Whodunit with humor

The director describes Ocala Civic Theatre’s new show as “Sherlock Holmes meets The Three Stooges.”

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted March 20, 2024 | By Lisa McGinnes

With witty, lightning-quick pacing, a murder mystery to solve, and the renowned super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Ocala Civic Theatre’s (OCT) “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” is hilarious and highly entertaining.

Tony Award-winning Ken Ludwig’s 2015 retelling of the iconic Victorian classic retains the plot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 novel: The detective and his assistant, Dr. Watson, are called to the moors of western England to investigate after Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead, with footprints of a gigantic hound nearby, and locals fears Baskerville heir Sir Henry will be next.

The twist? In addition to Holmes and Watson, every other character – more than 40 in all – are played by just three actors. Comedic elements including ongoing jokes, silly costumes, exaggerated accents and sight gags bring lighthearted fun to the show guest director Lawrence Lesher described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The Three Stooges.”

“It’s very theatrical. It’s very much a comedic tale, but it’s still a genuine mystery,” said Lesher, who is based in New York City and is returning to OCT for his fourth production. “It’s one of the greatest mysteries ever written – 120 years later we still know it – and then Ken Ludwig wrote this really wonderful adaptation where we can still have that mystery but have a really rocking kind of fun time doing it.”

The venerable Sherlock Holmes is played by OCT veteran James Ray Taylor III, last seen as Joseph Pulitzer in “Newsies.” He is every bit as dapper as you’d expect the Brit of Baker Street to be, in his bowler hat and Inverness coat, with a delightful dash of humor and a seamless comedic rapport with Watson. Brian Creary, who recently appeared in OCT’s “Witch,” called Dr. Watson a “very fun and interesting person” and noted he is “excited to portray such an iconic character.” While the detective duo offers a remarkable performance, the nonstop, laugh-out-loud hilarity is provided by the ensemble of three who tirelessly bring to life all the other characters, thanks to an array of scarves, wigs, hats, canes and glasses donned during hasty backstage costume changes.

Trafton Crandall, last seen in “Newsies,” slides easily back and forth between dialects and characters including Sir Hugo Baskerville, twangy Texan Sir Henry and Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade. Megan Taylor, who has appeared in many OCT productions including “Newsies,” shows amazing versatility as she leaps into roles ranging from Scottish caretaker Mrs. Barrymore to Sir Henry’s young love interest, Beryl Stapleton. Christian Gonzales, last seen on the OCT stage in “Witch,” gives a showstopping performance as he exuberantly and hilariously swaps costumes, accents and accessories to take on a wide range of characters including Dr. Mortimer, Barrymore and the deceivingly complex butterfly catcher Jack Stapleton.

Patrons are invited to two special events leading up to this show. On Saturday, March 23, OCT will host Off Book, a free book club facilitated by R.J. Jenkins of the Marion County Literacy Council. The event is advertised as “no reading required,” so anyone who wants to learn more about Doyle’s legendary novel, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” is encouraged to call the box office (352) 236-2274 to reserve a seat.

On opening night, OCT will debut its new Thursday Starlight Studio series. This preshow event offers patrons a chance to enjoy free live music on the outdoor patio behind the theater with food and drinks available for purchase. For “Baskerville,” Pepere Joe’s food truck will feature a British Isles-themed menu including fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, and bangers and mash. Beer and wine will be available and Adam Pryor of Brick City Cabaret Company will perform on guitar and vocals. Starlight Studio will be held March 21, March 28 and April 4 at 5:30 p.m.

“Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” is live on stage March 21-April 7 at Ocala Civic Theatre, 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd. For tickets, visit ocalacivictheatre.com or call (352) 236-2274.

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