My Dear Watson: A Sherlock Holmes Musical
Valencia College Theater
By Jami-Leigh Bartschi
Directed by John DiDonna
Musical Direction Pati McMahan Sayers
Starring Kyle Meehan, Brian Wardeh and Malcom Boniface
This is a re-staging of a 2016 Valencia performance, and it has similar issues. Dr. Watson (Meehan) survived the Afghan war but might not make it through a London winter. He meets an old friend, now Police inspector Lestrade (Wardeh) who puts Watson in touch with the eccentric and abusive Holmes (Boniface). Soon they are living the bachelor life of abusing their lands lady (Liz Curtis), smoking endless pipes of exotic tobacco, and randomly shooting a pistol at shadows. Soon a job appears, and Holms knock it off one-two-three, except for a nagging fact or two. By act two, these loose facts become important, and now Holmes is running from evil Dr. Moratory (Chase Curtis). Thing look bad, then they look better and finally we wrap up with a surprising feel-good ending. The friendship is saved!
But there are some nits. The biggest one is the difficulty hearing things, there was as distinct lack of projection by most of the cast, particularly with Meehan and Holmes. It takes plenty of focus to follow the story, and the sung bits are the most difficult. And it’s not so much a musical here as sung-through narration. Songs don’t fall into the stock musical theater “verse and chorus” structure but simply take exposition and set it to music. True, that DOES make the songs push the story forward, but somehow it feels wrong. On a positive note, Boniface’s Holmes appears as a completely ADD case and he speaks the sort of truth about his fellow cast members as if they weren’t standing 5 feet away. Eric Bigham did excellent work as the self-placing corpse; he was suitably subdued and formal when he lay himself down under a bloody rag and acted dead. I say “Bravo!” to him. Ms. Curtis’s Mrs. Hudson groused about her tenants but had a lovely moment when describing her inconveniently dead husband, and what he meant to her when alive. The set was simple but effective, even with the large flats moving about by supernumeraries. The mystery solved is the roundabout logical conundrum these genera are famous for, but with some microphones this could be a much better entertainment.