It’s Christmas Eve, 1894, London. Moriarty is dead and so is Ebenezer Scrooge. Now a doctor at a struggling children’s hospital, Tiny Tim (aka Dr. Timothy Cratchit) enlists the help of Sherlock Holmes – who has soured on detective work, forsaken his assistant Dr. Watson, and become quite Scrooge-like since defeating his archenemy at Reichenbach Falls – to solve the mystery of the strange death of his beloved friend and benefactor. After rediscovering his enjoyment of observation and deductive reasoning, “the game is afoot” once again for the “consulting detective,” in writer/director Mark Shanahan’s A Sherlock Carol, a spirited new mash-up of the beloved classics by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens, now playing a limited Off-Broadway holiday engagement at New World Stages.
The witty play with music (the harmonious cast sings a selection of traditional Christmas carols at points in the show to set the mood of the season) references the tales and characters from the iconic British Victorian novelists, testing viewers’ knowledge of Shanahan’s sources and adding to the fun of the inspired work. Central among them is Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” with a valuable gem that figures prominently in the new intrigue, along with Ebenezer’s missing will. And Holmes is haunted by the apparitions of both Moriarty and Scrooge, the latter spirit conjuring visions of the past, present, and future as in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, to teach him the lessons that opened his own eyes and heart, and stopped him from saying “Bah, humbug” (here Holmes has reduced it to a crotchety “Bah”).
Broadway veteran Drew McVety stars as the pessimistic and disenchanted Sherlock Holmes, who, despite his negativity, has nonetheless retained his signature powers of scrutiny and crime-solving, able to deduce everything he needs to know with his spontaneous (and very amusing) rapid-fire analysis of a worn top hat. In contrast, Thom Sesma is a delight as the ghost of Scrooge, whose transformed attitude of kindness and generosity he hopes will impact and uplift Holmes, just as it does the audience.
The outstanding featured cast, comprised of the ever-excellent Dan Domingues (appearing as the sensitive grown-up Tiny Tim, among others), Anissa Felix, Isabel Keating, and Mark Price, takes on multiple (and some cross-gender) roles of the familiar characters from the well-known originals with distinction, humor, and a nod to the style of the British panto, keeping up the fast pace of the show with their quick changes of dress, accents, and demeanors. Their spot-on transformations are supported by Linda Cho’s lavish Victorian-style costumes, and hair and wigs by Charles G. LaPointe.
Also contributing effectively to the evocation of the era and the supernatural theme are Anna Louizos’ scenic design, with the action set before a backdrop of silhouetted houses and lamp posts on a nocturnal London street, dramatic lighting by Rui Rita, and original music and sound by John Gromada, including the eerie echoing voices of the entities from the other world.
With its clever synthesis of time-honored 19th-century characters and plot lines into an entertaining new play filled with thrills, chills, and laughs, A Sherlock Carol offers theatergoers a great way to get into the holiday spirit.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission.
A Sherlock Carol plays through Sunday, January 2, 2022, at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $39-119), call (212) 239-6200, or go online. Based on CDC and state guidelines, protocols include mask enforcement and vaccination or negative test verification, presented with a valid ID. Ticket holders who do not comply with venue policies will not be admitted.