It is days like these that make so happy and proud to call London my home. After spending the afternoon mingling with the Hoxton hipsters enjoying the first sunny day for 8 months, we head for one of the capitals’ hidden treasures, the finest remaining example of a Victorian saloon style music hall, the much-loved local treasure Hoxton Hall.
After Leslie Bricusse (Doctor Dolittle, Willy Wonka, Victor Victoria) caught and approved of sharp new production team Morphic Graffiti’s contemporary updating of his Jekyll and Hyde at the Union last year, he suggested that they have a stab at his 1989 Sherlock Holmes musical. Director Luke Fredericks and designer Stewart Charlesworth came up with the nifty idea of transforming the show into a music hall romp, hence the perfect marriage of material to performance space.
A puppetry prologue explains how Holmes has finally vanquished his formidable adversary evil Professor Moriarty and we find Holmes and his trusty side-kick Dr Watson in comfortable yet bored retirement in Baker Street waited on by widowed housekeeper Mrs Hudson. A young female artist ignites a spark in Holmes, but she disappears and he is framed for her murder. In disguise he takes refuge on the Isle of Dogs whilst trying to solve the mystery of the missing girl and her mysterious opera singing neighbour, all the time pursued by the incompetent Inspector Lestrade.
None of that brief synopsis does remote justice to the unalloyed joy that emanates from every pore of every member of the superb cast. Dressed in beautiful bright period costumes on cartoon-like sets they deliver Bricusse’s perky score full of tuneful ensemble numbers. The witty cockney rhyming slang of Apples n Pears is raucously staged and choreographed by the ingenious Lee Proud and some soul-searching ballads bring pathos to Andrea Miller’s superficially blousy crowd-pleasing Mrs Hudson and Leonie Heath’s revenge hungry Bella Spellgrove.
Sherlock himself is brought sharply to life by tousle haired Colin Firth lookalike Tim Walton, always one step ahead of the pack. Struggling gamely on through a bout of man flu, Walton is another of those West End stars-in-waiting with oodles of charisma and a calm centred presence when all around is artful chaos. John Cusworth imbues his slightly dim best pal Watson with the eager air of spaniel puppy and it his bromance with Holmes that forms the centrepiece of the proceedings, the confirmed bachelor finding solace and excitement with his four-time unhappily married best friend, both anxious for a case to keep their brains gainfully employed.
With a sense of history permeating the proceedings onstage and the building itself, it is impossible not to get caught up in the melodrama and fun, with even the darker moments played for laughs (yes the drug habit gets a mention, but not enough to scare the kids). Peppered throughout with classic illusions and with an interval singalong to encourage stragglers back from the bar, this is top notch entertainment for all the family, take your granny or your grandchild and I guarantee that they will love every moment. Take a date or a mate and you won't be disappointed.
Leslie Bricusse must be mightily pleased that he handed his baby over to the care of Fredericks, Charlesworth and their team.
Booking until 10 May 2013, pure unalloyed joy with great tunes - The Revenge of Sherlock Holmes