Hey there, Chicago-land readers and visitors: For a fun time, see The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, a lively musical on stage at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Avenue, through March 20. The book is by popular Chicago theater stalwart John Reeger, with music and lyrics by Michael Mahler and the late Julie Shannon. Plot, acting, musical numbers, and singing voices—all super!
The story has two main strands (sorry, Sherlockians!). The first deals with the outraged aftermath when Arthur Conan Doyle published “The Final Problem,” a short story in which Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor James Moriarty are said to die in a plunge over Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls. Doyle was sick of Holmes and wanted to write something else, but The Great Detective’s fans were furious.
The second thread, also drawn from real life, covers Doyle’s own efforts at crime-solving in the case of solicitor George Edalji. Edalji was the son of an Indian vicar and Scottish mother, none of whom were well accepted in their small Staffordshire village of Great Wyrley. George was falsely accused of harming a number of horses and served three years’ hard labor before Doyle’s and others’ campaign led to his pardon.
If Edalji’s story sounds familiar, it was explored in the 2005 novel, Arthur and George by British author Julian Barnes (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), and a UK television series last year. The Mercury theater production differs from the television version in that it brings in Sherlock Holmes himself, channeled by Doyle, and proposes a different solution.
The entire 13-member cast was strong, especially singling out Nick Sandys (Sherlock Holmes), Michael Aaron Lindner (Doyle), McKinley Carter (Louise Doyle), and Christina Hall (Molly Jamison). Sandys and Lindner even physically resemble the characters they play! Having a live five-piece orchestra added immensely to the enjoyment. Energetic and well staged by director Warner Crocker.