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North Coast Rep’s ‘The Remarkable Mister Holmes’ a classic mystery — with songs

Bart Shatto in North Coast Rep's "The Remarkable Mister Holmes."
(Courtesy photo by Aaron Rumley)

As Sherlock Holmes aficionados know, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective resided at 221b Baker St. in London. Given its affinity for Holmes, Solana Beach’s North Coast Repertory Theatre could rightly consider itself Baker Street West.

In 2016, North Coast Rep staged Joseph Vass’ whodunit “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush” with Jason Maddy as Holmes. Two years later, it produced Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Holmes & Watson,” a mystery in which Holmes is missing and his trusted ally Dr. Watson (played by Richard Baird) tries to uncover the real detective among candidates portrayed by Jacob Sidney, Drew Parker and Christopher M. Williams.

Now comes a world-premiere Holmes comedy/mystery/musical directed like the previous two shows by North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein. “The Remarkable Mister Holmes” is a collaboration between Ellenstein and Omri Schein (they co-wrote the book), with lyrics by Schein and music by Daniel Lincoln.

It’s an original story set in London in the 1890s with Bart Shatto as Holmes and Sharon Rietkirk as Sheila Watson, the sister of the good doctor who has been called away after inheriting a mine in Argentina. The cast also includes among others Phil Johnson, Andrew Ableson, Tony Perry and Deborah Gilmour Smyth.

Schein, a writer and one of the best character actors around, calls himself “a big Golden Age of Mystery fan. Sherlock Holmes was my first foray into mysteries. A friend of my dad’s gave me one of the (short story) anthologies when I was about 9.”

Influenced not only by the Holmes stories but by having grown up with the Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies, Schein jests that the resulting new musical is a case of “Mel Brooks meets ‘My Fair Lady.’”

David Ellenstein (book and director), Omri Schein (book and lyrics) and Bart Shatto (Holmes)
David Ellenstein (book and director), Omri Schein (book and lyrics) and Bart Shatto (Holmes) in North Coast Rep’s “The Remarkable Mister Holmes.”
(Courtesy photo by Aaron Rumley)

Schein’s musical partner on “The Remarkable Mister Holmes,” Daniel Lincoln, previously teamed with him on the musicals “Making Melrose” and “Fintastic Finn,” the latter written for a children’s audience.

“Daniel and I have the same sensibility and think the same,” said Schein. “If a lyric comes first, I barely have to explain to him what I want. Ninety-five percent of the time it comes back exactly what I was thinking in my head.”

But even with the musical numbers and wacky comedy, Schein says making “The Remarkable Mister Holmes” a mystery in the classic sense was “one of our priorities.”

“At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s still a musical and that’s what most of the audiences are going to take away from it. But for mystery fans, we tried to make it as much of a mystery as possible. With songs.”

Familiarity with Holmes and his adventures is not required, said Schein. “You can still really have a fun time. It doesn’t matter.”

Schein’s fun with Sherlock Holmes won’t end when this production closes in August. He’ll be going right into rehearsal for Lamb’s Players Theatre’s fall production of “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” in which he’ll be playing, he says, “multiple crazies.”

‘The Remarkable Mister Holmes’

When: Now open and runs through Aug. 21. 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. (Additional 2 p.m. matinee on Aug. 10.)

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Tickets: $57-$68

Phone: (858) 481-1055

Online: northcoastrep.org

Coddon is a freelance writer.


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