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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" takes up residence at Stage West Calgary!

Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville A Sherlock Holmes Mystery"

Stage West Calgary

until April 15, 2018

Photo by John Watson, courtesy Stage West Calgary

The Guinness world record holder for “Most Portrayed Movie Character” arrives for his onstage treatment at Stage West Calgary, in “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”.

Along with Holmes is his friend and biographer Dr. Watson, to assist in solving the prerequisite murder that inevitably propels them ahead with the audience, as everyone tries to solve said murder along with the assorted cast of characters embroiled in the proceedings.

In this case, the cast employs a technique similar to that of another adaptation, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, where a handful of actors play multiple characters. Here, Holmes and Watson remain in character throughout, but the balance of roles are portrayed by three actors.

Given the massive popularity Holmes enjoys currently just with portrayals from Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch alone, the production is sure to keep the chairs full through the entire run. After all creator Ken Ludwig has a proven track record of success with comedies, Lend Me A Tenor, Crazy For You, and Fox On The Fairway among them. 

Director Mark Bellamy similarly has a track record of success, not the least with a smash production at Stage West of the aforementioned 39 Steps.

And, if you happen to like the mixed bag of zany humour offered in films like Airplane, Young Frankenstein, or the likes of Monty Python, you are sure to appreciate the sight gags and absurdity of the proceedings. My only complaint is the reliance on all those elements - while none are actually trademarked, Baskerville tends to come off as a sum of assorted parts, rather than an original clever comedy of the beloved fictional hero.

As always here in this space, I need to hold back for my official Calgary Herald review, but given the identity crisis of the script/book, the cast still produces plenty of laughter and intrigue to make the show a fun evening out. 

Breathtaking quick changes, over-the-top accents, and sight gags abound, and the two main actors are stoic straight men for the shenanigans of the other actors as they fuel the comedy along with the mystery.

Photo by John Watson, courtesy Stage West Calgary

Patrick Brown plays Dr Watson, across from David Leyshon’s Holmes (both are familiar faces for Stage West audiences). Braden Griffiths, Andrew MacDonald-Smith and Esther Purves-Smith leap through virtual hoops at rapid speed to breathe life into a variety of supporting cast members, taking advantage of sight gags and exceptional visual stage devices for their laughs. I laughed out loud at the appearance of a rabbit, but I won’t give away why that particular prank is so effective…

Beyond the cast and direction, the set is outstanding. JP Thibodeau’s fluid set pieces and haunting moon background create everything from the moors and on to Victorian gates, hotels and living rooms. 

The costumes and lighting also lend themselves to recreating the era intended, and the authenticity of a Holmes adventure. 

Baskerville runs until April 15, 2018 - I’ll link back when my Herald review is live!

3.5 out of 5 stars