August 2022FEATURE

The Remarkable Mr. Holmes at North Coast Repertory Theatre

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By Deborah Vietor

Looking for a rollicking good time, accompanied by laughter, mystery, music, and singing? The Remarkable Mr. Holmes provides a performance, Sir Arthur Conan Boyle, himself would be proud of as the production pays a loving homage to him.

Travel back to London, 1890s and meet Sherlock Homes as you have never known him, along with his new assistant. Sleuthing his way into your sense of curiosity, he may just teach us there is more to Holmes than meets the eye. Holmes demonstrates not only his mastery of solving crimes but those involving a dynamic, fast-paced performance with the song.

The musical is written by North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein and playwright Omri Schein, who also provides lyrics, with music by Daniel Lincoln. This world-premiere musical offers a unique, creative perspective for theatre lovers and Sherlock buffs alike.

Ellenstein wanted to create an intriguing, yet fun play, exploiting Holmes idiosyncratic nature, and some of his weird quirks. A world premiere, this is the third Holmes production Ellenstein has directed.

Holmes is brilliantly performed by Bart Shatto who arrives at the North Coast Rep. with an impressive resume—shining in the pivotal role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. Shatto also performed in CATS, both on national tours. He has performed at some of the most acclaimed regional theaters in the country. His credits include The Civil War,(Tony-nominated Best Musical and Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Musical.) Additional theatre credits include both Tony-nominated War Paint, (starring Patti Lupone), and Hands on a Hardbody. Shatto also performed in Dracula: The Musical.

Shatto is acclaimed as a versatile actor/singer, whose skills have garnered him national commercial spots, (ESPN, Omcast, Minolta, and Con Air.) Television credits also include Ghost Stories, Guiding Light, Murphy Brown, Chicago Med, and Chicago Fire. Appearances in and leads in short films, include Finding Father and Opening Fright.

He has performed at distinguished venues, including Carnegie Hall and the National Theatre in Washington D.C. for President George Bush. Shatto also performed on tour with the Gold/Platinum selling rock-symphonic band, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His vocals can be heard on albums including the original Children of Eden, (original cast) and several Trans-Siberian Orchestra soundtracks. Additional credits are too numerous to mention. He has been an Equity actor for 30 years.

Asked what he has learned in life which has contributed to becoming a better actor, Shatto replied that his desire is to make people feel loved.

“It is all about how you make others feel, a curiosity, love for people, and compassion for humanity,” he said. “Work itself makes me the most joyous and happiest.”

Holmes is reminiscent of the antics created and presented by Mel Brooks, according to Shatto. (Think of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to The Forum.) So much of Brooks’ work has been referred to as outrageous and irreverent, synonymous with the play, bursting with laughter with a combination of mayhem and mystery.

Asked what advice he would give to those interested in an acting career, Shatto gave some great insight.

“Have a curiosity about life and human beings, do regional theatre, audition for everything, visit museums, attend plays, learn how to sing, and take a dance class.”

His advice to those in the profession is to “recognize your greatness.”

Shatto teaches a Master Class called “Creating a Dynamic Character Through Song.” This explores an in-depth approach to making a song vibrant, alive and truthful through character development within music and lyrics. His reviews offer accolades and support for a unique approach, marrying song and character into an honest and passionate journey, inspiring students to “live truthfully in the song” and most notably in the moment.” Practicing Transcendental meditation for years, he applies this in his classes to help quell anxiety.

Students rave about his class, saying, ”This class was an eye opener. I really felt the character that each person was created in their song came to life like it hadn’t before.” Shatto’s website is: bartshatto.com

He compares the performance of Holmes to be somewhat consistent with the irascible Hugh Lorie, who starred in the television series House. He likened “the emblematic power of intelligence and ability to be not too close,” consistent with someone on the autistic spectrum like Vincent D’Onofrio in Law and Order.

Shatto mentioned his great affinity for the cast as they collaborate well together to create this hilarious performance, with a collective appreciation for and understanding of comedy, believing his job is to tell the story and be authentic.

Describing Holmes’s complex character, Shatto shared the focus on Holmes interior life: What is he afraid of? We will also learn, what Holmes does while not solving a multitude of mind-boggling crimes, what he is thinking while not sleuthing, and presenting a glimpse of situations such as what he does in his office.

We discussed how Holmes takes something minute and turns it into something larger, forming the big picture to solve cases. “A master of deduction and master of disguise.”

“This is going to be an evening of sheer fun and joy, and a walloping good ride, so be prepared to laugh,” he said.

During these most challenging of times, many of us are so looking forward to an afternoon or evening of live entertainment at its finest. The Remarkable Mr. Holmes promises depth, mystery, humor, engagement, and brilliant entertainment through song. What more could we ask for?

The Remarkable Mr. Holmes runs from July 20-August 21, 2022 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe, Suite D in Solana Beach. Contact the box office at (858) 481-1055, or boxoffice@northcoastrep.org.

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