Milwaukee Rep’s ‘Holmes and Watson’: Quite Right
The conceit here is that the super-sleuth and his step-slow sidekick/physician/biographerâ€”precisely portrayed by Rep newcomers Michael Santo and Richard Farrell, respectivelyâ€”are locked inside the Holmes residence at 221B Baker Street and only a handful of hours remain with which to solve a riddle that may underscore a fiendish plot that threatens the stability of the British empire, oh dear!
This two-man show does sputter at the start with a too-long amnesia sequence involving Holmes assuming the identity of a low-rent music-hall entertainer named Mortimer Chipsâ€”is there a script doctor in the house?â€”but once dropped and forgotten, itâ€™s then that Holmes and Watson gathers steam and rolls toward a combustible climax energized by the captivating chemistry between Santo and Farrell.
And the songs, of which there are 15, all engagingly delivered: tuneful for the work at hand, although not necessarily hummable upon leaving the theater. Perhaps the too-busy synthesized pre-recorded music accompaniment is conceptually discordant with the â€śold English music hall and 19th-century parlor songsâ€ť the composer, Hillgartner, intends to evoke.
To these ears, an old-school upright piano backing these tunes would be as effectively evocative of this fin de sičcle period as scenic designer Susannah M. Barnesâ€™ exquisitely dressed set of Holmesâ€™ Baker Street digs was to these eyes.
But weâ€™re talking show biz here, pure and simple, and thatâ€™s Holmes and Watson, an elementary evening of entertainment, of a kind not found often enough. Case closed.
The Milwaukee Repâ€™s Holmes and Watson: A Musical Mystery plays through Jan. 3, 2010, in the Stackner Cabaret.