Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Baker Street" Has the Holmes Touch

Cleveland Press May 10, 1965

NEW YORK -- The Sherlock Holmes buff is bound to approach "Baker Street," a musical comedy about the great detective, with some trepidation. I did.

But I remained to be captivated by what goes on on the stage of the Broadway Theater where the show is now playing.

"Baker Street" is very loosely based on several of the Conan Doyle stories. Actually Jerome Coppersmith, responsible for the play, has taken bits and pieces of plot and constructed a wholly new plot more suitable for the music comedy format. He has retained all the minutiae that makes Dr. Watson so real for all of us.

While he has fun with Holmes, he never tries to ridicule him

This is a smiling Holmes, but still very much the master of deduction, a man more interested in matters of intellect than emotion.

Love interest? Of course, there has to be something of the sort and Doyle himself suggested that Holmes was attracted to a woman called Irene Adler in the story "A Scandal in Bohemia."

HOLMESIAN SCHOLAR William S. Baring-Gould in his biography of Holmes suggested even more.

Anyway, Irene Adler -- a singer and actress -- is present and if it is of any small comfort to Holmes fans it is she who does the yearning and chasing.

In the production designed by Oliver Smith, "Baker Street" is probably the most eye-filling affair to come along since "My Fair Lady" or "Camelot." Part of the Holmes canon is that the stories offer a perfect picture of a particular period in England.

THE SETTINGS are faithful in evoking the mood and feeling of a time and place -- gaslit streets, fog that rolls through them (and right out into the theater too), the famous apartment on Baker St.

It is all very, very elaborate with swiftly changing sets that fly, slide, turn and revolve. There is a wonderful chase sequence through the haunts of the London underworld.

MAIN WEAKNESS of the show is in its music. The songs are good but never seem to emerge as anything memorable.

Irene Adler's "Finding Words for Spring" is probably the best tune in the show. I also liked "A Married Man," Dr. Watson's wistful and wonderful tribute to married life. "Leave It to Us, Guv," has the Baker Street irregulars -- a group of urchins -- dancing and singing. What they do with the song is better than the material.

THE CAST is far better than adequate. Fritz Weaver is a wonderful Holmes, physically resembles the man, plays the part with some humor but is never condescending

What a wonderful menace Martin Gabel is as the villainous Prof. Moriarity! The only thing wrong with the role is that it is so brief.

Beautiful and stately is Inga Swenson as Irene Adler, quite believable as the person who might upset the fine analytical processes of the great Holmes.

If "Baker Street" doesn't offer the best possible music, it does present a better play than most musical comedies, plenty of good comedy lines, wonderful performances and a totally first-rate production.