A Sherlock Carol Offers More Than a Little Holiday Spirit

Zach Dulli Archive

by Mark Shanahan

At the end of A Christmas Carol, it is said that “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more.” But what exactly did he do? Well, for one thing, he found himself embroiled in a Dickens of a mystery. One featuring Sherlock Holmes, no less!

It’s been unbelievably gratifying to see that, following its critical and commercial success off-Broadway, A Sherlock Carol has been embraced by audiences across the United States and abroad. The play delivers laughs and thrills on numerous professional stages, community theaters, and school auditoriums. With standing ovations, glowing notices, and award nominations for productions and actors alike, the play has provided a happy alternative for theatre makers seeking to do something just a little different during the holidays.

As the author of the play, combining the characters from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures with those of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was a fun challenge. I like to say that these characters are so real to me, crafting this mash-up was like inviting friends from different social circles to the same dinner party and hoping like heck they’d get along. I’m pleased to report they do!  There are old friends and new ones to be found in our story, with Watson, Lestrade, a grown-up Tiny Tim, and others making appearances- as well as a few Fezziwigs thrown in for good measure. With quick-change artistry, physical comedy, and simple stagecraft, the play is family-friendly in the best possible way. It’s sophisticated enough for adults while providing a little magical mayhem for the kid in all of us.

Given the financial challenges of producing theatre these days, the play was conceived with a certain amount of economy in mind. A Sherlock Carol can be performed with a small cast of six or as many actors as a theatre company can fit on its stage.  Additionally, the play might be performed on a beautifully ornate set or be well served by employing nothing more than a handful of props and a few pieces of furniture. It’s a play that, above all, invites talented actors to let loose and have fun, whether on professional stages, in community theatre, or in school auditoriums.

A good Sherlock Holmes tale always requires a thrilling investigation, and I hope theatremakers will love diving into the case at hand. At its heart, A Sherlock Carol is a classic tale of redemption, in which the spirit of Scrooge guides a disgruntled Holmes to become his best self on a particularly dark and mysterious Christmas Eve.  A healthy dose of mystery, romance, friendship, and good old-fashioned Christmas cheer abounds.

Bless us, everyone; the game is afoot!

Click here to learn more about A Sherlock Carol

and playwright Mark Shanahan.

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