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'The Remarkable Mister Holmes' makes its world premier

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News.

The rumble you hear is Arthur Conan Doyle dancing on his grave. Written by two of San Diego counties prized geniuses (or committable idiot savants), "The Remarkable Mister Holmes," a musical, neatly wraps up North Coast Repertory's 40th season.

Based loosely (very loosely) on Conan Doyle's famous sleuth, this authentically new work is fresh and brilliantly funny.

"The Remarkable Mister Homes" is a master class in comedy writing laced with silly songs orchestrated by virtuoso Daniel Lincoln.

Lincoln's musical phrasing is crisp and pioneering. He has wrapped each line with a bow while embracing every individual lyrical phrase with his unique sense of lightness and humor to squeeze meaning from every silly word in Omri Schein's lyrics. Freaky madness comes to mind as does Tim Burton's mastermind, each of Schein's words shine because of Lincoln's musical interpretation.

The book is a mysterious tale of murder and mayhem set to music. It is the culmination of four years of staring at blank pages, head-bashing word choices, and ending with a mind-blowing collaboration between Schein and NCR's Artistic Director David Ellenstein. The only other tale yet to be told is how they engaged Lincoln to write the music? Blackmail comes to mind.

This leap from "The Hounds of Baskerville" to "The Remarkable Mister Holmes" parallels the same giant jump between "The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked." This clever book takes ol' Sherlock to new heights.

Now to the characters: the man himself is played by Bart Shatto. He captures the crime-solver's ennui with not-so-subtle audience glances buoyed by his masterful British accent. "No shit, Sherlock" was much-awaited for double take but, alas, it came. The writers didn't miss a lick.

With trusty Watson away on a secret assignment, his role as co-investigator is assumed by none other than Watson's sister, Sheila (Sharon Rietkerk). Rietkerk has a flair for the absurd and by owning every word she plays it straight, albeit with an occasional nod to the audience to share an on-dit.

One cannot outshine the trusty, lusty housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson (Deborah Gilmour Smyth). She pops in and out with the tea cart at all of the right moments. It is her broad physical humor that enriches her scenes.

And there has to be an upstairs maid. And there is. She is called Phyllis (Katy Tang) amongst a list of other monikers. Whether playing a street urchin or the tearful maid ranting about being an orphan, Tang breathes life into her various cockney characters.

Naturally, after a murder or two, Inspector Lestrade (Tony Perry) is called in to survey the crime scenes. His determination to solve each of the murders gives him pause to even arrest himself as the perpetrator. (Told ya, it's silly).

Keeping the bodies straight is Rabbi Plotkin (Andrew Ableson). As a much-celebrated spiritual leader, in between his multi-faceted roles as various victims, prior to their untimely demise, alas his final character lives to meet his long-lost kin.

As for the plot, we are to believe it is about the missing jewels of a highborn lady by the name of Gerda Von Schwanz (Katie Karel) and her lispy devoted brother, Gustav Von Schwanz (Phil Johnson). Karel's aristocratic demeanor is saucy and notable. As for Johnson, he continues to amaze with his versatility.

The grand Hotel Magnificent is managed by the disguised Artemis (David McBean) who keeps a steely eye over the day-to-day operations. As expected, McBean personifies the fussy gerant with style.

Hidden in a wee closet next to the stage is musical director Ron Councell. He leads his petite orchestra through Lincoln's creative score with the help of Amy Kalal playing flute, clarinet, and alto sax. Jennifer Williams picks up the violin and viola, while Tom Versen is the percussionist.

There isn't anything I didn't like about this light-hearted romp across jolly ol' London in 1889. Seats are selling out fast for this show since it's the best thing playing right now. Join the fun at North Coast Repertory at 987 Lomas Sante Fe Road in Solana Beach with lots of free parking and easy access. Closes Aug. 21. Rated 10 out of 10.

Bravo to the entire team! Best show so far. For tickets, call 858-481-1055 or visit https://northcoastrep.org/.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]

 

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