I like Sherlock Holmes. My daughter likes dance. So when I saw that a new dance performance called "My Dear Watson" was playing in St. Louis, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Except that my daughter isn't too interested in Sherlock Holmes and I don't understand modern dance.
The Big Muddy Dance Company's performance closed those gaps for us, though. "My Dear Watson" is a brand new, 90 minute piece created by Joshua L. Peugh and I had no idea what to expect. I'm not a widely cultured person, but I like to keep an open mind. And I'm glad that I did because this was a fun show.
It took me a bit to figure out how modern dance pieces work. Why were Holmes and Watson dancing so closely? How can you tell a mystery story if there's no dialogue? Why do characters who are dead keep getting up and dancing some more?
This may be a big "duh" moment for folks who get to theater performances more than I do, but I soon realized that when people are dancing together, that is showing that they are talking to one another. The dead people keep getting up and dancing because the audience is seeing Holmes deduce the events in his investigation. And how does a mystery work without dialogue? It's elementary: the story is told through dance.
If you're the type of person who scoffs at new takes on old stories, pass on this performance. But if you're open-minded when it comes to adaptations, "My Dear Watson" is definitely worth checking out. The show only ran for two nights in St. Louis this weekend, but it will be available to stream on February 3-5 at www.thebigmuddydanceco.org/mydearwatson
One thing I really liked about this performance is that it is a brand new story. No retreads of the classic tales and no reworking of old characters into a new mystery. (Thank God Adler and Moriarty weren't trotted out for another go round.) "My Dear Watson" is a straight forward murder mystery that shows what these performers can do.
So let's talk about some of the performances.
Sherlock Holmes is played by Sergio Camacho and Will Brighton is John Watson. These two bring different energies to their roles, but when they are performing together, it's flawless. Brighton has a few dance numbers on his own and you can almost feel Dr. Watson's Victorian prose flowing from his poised moves. Camacho really gets to shine when he is investigating crime scenes, and you can see the manic energy in his eyes as he moves all around.
The Baker Street Irregulars show up for two scenes in the second act, and this group brought a whole new energy to the stage. You don't expect much "fun" in a show full of murder, but this group provided it for sure. And watching Sherlock interact with them brought out a new side to his character that the audience hadn't seen up until this point.
Another standout performance was Jessie Yero, who plays Mrs. Shawcross. Yero evoked emotion every time she was on stage and was the character my daughter and I talked about the most on the drive home.
But the pieces I enjoyed the most were the big ensemble numbers. When you've got twenty or so highly talented dancers on stage, it's amazing how well a story can be told with just movement. And some of the moves these people pulled off? If I even thought about some of those positions I'd pull a muscle. Someone else could describe it much better than I could, but let me just say - wow.
The stage presence of everyone involved added a lot to the show as well. Scenes set outside were always foggy. The cast moved through the aisles and front rows during numbers and milled about on the stage to set the mood before the show started. And the costumes were fantastic. I'm pretty sure Sherlock's pants alone are worth the price of admission. If you've ever wondered what Benedict Cumberbatch's wallpaper would look like as a pair of trousers, "My Dear Watson" has answered that for you.
Did "My Dear Watson" make me want to run out and buy season tickets to all of the dance companies in St. Louis? Not quite. But did it make for a fun Sherlockian evening? You bet. If you're at all interested in seeing Sherlock Holmes in a new way, I recommend checking out the streaming performances on February 3-5.