“Surprise the missus!” with a madcap murder mystery date featuring Sherlock Holmes
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, August 24, 2022
Frenetic energy, full commitment to zany characterization, and all of the intrigue you’d expect… North Coast Rep’s world premiere run of The Remarkable Mister Holmes is a wild musical murder mystery ride that will have audiences alternately snickering in humor and gasping in delight through August 28.
This production, a 4-year collaboration in the making, features book by Omri Schein and David Ellenstein, lyrics by Omri Schein, and music by Daniel Lincoln, and it is utter fan fodder for the taking: it’s a musical, a comedy, a murder mystery, and it stars the ever-adored character of Sherlock Holmes. What more could you want?
Turns out, attendees get so much more, thanks to the arrival of Sheila, younger sister of Holmes’ traditional partner in crime, Dr. John Watson. Sheila Watson is delightfully clever, progressive, bold, and exactly what Holmes thinks he detests, and she is played to perfection by Sharon Rietkerk. This type of role demands barely-contained frenetic energy, a command of dialect and linguistic intentionality, and a certain confidence; Rietkerk brings all three in spades, and then throws in a brilliant performance vocally just to sweeten the deal. She is captivating.
Of course, at the center of the story is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous detective. In Bart Shatto’s hands, Holmes is as observant as we all remember from past stories - he solves a number of murders in the opening song alone! - and he carries all of the eccentricities and cockiness we look for in this titular role. By mid-first act, the audience themselves are along for the ride, embroiled in teasing out clues from quick rhymed lyrics in the lineup of musical numbers.
And yes, the clues are key (this is a murder mystery, after all) but the serial murder, infamous jewel theft, and religious icon-laden story is best experienced in full creative glory rather than told, so I'll leave the specifics a bit shrouded. Audiences who come for what director David Ellenstein terms “Forum meets My Fair Lady meets Mel Brooks style” will be delighted. Others will love a plethora of period costumes and wigs, walls that rotate and unfold in beautifully synchronized scene shifts, and an array of accents and personalities played by a tight knit ensemble cast (Andrew Ableson, Phil Johnson, Katie Karel, David McBean, Tony Perry, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, and Katy Tang) alongside a skilled four piece band. It’s a fun show, albeit long at just under three hours. All in all, it’s... elementary to tuck in and experience it during this premiere!
The Remarkable Mister Holmes runs through Sunday at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach with evening performances Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at northcoastrep.org.