A Sherlock Carol by Mark Shanahan
Westport Country Playhouse
By: Karen Isaacs - Dec 21, 2023
Recipe for a delightful evening: Take one part A Christmas Carol and one part Sherlock Holmes. Blend well, then let a talented team of actors serve to it you.
A Sherlock Carol by Mark Shanahan does just that and it is a delight. It’s getting a brief run at Westport Country Playhouse through Saturday, Dec. 23. I wish it were longer.
The play opens with a depressed Holmes – Moriarity is dead, and Holmes thinks he no longer has a reason to exist. He also thinks he sees Moriarity everywhere; he has even abandoned Dr. Watson. When Dr. Tim Cratchit calls on him, Holmes has no interest in the case Cratchit wants solved. Scrooge died the evening before; Cratchit is suspicious of the death, particularly since Scrooge had mentioned changing his will.
Holmes isn’t even interested in helping one of the Barker Street Irregulars (Emma Wiggins), whose father has been unjustly arrested for robbery.
It isn’t until he visits a music hall to see “the countess;” that he’s agrees to investigate. She is none other than Irene Adler and tells him that the “blue carbuncle,” a precious diamond, has been stolen from her dressing room. She had intended to give it to Scrooge. Is it a coincidence that her maid is Scrooge’s grandniece and the theater owner is a former partner of his nephew, Fred?
Finally, Holmes gets involved.
Somehow Shanahan manages to weave in the Fezziwigs; Cratchit’s sister, Martha; Mrs. Dilbert, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Plus, as you can see, he also includes regular characters from the Holmes’ stories.
What makes it so delightful is that you will recognize lines from both stories. From Holmes’ “The game’s afoot” to numerous lines from Dickens, right down to “God Bless Us Everyone.”
A Sherlock Carol had successful runs off-Broadway in 2021 and 22. Most of the cast are reprising their roles. With two exceptions each plays multiple roles.
Drew McVety is terrific as Holmes; he is dour and cynical but with glimpses of humor; like Scrooge, he discovers his inner joy as the play progresses. Bryon St. Cyr as Scrooge pops up periodically, including all three ghosts. We learn how Scrooge truly changed and how he shared his wealth.
The rest are so good in their multiple roles that you may not recognize that it is the same actor. Kudos to Joe Delafield (Dr. Watson), Dan Domingues (Tiny Tim Cratchit), Isabel Keating (The Countess), and Sharone Sayegh (Emma Wiggins).
James J. Fenton has created a set of movable pieces in which doors play a big part. Linda Cho’s costumes help the actors create different characters. I would never have guessed that Inspector Lestrade also played Emma Wiggins. John Gromada’s sound design is important for the show.
Mark Shanahan reprised his director’s role, cleverly using the moving pieces of the set and keeping up the pace.
A Sherlock Carol is a clever, funny, and delightful holiday evening. It is appropriate for older kids and teens as well as adults. It does help to have some familiarity with Sherlock Holmes.
I hope that next year, Westport will bring this back for a longer run. This run is just about sold out.