As the name implies, Mark Shanahan’s new holiday seasonal show, A Sherlock Carol, is a mashup of characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. The Sherlock Holmes story is adapted from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” and the Dickens is A Christmas Carol which here is actually a sequel to Dickens’ classic tale. This charming show has a cast led by Drew McVety as the world’s most famous detective and Thom Sesma as The Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. The rest of the versatile cast of four plays multiple characters drawn from the two authors.
The stage is filled with Victoriana suitable for Christmas time: a London skyline with lights in various windows (lighting by Rui Rita), a lamppost with a wreath and metal archways suggesting buildings or railroad stations, courtesy of scenic designer Anna Louizos. The colorful costumes for the 23 characters, mainly in reds and greens are by Linda Cho. Composer/sound designer John Gromada had incorporated pieces of many Christmas carols throughout the show making this a semi-musical.
Narrated by the four carolers played by Dan Domingues, Anissa Felix, Isabel Keating and Mark Price, the actual storyline begins with “Once upon a time.” The story begins at Christmas 1894 with the return of Holmes to London after the death of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, in Switzerland, which haunts him. Believing there is nothing left to live for, he had turned into a Scrooge even saying, “Bah humbug” in response to cheerful greetings, and rejecting the friendship of Dr. Watson, his biographer and companion in solving crime. Feeling sorry for himself, he is sitting drowning his sorrows in a restaurant when he is approached by Emma Wiggins, one of his former Baker Street Irregulars, who asks him to prove the innocence of her father who has been accused of stealing the Blue Carbuncle, a valuable jewel, from the dressing room of the Countess of Morcar, a singer who turns out to be Holmes’ old love, Irene Adler.
He is then approached by a young man he does not recognize named Dr. Timothy Cratchit, formerly known as Tiny Tim, who is upset about the sudden and mysterious death of his mentor, the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge, the night before in the locked room of his study. Eventually Holmes is convinced to take the two cases which turn out to be one and the same. As Holmes scurries around London interviewing various suspects, he is haunted by the Ghost of Scrooge and eventually is shown his past, present and future, just like Scrooge was in A Christmas Carol. Along the way we meet Ralph Fezziwig, the grandson of Scrooge’s mentor, Fannie Gardner, the niece of Scrooge’s sister, Mary Morstan, Dr. Watson’s wife, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, and Mrs. Dilber, here Scrooge’s longtime housekeeper.
Directed by playwright Mark Shanahan, A Sherlock Carol offers six actors playing 23 roles in this entertaining new adaptation. In the iconic role of Sherlock Holmes with so much history behind it and such well-known performances as those by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, Drew McVety is to be forgiven for seeming a bit bland, though he warms up as the story evolves and he becomes more invested in the solution to the two cases. As the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge, Thom Sesma is a sinister presence, suggesting that he is also the Ghost of Professor Moriarty who has previously haunted Holmes. Memorable is Isabel Keating who is required to use a variety of accents from the American Irene Adler to the Cockney sister of Tiny Tim, as well as singing a beautiful aria as the Countess of Morcar. Keating it may be recalled is the Tony Award nominee and Theatre World winner for her performance as “Judy Garland” in The Boy from Oz.
Mark Price plays everything from an elderly woman (Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s emotional housekeeper of 30 years) to Dr. Watson, Holmes’ loyal friend and Boswell; the Irish candle maker Henry Burke; and the elderly Old Joe Brackenridge, a peddler in Covent Garden Market. Dan Domingues shows his range playing the level-headed Dr. Timothy Cratchit, the indignant and self-important Mr. Topper, manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and the nervous Ralph Fezziwig, the fiancé of Fannie Gardner. Annisa Felix is almost unrecognizable appearing as the pompous Inspector Lestrade, the teenage Emma Wiggins, the sly Fan Gardner, dresser to the Countess of Morcar, and the elderly Scottish tavern keeper, Mrs. Windigate.
Part of the fun of A Sherlock Carol is that it is an entirely new Christmas stage offering taken from well-known stories, as well as seeing four of the actors continually returning in unexpected roles. With its array of beautifully sung Christmas carols, A Sherlock Carol is a new and worthy addition to the holiday season, a must for lovers of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge.
A Sherlock Carol (through January 2, 2022)
Stage 3, New World Stages, 340 W. 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.Telecharge.com
Running time: one hour and 50 minutes including one intermission