The production made its debut in June of this past year at “The PiTCH,” a new musical series from The Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival. The musical proved to be a success and these two recent performances at The Palace marked the musical’s official world premiere. This whodunit murder mystery is set in Baltimore in the 1940s and it chronicles Inspector Wilson’s chase of the mysterious and elusive October 9 Serial Killer. Every October 9, the killer commits a murder, which bears striking similarities to a gruesome death in one of Poe’s stories. The musical tracks Wilson’s desperate and crazed pursuit of the murderer and is interspersed with memories from his past as well as spooky hallucinations reflective of the killer’s decline into madness. In watching the mystery unfold, you find yourself questioning what is real and what is imaginary as you are pulled deeper and deeper into the dark depths of the murderer’s mind.

Overall, the small cast performed beautifully and definitely did justice to the imaginative musical narrative. Cast members switched effortlessly in and out of their various roles while blending their voices together in complex harmonies throughout the show. The cast was strong vocally, with some individuals having truly remarkable voices, making the performance a joy to watch and listen to. Performing a show set entirely to music is a challenge, but the group rose to the occasion and executed it extremely well. Some of the most memorable musical numbers include “Sesquipedalophobia,” which explores different fears, and “William Wilson,” a dark and haunting song in which a young Wilson is forced to confront his doppelg?anger.

The music for the show is written by Brian and Erin Schey and influenced by the compositions of Chopin and Rachmaninoff. The book and lyrics are written by Thom Bishop and draw inspiration directly from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. It may be more difficult to recognize the allusions to Poe’s tales for those not particularly familiar with his work, but the references are abundant throughout the musical. The scene that has perhaps the most prominent reference to Poe’s writings depicts a woman driven mad by the phantom beating of her deceased fianc?e’s heart. This is a clear reference to Poe’s famous short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which explores the effects of a guilty conscience on one’s mental health. Another scene tells the story of Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” in which Inspector Dupin deduces that an orangutan is responsible for the murder in a case that seems impossible to solve. The musical also references “The Bells,” “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House Usher” and “Premature Burial,” as well as many of Poe’s other works throughout the various musical numbers.

Despite having been inspired by so many different stories, the show effortlessly combines Poe’s tales and the musical’s story line into a cohesive whole. Perfect for Poe- and Halloween-lovers alike, this is a production filled with intrigue, suspense and a kind of dark humour that will leave you feeling both disturbed and amused by the time the ensemble’s final notes fade away.

Contact Christiane Olivero at [email protected]