“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” ~ Sherlock Holmes
Under the amber glow of gaslight, fog furls forth, a bobby blows his whistle, and conveyance to the world of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and the infamous calculating criminal, Professor Moriarty, is complete. Masterminded by director Steve Underwood, and brilliantly executed by cast and crew, Steven Dietz’s Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure is dramatically brought to life upon Beacon Theatre Productions’ stage as an era-immersive experience.
Dietz’s award-winning 2006 adaptation of actor William Gillette’s 1899 adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original 1897 play, Sherlock Holmes, remixes the stories of A Scandal in Bohemia and Sherlock Holmes and fuses them together, adding a dash of romance and a dint of humor, mostly at the expense of Dr. Watson. But this tends to make his character all the more dear, and helps in elucidating the relationship between himself and Doyle’s detective.
The King of Bohemia is about to marry according to his station, but is being framed by the use of a compromising photograph of himself and well-known singer Irene Adler and so seeks the help of Holmes. At first Holmes rejects the King’s request, but at the mention of Irene Adler’s involvement, he changes his mind, delving with inimitable drive into the matter, connecting characters, motives and means until all coincidence subsides and the case is solved. However, in doing so, Holmes may be headed for a double fall…
An excellent ensemble heads up this theatrical thriller. Alex Eltzroth gives Holmes excellent facial expressions, sprightly stamina, and fitting physicality, particularly as he perches on the wingback in his illustrious study, deep in thought, or spins on his heels as his thoughts progress at a pace, and yet can appear acutely clueless when it comes to romance. John Percy Lasher is solid as the stalwart Dr. Watson, who also serves as narrator of the piece. Lasher maintains the immersion, remaining true to his accent throughout the piece, keeping up the pace while marvelously managing to appear in the variously placed amber spotlights in which he narrates. The effect is engaging.
That Irene Adler is not just a pretty voice is something Samantha Simpson understands about her character quite well, as she is sharp to the hilt and a witting match for Holmes. Christopher Latzke is well-suited to his role as the King of Bohemia, bringing off a gorgeous accent in his impeccably regal yet emotional bearing. He is completely believable and elicits sympathy for his character, as well as a few laughs. Professor Moriarty, the “Napoleon of Crime,” is played chillingly by Mark Dixon, who expertly teases out the tension and the sinister during his scenes.
Godfrey Norton/James Larrabee, deftly portrayed by Anthony Cipollo, and Marie/Madge Larrabee, superbly performed by Sara Vanasse, are well-paired partners in crime. Jason Schaum does a terrific Sid Prince, doer of dirty work, granting him a great accent, and bulldog-like expression when he attempts to cuff someone. The lovely lilting operatic voice of Irene Adler is performed by Martha Ellen Smith, who also contributed to the show’s original music along with Katy Smith and Steven Underwood.
Technical treats include theatrical smoke, strobe and other fantastic lighting designed by Kevin Duchon; screen shadow acting and blackouts are used to wondrous effect. A fight scene is so well choreographed as to seem something like a stop motion film by way of sound, defined pauses in the action, and strobe. The multilevel stage space is exquisitely utilized, and wonderfully adapted for Brian Underwood’s multifaceted set consisting of Holmes’ study, Norton’s flat, a London Street, a gasworks, a train car, a lodge, the Reichenbach Falls and more. Scenic segues are magically quick, and fun.
Add Whitney Rayl’s costuming, which makes every character look authentic, and it is elementary to see why this Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure is a sensational must-see experience!
Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure plays through May 7, 2017 at Beacon Theatre Productions, performing at Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church Theater – 608 N. 22nd Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets call (267) 415-6882, or purchase them online.