James Madison High School
In the busy heart of London lies 221 Baker Street, the residence of the greatest deductive mind in contemporary history- Miss Sherlock Holmes. First published in 2017 by Christopher M. Walsh, Miss Holmes is a modern reimagining of the world of Sherlock Holmes– where both she and Dr. John Watson, renamed to Dr. Dorothy Watson, are both women, with the story picturing how their predicaments would fare if they were women living in Victorian London. In this world, Sherlock is a private investigator who assists women through their various woes, giving them a voice when society cannot. She is approached by a nervous housewife, who has been receiving letters about her new husband, and his ominous track record of dead spouses. Teaming up with Watson, the pair go out to get to the bottom of the mystery.
In Westfield’s production of the show, the deductive and socially apathetic Sherlock Holmes was portrayed by Zoe Brennan, who breathed new life into the classic character, whose unconventional tactics played their way into comedy. Her sharp wit and cunning bled into every scene and allowed the mystery to unfold right before the audience’s eyes. Her partner in crime-solving, Dr. Dorothy Watson (Gwendolyn Eagle) provided a proper and mannered contrast to Brennan’s Sherlock. Where Sherlock was clever, Watson was intelligent. Where Watson was wary, Sherlock was confident. The pair's bond onstage grew over the course of the show and resonated with the audience as such.
Among the supporting cast was Mycroft Holmes (Morgan Palmer), Sherlock’s cynical and morally gray brother. At first showing an unlikeable and antagonistic side, to then something not quite completely hate-able, but still dislikeable, Palmer expressed the character’s loathsome personality and tactics wonderfully, keeping the audience on their toes, guessing whether Sherlock’s older brother was going to serve as an enemy or ally to her story. Watson’s love interest of Michael Stamford (TJ Brescia) added an unusual but oddly helpful ally to their cause, with his smittenness of the character apparent from his very first scene. His odd mannerisms and long-time crush penetrated into each scene the pair shared. An old woman and a helpful cause in the story, Eudora Featherstone (Lillianna McNerney) grasped the audience’s attention to her grief and somewhat bizarre demeanor, only foreshadowing what was to come. An enemy turned acquaintance, Edward Greener (Yishak Kefyalew Kelkay), while only briefly onstage, brought not only a great contrast with his Irish accent but also a lovely comedic touch.
This production couldn’t have been done without the wonderful technical aspects, such as custom skirt-pants, color-matching couples, and seamless quick changes from costumes (Annabelle DuBard, Ameerah ByField, Jaylah Bunch, Grace Costanzo), to Victorian-accurate braids and mustaches from hair and makeup (Arsema Kelkay, Anusha Krishnan, Karis Kim, Ameerah Byfield). The large set (Eloise Latimer, Zachary Abdelmotalib, Chloe Lupo, Naba Farooqui), brought Sherlock’s world to life, with numerous buildings, which could be rotated to reveal their colorful and busy interiors. The smallest details, such as every last brick, recreated the careful world beautifully. The set even had panels which flipped open in order to convert the exteriors into the inside of a hospital. A carriage was constructed for one scene in particular. The sound team (Nicholas Bruzzese, Nathan Brogdon, Stella Moyer, Jonathan Duncan) played careful sound effects and also provided background music during darkened scene transitions which not only complimented the story but enhanced its air as well.
When Sherlock Holmes is a woman, her status changed completely, so one could only wonder, now that she’s met Watson, what other wonderful adventures could the pair share?
Justice High School
Flickering lamplight shone through the fog that enveloped the stage, eerie and foreboding. A few brave souls stumbled out, only to be dragged back again and again, with their blood-curdling screams fading to silence. The lights came up on a cloaked man as he glanced surreptitiously around. And with that, Westfield High School's production of Miss Holmes had begun.
Originally published in 2017 by Christopher M. Walsh, the script for Miss Holmes has been described as "theatrical fan fiction", taking pre-existing characters and putting a unique twist on them. The show follows Miss Sherlock Holmes (Zoe Brennan) and Dr. Dorothy Watson (Gwendolyn Eagle) as the pair try to crack the mystery presented to them. The presenter of the mystery, Lizzy Chapman (Mackenzie Vance), is the newest wife of Thomas Chapman (TJ Craypoff), whose other two wives passed away under suspicious circumstances. It is on the shoulders of Holmes and Watson to solve the mystery of their deaths for Lizzy's sake, fighting against the mastermind of the crimes as well as the trappings of Victorian society. Along the way, they receive varied help from characters like Watson's suitor, Michael (TJ Brescia), the Scotland Yard inspector, Lestrade (Peter Dalton), and the mother of one of Chapman's deceased wives, Eudora Featherstone (Lillianna McNerney).
Brennan, as Holmes, led the audience through the mystery with charisma and a lively wit. With every "Fascinating!" Brennan explored a new side of Holmes' personality, from her fearlessness as she made bold declarations to the killer's face, to the terror in her body language as she was remanded to an asylum. Brennan illustrated Sherlock's humanity alongside her genius. And alongside Brennan's Holmes was Gwendolyn Eagle as Doctor Dorothy Watson. Eagle had a quieter magnetism than Brennan's outspoken Holmes, but an electric one. Eagle showcased Watson's inner strength throughout the show, refusing to be intimidated by powerful men and pulling a revolver on any who dared try to hurt Sherlock. An unexpected joy to watch onstage was Yishak Kefyalew Kelkay as Edwin Greener. Greener spent the whole play trying, in some way or other, to protect Lizzy Chapman or Watson and Holmes, and Kefyalew Kelkay expertly conveyed his transition from ominous figure to friendly helper. (And anyway, when a man's reaction to being used as bait for a murderer is a shrug and an "I don't mind," can anyone help but laugh?)
But while the acting sparkled, the less-celebrated star of the show was the set. Entirely designed, constructed, painted, and dressed by students (Eloise Latimer, Zachary Abdelmotalib, Chloe Lupo, and Naba Farooqui), the set was painstakingly detailed to represent every area shown in the play. Some of these included brick walls and working doors for the outsides of homes like Sherlock's 221B Baker Street, and gauzy curtains and a hard, white-sheeted bed for the hospital where Watson was employed. Inside Sherlock's home, books and papers were strewn about, along with a globe, a tea set, and her distinctive pipe, courtesy of Westfield's prop team (Neveah Hampton, Ridah Mahjabeen, Rehmat Adnan, and Rayne Lenfestey).
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic characters in fiction, possibly of all time. Miss Holmes puts a fresh spin on the story, and Westfield High School put their own on that. Every aspect of the show, from hair to costumes to the actors on stage, worked in harmony to tell a chilling story, as they asked, "When was the last time you really felt safe?"