You can tell they put a lot of work in and they were having fun, but to what end?
Holmes and Watson Save the Empire is an English Music Hall styled show in which the sleuths are off to solve a crime, or stop a crime.
The show is a lark because there a silly songs and very fun costumes (by Rita Achipow and Kerri Robins) and broad acting, but the story is not very riveting. There is no one in peril to be seen, and no clear plan to provide forward momentum. They deduce stuff, mostly inside their flat.
There is a central plot that gets revealed very near the end of act two; it’s quite clever and a little subversive, but it takes so long to get there.
Some of the songs and dances are very fun, but a couple of times the men deduce something, talk it out and then sing about. So we hear the exact same information twice. In a good musical if you remove a song the story should fall apart. Think of cutting the songs from The Sound of Music or Fiddler On The Roof – the story would lurch about and it would not make sense.
Even in a farce or in this English Music Hall tradition, if they are in a play they should be driving the story or a hilarious respite from it.
Director Jahnna Beecham has both our main actors, Damon Calderwood and Gordon Roberts, speak at loud volumes with big reactions. Farce can still be grounded in some sort of reality. Even when poison gas gets pumped into the room their reaction is not of fear or threat. It’s all sent up. Loudly.
Chris Robson appears briefly as an emcee at a club named Freddy Fish, but the character is only talked about after this one scene. He also plays a second surprise character very late in act two, but since the show appears to be written for Sherlock aficionados it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who it is.
There are facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation in the program and a game you can play with the set trying to spot props from the other books. That could prove hard though if you haven’t read them.
Musicals are great and farces are fun, but two people walking about a room deducing about a danger no one knows about is not terribly involving. Even if they sing and are silly.
Despite this, the opening night audience lept to their feet and the lobby was filled with people beaming including one lady who said to me, “Wasn’t that perfect?” I said “It was fun.” She re-affirmed almost pointedly “It was perfect.” As if it was elementary.
Book and Lyrics by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner. Music and Music Direction by Malcolm Hillgartner. Direction by Jahnna Beecham. Choreography by Jahnna Beecham and Suzanne Seiber. On stage at the Deep Cove Shaw Theatre through March 16, 2012. Visit http://www.deepcovestage.com for tickets and information.
David C Jones
He makes films, directs plays, teaches, is a professional emcee and writes for the OUTtv website and The Charlebois Post.