Prolific play writing genius Steven Dietz fashioned his 2006 Edgar Award-winning Holmes homage from such Arthur Conan Doyle classic tales as “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem” along with William Gillette’s 1899 theatrical smash “Sherlock Holmes.” Dietz (fondly remembered for his time in Nashville as the 2011-12 Ingram New Works Fellow at Nashville Repertory Theatre, when he was developing the play “Rancho Mirage“) wrote in his preface to the published play that the stories of Conan Doyle’s consulting detective “stay with us through days both remarkable and mundane, adventures grand and forgotten; through love and loss and a thousand wonderful conversations about nothing at all.” (And very happily so, this reviewer concurs, having read my first Holmes tale when I was eight.)
Nashville Children’s Theatre offered an absolutely delicious 2012 production of the play, starring the late David Compton as Holmes opposite his best friend and chronicler Dr. John Watson, played in that show by Matthew Carlton. As my review of that presentation indicates I really enjoyed it. I happily, unreservedly say the same of the Barn’s distinctly different effort; I’m grateful for the chance to see this piece again in a another setting with another cast.
Watson (Michael Roark) is our guide through this ultimate adventure set in 1893 London. It finds Holmes (Charlie Winton) apparently juggling two very different matters: The King of Bohemia (Josh Kiev) needs to avoid scandal by retrieving an amorous photograph of himself and the great opera diva Irene Adler (Shannon Hoppe), and the “Napoleon of Crime,” Professor James Moriarty (Benjamin R. Jones) plans to set the trap that finally rids him of his dogged pursuer. How those seemingly separate strands tie together is just part of the fast-paced thrill-ride…
Winton handles the complexities of this play’s Holmes quite well; he has the detective’s certitude, which allows Holmes to remain calm in even the most chaotic moments, but there’s a gentleness in his interactions with kindly Watson and the alluring Adler that appears at appropriate moments. Roark, whose wide range as an actor has been on enjoyable display in Nashville for several years, warmly and convincingly gives us a strong and thoughtful friend. Kiev is such an energetic treat. And Hoppe? This seasoned pro hits all the right notes in her performance, too — smart, clever, strong, caring. Adler may be a diva, but it’s her humanity that gives us reason to feel something beyond the excitement of watching an escapade unfold.
The villains are in top form as well. Jones, a veteran performer with cross-country credits, is terrific at summoning both the cerebral and pragmatic aspects of his terrifying master criminal, and his acting accomplices (Gabe Atchley as the nefarious James Larrabee, Lauren Proctor as his equally evil sister Madge and Scotty Phillips as the nasty henchman Sid Prince) all bring the right amount of wicked relish to their roles.
The offstage creatives have all done good work that ensures this thriller with a touch of love moves and looks as it should — Annie Magan (Dramaturg and Properties Assistant), Joy Tilley Perryman (Properties), Kaitlin Barnett (Sound Design), Miriam Creighton (Costume Design), Alexis LaVon (Stage Manager, who “turned 24” the day I saw the show) and Daniel DeVault (Lighting Design and Director). Given the consistent quality of the revitalized Barn it’s easy, but inappropriate, to overlook all the hard work that supports what we audience members see and hear in each performance.
To use an archaic British expression, “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” is a ripping good yarn. Yes, Dietz, Gillette and Conan Doyle deserve great credit for the trail built by their contributions, but in this production it’s ultimately the Barn’s troupe of professionals that successfully close the case.
“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” continues through Sept. 15 on the main stage at Chaffin’s Barn Theatre; click here for more info, showtimes and tickets. “The Wedding Singer” follows on Sept. 19 through Oct. 19; click here for more info, showtimes and tickets.