How to turn a Sherlock Holmes adventure into a Christmas season favorite? Elementary, my good people.
First, take one of Holmes' stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and have Salt Lake City playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett adapt it into a radio play. Next, grab a talented group of voice actors and foley artists, along with creative sound and lighting designers, and get them together on one stage. Finally, fill the Jeanne Wagner Theater downtown with an audience primed by past Plan-B Theatre Company/KUER RadioWest Radio Hour performances, and full of the season's spirit.
Add them together, and you get one fine night out, and a fun hour of radio that, if you didn't hear it live during its 7 p.m. performance Tuesday night, can be heard on RadioWest Wednesday at 11 a.m. on KUER 90.1 FM.
The Radio Hour radio plays ran for six years, typically during the Halloween season, and after a year off, returned to action with Bennett's Christmas mystery. For fans of the older editions, this year's take on Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle was a vivid reminder of how good this talented group is at bringing a story to life simply through line readings and cool effects.
The cast was roundly excellent at delivering Bennett's dialogue with style and good humor, no surprise given the familiar faces on stage. With RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio as Holmes, and X96 Radio From Hell co-host Bill Allred as Watson, the audience saw a playful banter between characters that was fitting given the two voice actors' affable personalities. In Bennett's adaptation, Holmes came off as a persnickety and brilliant sleuth, one who can't help himself from trying to solve any question--even the source of the spices in the seasonal fruitcake. Watson, while being a doctor, is a sidekick happy to give the needle to Holmes, while still expressing genuine awe at his friend's deductive reasoning.
Alongside Fabrizio and Allred were Jay Perry and Jason Tatom, both of whom played a variety of roles--an impressive feat considering how quickly they sometimes had to switch characters on the fly. Watching all of the actors contort their bodies and faces to pull out a memorable reading was a blast. And all of them joined the foley artists Mark Robinette and Michael Scott Johnson in providing sound effects to enhance the show, from blowing goose calls to crumpling paper to make the sound of a crackling fire.
The plot made the hour fly by, and I won't spoil it in case you have the chance to tune in to Wednesday's re-airing of the show. Suffice to say, it involves a sickly Holmes, a rambunctious Watson, a stolen diamond, mysterious hat and more than one goose. All the elements come together in a tidy story that deftly avoids holiday sentimentality in favor of staying true to Holmes' and his cohort's characters.
Here's hoping the RadioWest/Plan-B collaboration returns as an annual event, even as a one-night-only appearance as it was this year. If it does, be sure to buy tickets before it sells out.