Milwaukee Rep’s ‘Holmes and Watson’: Quite Right
The conceit here is that the super-sleuth and his step-slow sidekick/physician/biographerâprecisely portrayed by Rep newcomers Michael Santo and Richard Farrell, respectivelyâare 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 Chipsâis there a script doctor in the house?âbut once dropped and forgotten, itâs 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 âold English music hall and 19th-century parlor songsâ 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 siècle period as scenic designer Susannah M. Barnesâ exquisitely dressed set of Holmesâ Baker Street digs was to these eyes.
But weâre talking show biz here, pure and simple, and thatâs Holmes and Watson, an elementary evening of entertainment, of a kind not found often enough. Case closed.
The Milwaukee Repâs Holmes and Watson: A Musical Mystery plays through Jan. 3, 2010, in the Stackner Cabaret.