Review: "Watson: The Musical" opening this weekend!
Seeing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous literary sidekick, John Watson, high as a kite on cocaine is only one of the joyous oddities viewers get to experience in Watson: The Musical, a brand new original production from the King’s Players that opens tonight.
The show is a hilarious, absurdly enjoyable and clever look at Sherlock’s crime-solving partner, Dr. Watson, when he is left to look over the detective agency on his own during Sherlock’s absence. The play maintains many original characters from the books themselves (such as Mary, Mrs. Hudson and, of course, Watson and Sherlock), while also adding new characters who are just as dynamic. With heart as well as wit, Watson brings to mind A Very Potter Musical, another original show based on previously established and beloved characters that successfully created its own humorous and inventive musical featuring quality writing and songs.
Remarkably, there is not a single weak song to be found in the score of Watson. Lyricist and TKC alum, Jerron Herman teamed up with composer, Carol Anne Ausband ('14) to create a brilliant blend. Many of the musical’s songs successfully mirror the script’s genius sense of humor, which holds a nice touch of mockery, including the very funny and catchy scene-setting song “It’s Great (It Sucks).”
The show isn’t completely void of sweet and more sincere songs though. Baylor University graduate, Victoria Teague, who plays Mary, sings the beautiful love song “Doctor’s Wife,” which showcases her lovely vocals. According to the show’s producer and the King's Players' managing director, Hope Chavez ('14), they’re hoping to record the album for Watson with this original cast.
The set may initially appear to be rather minimal, as the musical proceeds it is shown to in fact be quite effective and perfect fits the story. Props are also used to maximum effect here.
The book, penned by King’s alum, Grant Dearmitt, is the true source of inspiration for this show. Moment to moment the script is laugh-out-loud funny--not to mention clever, original and utterly charming. Dearmitt's work aptly parodies the characters and time period (Victorian era London) without ever seeming cruel or untrue to the play’s source material or its characters. Even more impressive, he manages to make a Sherlock adaptation that feels completely fresh and unlike any of the other various versions.
The entire cast gives strong, professional performances, all with excellent comic timing. In particular, E.C. Hanna III, a recent King’s graduate, is immensely enjoyable pulling double duty as Sherlock Holmes and Lord Basil, a character original to the musical. He exudes energy and vivacity throughout the show, and despite only briefly appearing as Sherlock, Hanna manages to make the role his own, avoiding replicating popular interpretations of the character (such as Robert Downey Jr.’s in Guy Ritchie’s recent films and Benedict Cumberbatch in British television’s Sherlock).
King’s senior, Jordan Best, plays the title character and gives us a fun, engaging Watson. Best is a natural comedic actor and makes a splendid leading man here. His best scenes however are when he’s sharing the stage with either of Hanna’s characters. They have undeniably great chemistry and play off each other effortlessly.
Watson has been in the works since fundraising for the show began last summer and is the byproduct of many students' and theater professionals' hard work.
"I've loved seeing how many collaborations this show has facilitated," Chavez said. "This show has had more professional collaborations involved than any other King's Players production.
Chavez expressed that the fact that King's doesn't have a set theater program enabled students to run the show themselves, giving them a sense of pride and "ownership over [the] program."
"You would not be able to run a program like this [at another college]," she said. "You would have a lot more facility oversight. We did it all by ourselves."
Kacey Gritters (Dec. '14), the production's stage manager, set designer and light and sound designer, agreed that being entirely student-run makes the show stronger and more unique.
"One person had a vision and another person said, 'Let's see what we can do with that,' and we kept adding more people and it just flourished into this great thing that seemed impossible at the time, but not we're here," Gritters said. "It was a really great opportunity to have a bunch of creative people create an Off-Off Broadway show."
Both Gritters and Chavez encourage students to see the musical both for it's humor and to support fellow King's students and alums.
"It's really funny, it's really entertaining," Gritters said. "And you can support your friends."
"One [reason to see the musical] is to support the [King's] community," Chavez said. "This is something that's never been done."
The show will appeal to both die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans, as well as those unfamiliar with the literary sleuth, and at only $15 a ticket, it’s a steal. I highly recommend seeing this silly, smart and, ultimately, extremely well-done production that showcases some great talent, particularly great talent from King’s.
Chavez said the end goal is to hopefully copyright the music and script so they can continue to be used by others.
"I hope it will leave a legacy in the King's Players and in the MCA department," Chavez said.
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