Friday, November 30, 2012

A Sherlock Christmas in Peoria.

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.


  1. Thank you for your lovely review, Brad. It truly made my day! This Sherlockian is all smiles this morning! I’ve never been reviewed before, and what a wonderful first one. I’m so very glad you could come last night and that you were entertained, especially considering your recent angst over "Elementary." Sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet you in person. I hope we might rectify that someday…because no one I know loves Sherlock the way I do…

  2. Thanks Brad for coming to the play and taking the time to blog about. It made my day to read this. Thanks.

  3. Sounds amazing! What a great idea--wish I could have seen it. Is the script available for purchase? I'd love to have a copy.

    (and pssst..."all three Violets"...there are four in the canon...)

    1. You want to put Violet DeMerville in a family-friendly production? I am shocked! Shocked, I say! (And we shall speak of her no further . . . back to three Violets!)

    2. Exactly, Brad. That’s exactly why Violet de Merville was not considered for inclusion in the play. Try writing THAT story background for a church program! In addition, I’m not all that fond of a woman who could be icy to Holmes when he’s using all his powers of eloquence to persuade her to reconsider her course of action. (OK, I’m excited…this is the first time I’ve EVER had an exchange with people who know the stories like this!)

      Jacquelynn, I wrote the play specifically for our church, so it’s not a published piece. I’ve had several requests for video of the play, so I’m going to see if we can get it posted on the church website ( Or, perhaps if the Sherlock Society ever meets again and I can manage to secure an invitation, I could bring a copy along. So, anyone up for a birthday bash on January 6? Is the Fox Pub open on Sunday?

    3. Doesn't look like Fox Pub is open on Sundays, but that's a pretty decent idea. Have to see what venues might work out for it.

  4. OK, Sherlockians, I have a problem, but it's a good problem, and I need your advice. I suddenly have some 5-11 year-olds who want more Sherlock Holmes. One grandma told me today that she's going to rent the movie for her six-year-old granddaughter. I assumed she meant one of the Downey Jr. films. (Gulp.) I told her those movies aren't exactly kindergarten fare. (And, in my opinion, not all that good either...sorry to any who think otherwise.)

    I want to encourage the reading of the original stories, but the originals aren't very accessible to smaller kids. I began reading the stories when I was about 12, and I read the originals, so I'm not familiar with kid adaptations. Are there any especially well-done children's adaptations of the stories you would recommend? Or children's videos of them?

    Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. We've got another generation in the making here...minds that can be inoculated against the blind acceptance of shows like "Elementary."

    And keep checking on those venues for Jan. 6, Brad. If I can be of assistance, let me know.

  5. Basil of Baker Street might fill the bill for a six-year-old, though it's technically about a mouse that lives with Sherlock Holmes. (Books and movie. Not sure of the current availability.) There have been a ton of adaptations for younger kids over the years, but I'm not sure what's out now. We'll see if anybody else has any thoughts.

  6. Thanks for reviewing the play, Brad. I was there and greatly enjoyed it as well! Mrs. Anderson did a masterful job of script-writing and the kids were simply great fun!

  7. @Melissa Anderson

    What about the movie "Young Sherlock Holmes"? Haven't seen the whole gig, but it's about Holmes and Watson meeting when being still at boarding school. I think it's Disney-ware, so should be kid-friendly.

  8. Wonderful to read this review- would Sherlock Hound be a nice place to start for kids? There are some cartoons on YouTube of what I'm guessing to be traditional stories.