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September 23, 2009 > Theatre: The game is afoot at Broadway West

Theatre: The game is afoot at Broadway West

By Janet Grant
Photos By Dan Sparks

Right at the heart of Fremont's Irvington District; at the intersection of the famous Five Corners, lies a real treasure. An historic red brick building modestly houses the Broadway West Theatre Company. This theatre company performs where vaudeville once played. And it does so with a proud nod to it's past.

The theatre itself is small, dark, and uniquely atmospheric. Coming in from a hot and bustling California evening, I was at once transported into a kindler, gentler time... well perhaps not so gentle. But when the curtains opened onto Victorian London, complete with fog and gaslight, I settled in for a night of cozy British mystery and adventure that can only be accompanied the most famous detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes. And I was not disappointed.

"Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" adapted by Steven Dietz is really based on two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's more famous short stories - "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Adventure of the Final Problem." The story begins with narration by Holmes' loyal Dr. Watson proclaiming the death of Holmes. From his narration, Dr. Watson re-enacts events that lead up to Holmes death. It begins as the King of Bohemia needs help to retrieve a damaging photo of the King from his ex-lover Irene Adler, the famous opera singer. Apparently Holmes has a recording of Miss Adler and is already half in love with her.

The plot thickens when Adler marries a solicitor named Godfrey Norton. As it turns out, Norton's real name is James Larabee, and Adler's maid happens to be his sister, Madge. The Larabee's are part of villainous Professor Moriarty's minions; Holmes steps in and saves Adler from the Larabees and their boss, Moriarty.

Bob Lane as Sherlock Holmes was really Sherlock Holmes. Physically he looked like what Holmes should look like - tall, thin, with an aristocratic caste to his face. He aptly portrayed the famous detective with just the right amount of annoyance at those he deemed less intelligent, yet with plenty of human failing. He loves his loyal sidekick Watson, he admires the brilliance of his arch-enemy Moriarty, is rather condescending to women and yet, with all his bravery, can't speak romantically to Irene Adler. Instead, he stumbles through scientific facts like well, a nerd.

Kyle Smith was wonderful as the faithful Dr. Watson. Watson is one of my favorite Holmes characters and I wasn't disappointed with Smith's portrayal. He played the part with efficiency and likability - the human foil to Holmes's pure intelligence.

Irene Adler was portrayed brilliantly by Dawn Cates. Miss Cates delivered a female adventuress who was both strong and feminine. And she was clever - perhaps even more so than Holmes himself.

Jim Woodbury's Professor Moriarty showed not the monstrous criminal of the movies, but rather a brilliant, yet dark and complex villain who seemed to be surrounded by rather inept hoodlum accomplices.

And speaking of hoods, I rather liked James Larrabee portrayed by Brad Monk. Inept? Yes, but not too dastardly. And Sid Prince played by Gary Laidlaw really came across as a creepy little hood and jack of all criminal trades. He was very believable with his cockney accent and back alley roughness.

Madge Larrabee was also aptly portrayed by Leslie Newport. Nasty and opportunistic, James Larrabee's sister was not a nice person, in any of her guises!

Rounding out the cast, Spencer Stevenson was hilarious as the pompous King of Bohemia. Mr. Stevenson cut a somewhat dashing but comical figure that you kind of had to love in spite of his failings as a 'love-em-and-leave-em' type of monarch.

Director, Paula Chenoweth and Assistant Director, Becky Denevan have done a great job bringing one of Britain's most famous literary icons to life. From the very beginning when Watson makes his sad pronouncement, I was transfixed as I met Kings, divas, swindlers, diabolical foes, watched Holmes bumble through first love and unravel Moriarty's plot before winding up at the precipice of Switzerland's Reichenbach Falls.

"Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure," has it all - intrigue, love, adventure, loyalty, humor, pathos, and lots and lots of guns. Through it all, that familiar figure in the Inverness cape and deerstalker cap reminds us why we care about him so much after 122 years. He was the original. He was the private eye whose keen observation of humanity could deduce so quickly who a person was, where they had been, or what they were going to ask of him. He came before "Monk," "Pysch," and "The Mentalist" ever existed. And he did it with a pipe, a violin, neat woolen clothes, and it was always very "elementary."

Do yourselves a favor and enjoy a British night at the wonderful and intimate Broadway West Theatre. For a few hours, walk into Victorian England and watch the greatest detective of them all solve a puzzling crime and get the girl? The game is definitely and enthusiastically afoot at Broadway West!

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
Performances run thru October 17
Thursday, Friday and Saturday - 8 p.m.

Sunday matinee at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, September 27 and October 4, Continental Brunch at 12:15
On Sunday, October 11, English Tea at intermission

Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay St., Fremont
(510) 881-6777

Ticket Prices are $22 for adults, $17 for seniors/ students/TBA members. ALL seats $15 on Thursdays. Special Bargain: Thursday, October 15, ALL seats $10. All admission prices include refreshments. You can call for reservations or information.

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