BWW Interview: Eric Niece of BASKERVILLE - A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at The Riverbank Theatre says It's a Familiar Story turned into a Fantastic Comedy!

BWW Interview: Eric Niece of BASKERVILLE - A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at The Riverbank Theatre says It's a Familiar Story turned into a Fantastic Comedy!

Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, wrote by comedic genius Ken Ludwig, is opening this Friday, September 7th at the Riverbank Theatre in Marine City. It is a fast-pasted comedy about everyone's favorite detective solving his most notorious case. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must crack the mystery of "The Hound of Baskerville" before a family curse dooms its newest heir. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Eric Niece, one of five cast members in show, before it opens this week for some insider details to Ludwig's hysterical mystery.

BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and your theatre career as an introduction?

Eric Niece: I started my theatre career back in high school. My English teacher was directing a play called, Our Miss Brooks and they were in desperate need of men. I decided to audition, got cast, and was hooked. I tried to find a nice, safe major in college (computer science), but was quickly sucked back in to the theatre world via a random audition and changed my major; my parents were thrilled! I continued acting throughout college and did a little summer stock in Brownville, Nebraska where I met my brother from another mother, Casey Hibbert, who convinced me to apply to an internship at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, Michigan. I was hired and have been working in Michigan as an actor and Technical Director ever since.

BWW Detroit: How would you describe Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery in your own words?

Eric Niece: Baskerville is the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery flipped on its head. All of the story elements are there, and anyone that has read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books will recognize the story and characters from the novel that the play was based on. However, Ken Ludwig flipped the script (pun intended) and turned this familiar story into a fantastic comedy.

BWW Detroit: How is this different from other Sherlock Holmes plays?

Eric Niece: The comedy that Ken Ludwig put into this script most definitely sets this show apart from other Sherlock Holmes plays. It still has the mystery and danger that you would expect, but the audience will be rolling in the aisles if we do our jobs right.

BWW Detroit: How would you describe your character, Actor 1?

Eric Niece: This is an interesting question, because, as the name implies, "Actor 1" isn't just one character. That is honestly what I love about playing him/her. I get to embody 16 different people (men and women) in a two hour stretch. Each person that I become has a unique personality: Dr. Mortimer is very straight laced and proper, Barrymore is an Igor-esqe servant, Stapleton is an incredibly eccentric scientist, and the list goes on. This role is a kaleidoscope of personalities and one serious workout.

BroadwayWorld Detroit: Did you do any special preparation for your role?

Eric Niece: I did a ton of research on local British dialects. I had to find a way to make each character different and distinct and one of the ways that I chose to do that is giving everyone a different accent. I also familiarized myself with some of the Laban movement training that I did back in my undergrad days to give everyone a different physicality. I wanted to make sure that each character that I played was distinct with or without a costume change.

BWW Interview: Eric Niece of BASKERVILLE - A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at The Riverbank Theatre says It's a Familiar Story turned into a Fantastic Comedy!
Eric Niece

BWW Detroit: Your director, Brittany Everitt Smith, said, "Eric does every accent imaginable in the show." Was it a personal choice or scripted choice in regards to the accents?

Eric Niece: It was a little bit of both, to be honest. There are clues in the script as to where each character was supposed to be from. For example, Stapleton talks about having a school in the north country, so I looked at various Northern British dialects to figure his out. Dr. McCann is listed as Scottish, so that told me exactly what to do with him. Dr. Mortimer went to school in London and studied at Charing Cross Hospital, so I knew that he needed a more standard British. There were several that I just pulled out of my you know what, though!

BWW Detroit: Your director also mentioned the extremely quick costume changes you make due to the amount of characters you play - have you counted them? Any idea what your time fastest change is? And, finally, is it fun to do a role with so many costume changes?

Eric Niece: I haven't counted them exactly, but I think it's somewhere between 25 and 30 with varying degrees of difficulty. There are two that stick out to me as my fastest, though. There is one scene where I go from a train conductor to Dr. Mortimer to a trap driver all in one page. This happens completely in view of the audience, so that one has to be smooth and very fast. There is another where I go from Barrymore to Stapleton within the span of a ¼ page monologue on stage, so that one is equally challenging. These changes, while difficult and exhausting, make this show that much crazier and more enjoyable for me and, I hope, the audience.

BWW Detroit: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

Eric Niece: It is honestly tough to pick just one moment in this show, but I think my scenes with Katy Nelson where we are Cartwright and Milker are some of the most fun for me. They are two small boys that Holmes employs to look for some clues and run errands. It is so much fun getting to be a little kid on stage.

BWW Detroit: Why should people come see The Riverbank's production of Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery?

Eric Niece: For one, we have a fantastic cast. I love working with these guys and gal and I feel like it shows on stage. We are having a blast playing off of each other and, at times, we have to fight to remain in character because what everyone is doing is so funny. Also, this story is really good. It is a legit mystery that will have you guessing up until you discover who actually did it and how and why.

You can connect with Eric Niece on Twitter at @E_Niece61.

You can connect with Riverbank Theatre at facebook.com/riverbanktheatre.

Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery opens this Friday, Septermber 7th at Riverbank Theatre in Marine City. For more information and tickets, visit www.riverbanktheatre.com.

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