Annie Walker-Bright of Wheaton is directing "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure". Playing January 25 to February 17 at Wheaton Drama's Playhouse 111 in downtown Wheaton, the show is an adaptation by Steven Dietz from the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle. Featuring many of the favorite Holmes characters, "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" sees the great detective and Watson accepting a case from the King of Bohemia.
Ms. Walker-Bright's previous Wheaton Drama directing experience includes such shows as "See How They Run" and "Don't Dress for Dinner". Also seen on stage, her most recent appearances include roles in "Incorruptible" and her personal favorite, "Noises Off".
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When considering what appealed to her about directing "Sherlock Holmes", Annie noted, "I find great pleasure in directing comedies, especially farce, and 'Sherlock Holmes' was the only vehicle this season that I might be able to put my talents to work and perhaps glean a few titters along the way during this somewhat unusual 'Sherlock Holmes' plot." Indeed, this adaptation includes the intrigue and adventure one would expect from a Holmes tale, plus humor and romance.
The show presents additional appeal in the "stretching of wings" for this director: "The interesting and exciting part of this show is that I have come out of my comfort zone involving very generous sets and decoration and gone totally minimalist. This has been a challenge inasmuch as I have really burdened the actors to be dynamic so that the minimalist, cartoon effect on the stage becomes an effective enhancement to the play by not stopping for scene changes and the like -- it is continuous movement."
This approach creates an exciting challenge for audiences, too. "My original vision was to minimize the huge array of locations and scene changes, so I have tried a very different approach to my directing," Annie says. "Sets and set decoration are at a minimum and the audience will have to use imagination throughout the performance. I have great faith. I know they can do it."
Part of Annie's faith in the success of this approach is attributed to her belief in the crew. "The crew I have worked with many times, and I believe I have the 'A' team this time. They are so dedicated and put up with my antics, changes and eccentricities so well."
The "Sherlock Holmes" crew includes: Tracy Adams (makeup design); Ben Aylesworth (special effects & set decoration); Ken Beach (production photography); Alice Blount (properties); Steve Blount (production manager & front of house); Brian Boylan (sound design); Traci A. Cidlik (poster design); Pat Daly (set construction); Craig Gustafson (Starboard design); Melissa Heischberg (website); Dee Hicks (assistant director); Denny & Dolly Jamieson (tickets); Amy Johnson (stage manager); Jo-Ann Ledger (publicity); Steven Merkel (publicity photography); R.J. Ogren (scenic design); Katy Smith (programme); Marcia Steinbrecher (costume design); Jim Van de Velde (lighting design).
As for those bringing the story to life on stage? "The cast are all new to me, which is unusual. I have seen a couple of the cast on stage, but have never had direct contact either in acting roles or directing. They too roll their eyes at me as I flit on and off the stage and ask for more, more and then some more, but I think they are used to me by now!" She laughs, "Right?"
The cast is Edward Barnett of Schaumburg as Norton/Larrabee; Roy Birch of Carol Stream as Sid Prince; Pat Daly of Naperville as Policeman/Clergyman; Deven Ferber of Lombard as Sherlock Holmes; Amy Johnson of Lombard as Post Boy/Swiss Boy; Harold LeBoyer of Rolling Meadows as Dr. Watson; Larry Mayo of Wheaton as Professor Moriarty; Karen Neidlinger of St. Charles as Madge Larrabee; Tom Viskocil of Woodridge as the King of Bohemia; Sharon Voss of Wheaton as Irene Adler.
Annie's gratitude for those involved with the show is no joking matter. "I give my sincere thanks and appreciation to all those folks, cast and crew, and they know who they are, for putting in hours of volunteer work."
Sherlock Holmes tales are still read and new interpretations offered after over 100 years. Annie offers her opinion as to why Holmes still interests people today: "Oh, it's like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Dickens, the stories never let you down, expectations of happy endings always in your mind even though there is treachery afoot, nasty villains lurking around every corner -- and everyone loves a happy ending."
To see how "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" meets their expectations, audiences can purchase tickets at http://www.wheatondrama.org or call 630-260-1820.
Shows are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street, Wheaton, IL 60187. Tickets are $13 for Thursdays; $16 for Fridays-Sundays. Dramatists Play Service licenses "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure".
Other shows in Wheaton Drama's season are "Full Circle" (March 15-April 7) and "Into the Woods" (May 17-June 9). Tickets for all shows are available at www.wheatondrama.org or call 630-260-1820. Follow on Twitter at WDIpublicity.