Every parent is always is always in search of appropriate and fun entertainment for their kids. So it’s good news that Dobama is presenting the family-friendly show Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars. It’s a fun show for children, since it features lots of running around, some wonderfully-staged action sequences, and just enough Message to give it some feel-good heft.
Local playwright Eric Coble has based his script on the eponymous graphic novels by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood, about a gaggle of kids who worship Mr. Holmes and take it upon themselves to protect Victorian London against evil-doers in his absence.
And damned if scenic designer Ben Needham hasn’t brought that “comic book” look to the stage, using dramatic silhouettes and other graphic tricks to mimic the cartoonish elements of the source material. For example, a scene where a good guy and a bad guy are fighting on the roof of a speeding train is exhilarating, thanks to splendid projection design by the wizard of those things, T. Paul Lowry.
This is all great stuff for any rug rats in attendance. However, by jamming together a couple different story lines the plot is hard to follow, requiring the detective brilliance of, say, Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, even though his name leads the title, Holmes is mostly missing from these proceedings. You see, he and his arch enemy, the dastardly Moriarty, plunge over a waterfall at the very start, supposedly to their joint demise.
This leaves the show in the hands of a rotating cast of six kids, who display varying degrees of potential. On this night, among the most accomplished were Colin Frothingham as Wiggins, the Holmes-like leader of the Irregulars and Elise Pakiela as Pockets, the crew’s expert pickpocket.
The others Irregulars (Patrick Hensel as Chen, David Gretchko as Tiny, Adler Chefitz as Ash and Miranda Leeann as Eliza) have nice isolated moments. But overall the young actors, try as they might, aren't able to keep the pace of the dialog clipping along as rapidly as that train. The result is a lot of pregnant pauses that slowly seep the energy out of the show.
The five adults in the cast do what they can to keep the production humming. Among them, Christopher M. Bohan turns in a steady job as both Dr. Watson and Sherlock, and Ray Caspio is a snarly study in nastiness as two different villains, Morris Wiggins and Moriarty himself. It’s just a shame these two fine actors don’t have more juicy scenes together. As the clueless Inspector Lestrade, Ananias J. Dixon nearly devours the impressive scenery on Dobama’s vast stage, drooling and chomping into each of his lines to cadge some laughs. Hey, you can’t blame him.
In short, this Sherlock is a sure lock for kids and their parents. For everyone else, deductive reasoning might suggest a different entertainment choice.
Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars
Through December 30 at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-3396, dobama.org.