Book by John Reeger
Music & Lyrics by Julie Shannon & Michael Mahler
Directed by Warner Crocker
Music Direction by Michael Mahler
At the Mercury Theater Chicago
The game’s afoot with a twist, cleverness, and terrific music
It took twenty years to emerge, but the wait was worth it as The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, now playing at the Mercury Theater in a world premiere, is a theatrical treat! John Reeger’s clever book features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually investigating a crime after he “kills off ” Holmes in his latest story. That Doyle leads this musical mystery is a novel idea which works because of Reeger’s smart writing and the tour de force performance by Michale Aaron Lindner. We empathize with Doyle as we see him gain the wrath of British society, including Randolph Churchill and his son, Winston, plus even Doyle’s mother, by killing off Sherlock Holmes. The tone is set with British music hall style songs including “Look What he’s Done” and”I’ve Had Enough,” wherein Doyle’s temper gets him to want to fight back against the wrath of his public.
Doyle’s sickly wife Louise Doyle (McKinley Carter) and the maid Ivy (Colette Todd) sing a rejoice to Doyle’s wanting to leave London for the country in “A Trip to the Country” – in the style reminiscent of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.
As Doyle arrives in Scotland, he is greeted at the local pub by the police sergeant, (David Girolmo), the lads, and the owner, Molly Jamison (Christina Hall), who sing to their land in “Right Here in Wyrley.” Doyle meets the Reverend Shapurji Edalgi from Bombay (Anish Jethmalan) and his Scottish wife, Charlotte (Mary Ernster). Their son, George Edalji (Johann George), has been convicted of killing horses by cutting their throats. Doyle promises to look into the crime. Race prejudice influences here.
To his surprise and astonishment, Doyle encounters a man who looks and sounds and projects to actually be Doyle’s creation – Sherlock Holmes. Nick Sandys is fabulous as Holmes with the command of all things Holmesian, including the trade-mark hat and demeanor associated as Holmes. Doyle struggles with the persona of Holmes. Is he real or only imagined? He is, after all, speaking, and is real to Doyle’s touch but only Doyle can see and hear him. And, Holmes can’t open doors. This clever device serves the plot well as Holmes aids Doyle in investigating “The Case of The Wyrley Ripper.” Doyle and Holmes sing to their teamwork in the clever tune “A Three Pipe Problem.”
Act two evolves into an authentic Sherlock Holmes mystery with Doyle taking over for Watson, who never appears here, the team uses Holmes’s style of deduction and observation to solve the case and free George. I’ll not say more so as not to spoil the mystery. I’ll only say the John Reeger has cloned the detailed technique in the best Sherlock Holmes tradition to plausibly solve the mystery while creating some humor with several fine songs.
The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes work nicely on several levels. It is a cute, clever musical in the tradition of Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Jekyll and Hyde and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It is in good company also with fine Holmes mysteries. The staging is superb by director Warner Crocker, the set is very British music hall styled (by Scott Adam Davis0, with the period-perfect Victorian costumes by Robert S. Kuhn) created just the right tone fora Holmes mystery musical. The ensemble work was outstanding and the vocals were first-class, especially from McKinley Carter and Michael Aaron Linder. But the highlight of the show was the terrific chemistry between the charismatic Nick Sandy’s Holmes and the lovable Doyle as presented by the winning performance by Michael Aaron Lindner.
The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes‘s world premiere is a major triumph as a chamber musical, a creative Holmes mystery, and a charming, enjoyable theatrical experience. It so refreshing to see such a stage worthy production featuring one of the strongest books in many years and such a fine music and smart lyrics penned by the late Julie Shannon, with additions by the talented Michael Mahler. I can’t remember a finer world premiere musical mystery. Broadway producers and major regional theatre producers need to get to the Mercury Theatre to see The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes. This show would be a Broadway hit and a national touring smash. Don’t miss this delightful show!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 28, 2016
For more info checkout The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, call 773-325-1700, www.mercurytheaterchicago.com, tickets $25 – $65, Wednesdays at 8 pm, Thursdays at 3 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at3pm, running time is 2hours, 20 minutes with intermission,through March 20, 2016