Review: A SHERLOCK CAROL at Westport Country Playhouse

Hurry and get your tickets. The show runs only through Dec. 23rd

By: Dec. 21, 2023
Review: A SHERLOCK CAROL at Westport Country Playhouse

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Tickets are selling out quickly for playwright and director Mark Shanahan’s A Sherlock Carol, now playing through December 23 at the Westport Country Playhouse, and you don’t want to miss this crowd pleasing yet sophisticated show. It is a clever and entertaining combination of characters from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and from various stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The two-hour show takes place after Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation (played by a jolly and lovable Byron St. Cyr). Now it’s Sherlock Holmes (Drew McVety) who is the Christmas curmudgeon. Holmes is still haunted by Professor Moriarty (just a voice) and is distancing himself from Dr. Watson (Joe Delafield). Tiny Tim Cratchit (Dan Domingues) is now grown and runs a children’s hospital. Delafield also plays Mrs. Dilber, Henry Burke, and Old Joe Branckenridge). Domingues also plays Mr. Topper, Ralph Fezziwig, and Constable Hopkins. Isabel Keating plays the Countess of Morcar, Martha Cratchit, Mary Morstan, Abigail Fezziwig, a caroler, and a woman in a restaurant. Sharone Sayegh plays Emma Wiggins, Fan Gardner, Inspector Lestrade, and Mrs. Windigate. The actors change nimbly and almost magically into their characters at lightning speed.

Shanahan’s writing is well-thought-out, reverential to the original authors while offering audiences an afternoon or evening that is fresh, imaginative, and engaging. His interpretation of the Ghosts of Christmas is more contemplative rather than sensational, something that is suitable to the intellectual and burned-out Holmes. The two sets of characters work well together yet remain as distinctive a stage experience as it is for someone to visit both sets of relatives during the holidays. There’s no need to choose one family over the other. For kids who have never seen live theater before, this is ideal because there are no lulls in the show and no chance of their slipping into boredom. The show moves at the rapid pace today’s kids are used to thanks to personal electronics. Also, it’s important for kids to be introduced to the best of the arts. They will have plenty of exposure to amateur performances in theater and music, but seeing excellence in the performing arts will be indelible in their brains. They will have a standard on which to base their future experiences because of the professionalism in the performances and costume, set, sound, and lighting design.

In addition to the excellent performances of the cast, we must hand it to the people backstage. Shanahan is as talented a director as he is a writer and performer. Actress Anissa Felix (www.anissafelix.com) is as assistant director is crucial to the seamlessness of the moving parts of this show. James J. Fenton designed a set that is stunning and impressive with its huge ornate frame and otherwise minimalistic backdrop. Alyssandra Docherty’s extraordinary lighting helps give the stage mood and a great deal of depth, especially in scenes that suggest distance. (See more at www.alyssandradocherty.com.) Kudos to Jessica Zivny (www.jessicazivny) for the magic-like appearances of props between the characters. (Note: the props were from the original production that was designed by Anna Louizos and produced by Raymond Bokhour and Drew McVety.) John Gromada’s music and sound design complement both beautifully. Seasoned actor and stunt performer Seth Andrew Bridges (www.sethandrewbridges.com) did the fight choreography. Linda Cho’s many costumes are period-accurate without seeming stuffy or dated. A show such as A Sherlock Carol requires exceptional backstage coordination and organization, and Bernita Robinson and Caroline Pastore fit the bill perfectly as production stage manager and assistant stage manager. What a perfect team!

A little history about A Sherlock Carol. During the pandemic, it was done as a reading at the Westport Country Playhouse. The show was produced Off-Broadway to critical and audience acclaim and presented this year at the playhouse, coming full circle. All but Sayegh were original members of the Off-Broadway production. The talented and energetic Shanahan was appointed this year as its incoming artistic director, following Mark Lamos’s retirement. A Sherlock Carol is a lovely preview of what audiences can expect from the Westport Country Playhouse: a continuation of “theater worth talking about” and more dynamic theatrical experiences for wide-ranging audiences. Learn more at www.mark-shanahan.net and www.westportplayhouse.org.

Here’s some trivia for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Sherlock Carol will probably revive your interest in the legendary fictional detective, so start planning a road trip to Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut. The castle is the creation of actor, director, and playwright William Hooker Gillette, a Connecticut native who was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes. Adults will love the details Gillette put into it and children will be excited about seeing their first castle.

Until that road trip, get your tickets now to see A Sherlock Carol at the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court (off Route 1) in Westport. The only negative thing to say about this production is that it has a limited run until December 23. We hope it will be revived again next year at the Westport Country Playhouse.




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