Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of super sleuth Sherlock Holmes have inspired hundreds of authors to pen parodies, craft contemporary updates, and script sincere homages that have been published, filmed, staged and broadcast to the delight of Baker Street buffs worldwide.
Thanks to the recent big-budget, big-screen “Sherlock Holmes” series starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, the BBC series “Sherlock” (airing on PBS here in the States) with Benedict Cumberbatch (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) and Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit” trilogy), and the CBS series “Elementary” featuring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, Conan Doyle’s 19th-century master of deduction is hotter than ever.
But with all of the original Conan Doyle stories and subsequent adaptations written since the character’s first appearance in 1887, it would seem unlikely that a theater company could find a “Hound of the Baskervilles” that offered new tricks.
But credit Main Street Theatre Works director Julie Anchor for doing just that.
While Charles Marowitz’s “Sherlock’s Last Case” (starring Frank Langella) was originally presented by the Kennedy Center in 1987, the show – which plays Fridays and Saturdays Aug. 9 through Sept. 7 at Jackson’s Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre – may well be a complete mystery to local audiences.
Anchor, who calls herself a huge fan of the British TV series, was also in the dark about Marowitz’s twist-filled, LOL-laced play until she got the assignment to direct. But once she started reading the script, she said she couldn’t put it down.
“What I really liked about it is that it’s not the typical murder mystery – it’s not your everyday Agatha Christie ‘Hercule Poirot’ or even Conan Doyle ‘Sherlock Holmes’ story,” said Anchor, who also serves as a MSTW board member and actress. “This was just so different from the traditional Sherlock Holmes line of literature. I think our audiences will find it very engaging.
“I think that at intermission, they’ll be on the edge of their seats wondering just how the show will end. And any kind of story that makes you feel like, ‘No! Don’t stop now!’ is really good. That’s a sign of good playwriting, and I think we have brought that to life.”
The “we” to whom Anchor refers includes a talented cast of MSTW veterans including Brandon Rapoza (Dr. Watson), Georgann Wallace (Mrs. Hudson), Kelley Ogden (Liza Moriarty) and Scott Adams (Inspector Lestrade). Kevin Kirtlan, who plays Holmes, is making his MSTW debut.
“Kevin was our big ‘find” this year,” said Anchor. “He’s really fit in well. He’s a hard worker and we’d love to have him back.
“This is Scott’s fourth production for MSTW – his last performance for MSTW was as Grumio in ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Brandon, Kelley and Georgann were all in ‘Leaving Iowa’ two years ago, playing the brother, sister and mom. That show was such a big hit that those who were connected with it were excited about working together again.”
Anchor went on to say that the theater’s reputation for doing great work with professional-calibre actors in a scenic setting all contribute to drawing quality performers (as well as satisfied patrons) to Jackson.
Though he’s not on stage in “Sherlock’s Last Case,” Sacramento-based actor Allen Pontes, most recently seen in the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Julius Caesar,” is lending his skills as a lighting and sound designer, as well as composer, for “Sherlock’s Last Case."
“The music is just awesome,” gushed Anchor of her fellow MSTW board member. She also had high praise for set designer (and MSTW Artistic Director) Susan McCandless and her entire set construction and scenic artist team, including Ted Formigle, Lee Cohee, Rich Ferro, Ted Formigle, Larry Gilette, Ken Nieland, Jill North, Jerry Trotier, Sandy Gillett, Anje Olmstead, Carol Sethre and Chris Van Fleet.
“That’s what we do in community theater,” she continued. “We wear multiple hats. In addition to directing, I’m also in charge of marketing.”
But unlike many “community theater” companies (Anchor prefers to call MSTW a ‘professional-quality’ theater), Anchor stresses that MSTW avoids burdening its actors with additional offstage roles such as prop master, costumer and publicist so they can concentrate on their performances.
“We allow them the luxury of focusing on their job, which is to act,” said Anchor, who added that she couldn’t be more happy with her cast and the contributions her creative team and the company’s volunteers have made in mounting “Sherlock’s Last Case.”
“It’s the first time since ‘Leaving Iowa’ that I haven’t been stressed about opening a show.,” said Anchor. “When you get that feeling a few days before a show, you know you’ve got something special.”
JUST THE FACTS
WHAT: The Main Street Theatre Works production of Charles Marowitz’s "Sherlock’s Last Case"
WHEN: Plays Fridays and Saturdays Aug. 9 through Sept. 7, 2013; gates open at 6:30 p.m. for pinicking, show starts at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre, Jackson, Calif.
WHO: Directed by Julie Anchor; featuring Brandon Rapoza as Dr. Watson, Kevin Kirtlan as Sherlock Holmes, Georgann Wallace as Mrs. Hudson, Kelley Ogden as Liza Moriarty, Scott Adams as Inspector Lestrade
HOW MUCH: $17.50 (general admission); $12 (students 18 and under); $49 (family package – two general admission tickets, two student tickets)
FOR MORE INFO: www.mstw.org
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