Ah, I am a happy Sherlockian tonight.
Not very far up Knoxville Avenue from me, here in good old Peoria, Illinois, the Richwoods Christian Church put on its Christmas play tonight. The very talented lady who directed the production, Melissa Anderson, made sure there was a reminder on the Sherlock Peoria Facebook page today, and for that, and the play, I am very grateful.
The Greatest Mystery of All, a Kids Rock Christmas play, was presented for one night only, tonight at 7:00 before an audience of around five or six hundred people, with a cast of a hundred or more. And what do you do with a Christmas play cast that large? Well, you have kids singing Christmas carols in voices that range from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special to the Little Rascals. You have Mary and Joseph and the whole nativity cast. And then, if you're the coolest children's play director on Earth, you have Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mycroft, Irene Adler, all three Violets, Scotland Yard, the Baker Street Irregulars, Professor Moriarty, and . . . Watson's little brother Nigel.
It was a Sherlockian's dream.
Literally, it was a Sherlockian's dream. The play begins with a fellow named Andrew and his friend Stephanie watching the end of the Jeremy Brett adaptation of "Blue Carbuncle." Stephanie goes off to watch Mission Impossible, and Andrew falls asleep reading the story of Jesus's birth. And then dreams he is Billy the page, with Stephanie as Mrs. Hudson (but secretly Jane Carter, a Mission: Impossible team organizer). They, and the whole boatload of Sherlock Holmes characters, wind up back in time, in Nazareth to investigate the mystery of the son of God being born on Earth.
(Which is an especially odd coincidence for me, as an advance copy of Len Bailey's Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye just came in the mail last week, in which "the world's greatest detective tackles the Bible's ultimate mysteries." A lot of mysterious ways going on here lately, let me tell you.)
Anyway, what followed was a whole lot of fun. Only in a Sherlockian's bad popcorn dream could Watson have an unexplained, non-Canonical little brother named Nigel (who looked a lot like the Watson of the movie Young Sherlock Holmes), and Irene Adler lead a female investigative team made up of Violet Hunter, Violet Morton, and Violet Westbury. Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade provided great comedy, often being outshone by their constables Turner and Grant, and when Mary and Joseph were being tailed by Holmes's crew, who was being tailed by Adler's crew, who had Scotland Yard behind them, and with a gang of angels and the Baker Street Irregulars in the mix as well . . . great comedy.
But just the right Christmas songs at just the right points in the traditional nativity tale always brought the pageant back to it's central theme, even if marshalling the pre-K kids' talents was literally a show-stopper as one might expect, and the revelation that Mycroft had connections in places higher than previously thought helped bring a perfect dovetailed solution to this dreamy mix of two Canons.
All in all, it was a splendid evening full of surprises for the Holmes fan lucky enough to get to see it, and a great introduction to the classic Holmes (background on all the characters filled the back half of the program) for all the kids involved. As I said, I am very grateful that I got the chance to see it and share an evening out with the good Carter, who, it must be said, is quite the fan of Christmas.
And for those who keep records of such things, and I know there are some out there: Sherlock Holmes was played by Elijah Wilkes and Dr. Watson was played by Julien Rouleau. You can now add their names to that incredibly long roster of thespians who have taken those classic roles. The name of the play was The Greatest Mystery of All, and there was no mystery about its entertainment value.