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William Elsman Is Sherlock Holmes at Sacramento Theatre Company

There are certain characteristics that most everyone identifies with Sherlock Holmes from the original books by Arthur Conan Doyle, film portrayal or countless theatrical productions for over a century. After all the character has been around for a long time. Doyle first created the character in 1881 along with Dr. Watson.

The first play featuring the characters was written by Doyle and a popular American actor William Gillette. The play premiered in 1899. Gillette introduced several things identified with Sherlock Holmes including the bent briar pipe, magnifying glass and syringe.

The film carer of the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is nearly as long as cinema itself. The first film The Hound of the Baskervilles is from 1939. The most receint (2009) staring Robert Downy Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson was a major hit. A sequel will be released in December.

Needless to say audience members bring strong expectations to what they should experience from actor portrayals of the beloved characters of Holmes and Watson. With the current Sacramento Theatre Company production of “Sherlock Holmes The Final Adventure” William Elsman as Sherlock Holmes and Michael RJ Campbell as Dr. Watson portrayal of the characters is absolutely perfect.

Elsman is simply astounding to watch and a great deal of fun also. He captures the character of Sherlock Holmes so perfectly. It is simply great entertainment to watch him perform. Elsman is known in Sacramento for his portrayal of Mrs. Badden-Rotten in STC’s production of “Cinderella.” He has also performed for five seasons at Marin Shakespeare Company and in regional productions across the country.

William Elsman as Serlock Holmes

No less perfectly cast is Michael RJ Campbell as Dr. Watson. Campbell is a familiar performer at STC and many other stages in Sacramento. He was most recently seen in the highly popular STC production of “Musical of Musicals the Musical.” Campbell is great jumping back and forth from Dr. Watson being in the action and giving narration to the audience.

Michael RJ Campbell as Dr. Watson and Michele Hillen as Irene Adler

Elsman and Campbell have the good chemistry needed for their character’s long relationship. They have performed together before, in drag no less, with Elsman as the previously mentioned Mrs. Badden-Rotten and Campbell as her no less evil and ugly daughter Goneril in “Cinderella.”

Prolific playwright Steven Deitz combines plots from two Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novellas-””A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Adventure of the Final Problem.” The first introduces the character of Irene Adler an American opera star. She is the only woman to get the best of Holmes. The second features Professor Moriarity Holmes arch nemesis. The two fight to the death in a climatic scene at Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls.

STC company member and education director Michele Hillen plays Irene Adler. Her performance is as charming for the audience as her character is to Sherlock Holmes.

Troy Thomas plays a suitably evil Professor Moriarity. After having appeared in regional productions for 25 years this is Thomas’ onstage debut at STC. He is also the founder of the critically acclaimed family theater company the Little Bus Players.

Justin Munoz plays the King of Bohemia who has hired Holmes to retrieve a compromising photograph from Irene Alder before his marriage to a Swedish princess.

Moriarity’s gang is played by Brian Watson (James Larrabee/Godfrey Norton), Kristen Majetich (Madge Larrabee) and Jake Murphy (Sid Prince/ensemble).  Majetich is a graduate of STC’s Young Professional’s Conservatory.  Murphy is a current YPC member.

With his performance in “Sherlock Holmes,” Jake Murphy is completing his studies with STC’s Young Professional Conservatory. Murphy has already performed in STC Mainstage productions (“Noises Off”), Oregon Shakespeare Festival and many other productions. It’s quite fun to watch his would be tough guy Sid.

Jake Murphy as Sid Prince, William Elsman as Sherlock Holmes, Kristen Majetich as Madge Larrabee

Veteran costumer Jessica Minnihan has done another great job with the Victorian era costuming.

Scenic designers Morgan McCarthy and Jarrod Bodensteiner along with lighting by Bodensteiner have created a set that is both interesting to look at and versatile enough to allow rapid scene changes. Bodensteiner’s lighting effects allow for Campbell’s Dr. Watson to nearly instantly switch between narrating and being part of the action.

William Myers original score for the production drives the action along while helping convey the emotions on stage.

Director Michael Laun has beautifully developed each character while also maintaing the sense of urgency that makes an adventure so fun.

Michael Laun directs Michele Hillen as Irene Adler in rehersal for Sherlock Holmes

In his notes Laun states: “This production is Sherlock Holmes: The Ride-we sweep you up and take you on an adventure that is both familiar to die hard Sherlock fans and a fun way to introduce these stories to a younger generation.” So very true.

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