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Sherlock Holmes and the Jersey Lily

By Gary Wien

originally published: 09/29/2016

Sherlock Holmes and the Jersey Lily

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most legendary characters in fiction.  First created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, the character has enjoyed many resurgences of popularity throughout its history and is currently in the midst of another one.  Thanks to recent films by Robert Downey, Jr. and Ian McKellen and the current BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the sleuth has picked up a new generation of fans.  Centenary Stage Company hopes those fans along with fans of all ages come out to see their production of Sherlock Holmes and the Case Of The Jersey Lily by Katie Forgette, which runs October 7-23 in Hackettstown.

The play blends the wit of Oscar Wilde together with the cunning of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In this story, Wilde brings his dear friend, Lillie Langtry (i.e. the Jersey Lily), to Baker Street because someone has stolen the highly intimate letters Lillie exchanged with the future King of England.  With blackmail looming and a vicious plot to dismantle the Crown, only Holmes has the cunning and dexterity to solve the case.  As the mystery unfolds, comedy ensues as Holmes works diligently to solve the case, going so far as to disguise himself as an early version of Lady Bracknell from Wilde’s latest play, ‘The Importance of Being Forthright,’  while Watson falls head-over-heels for the Jersey Lily,  and a wicked professor attempts to bring the Crown to its knees. 

“In a sense it’s kind of reminiscent of the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful, which mixes characters from fiction together,” explained Carl Wallnau, Centenary Stage Company’s Artistic Director who is directing the production.  “That’s what Forgette has done here.  She’s mixed and matched and brought in some real people - Lilly Langtry and Oscar Wilde - into the imaginary world of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarity, and Watson.”

When asked why every generation seems to fall in love with Sherlock Holmes, Wallnau said, “I think people fall in love with the kind of theatrical logic - the relentless intellect separated from emotion that he presents.  In a world that sometimes borders between passion and insanity, he is a sea of detached normalcy.  It’s such an interesting iconic character that we keep coming back to it.  You could say the same thing about Spock in Star Trek.  There’s a cold, ruthless intelligence and observational skills, and the sense that these are people that you may not want to spend a lot of time with socially, but are people you love to watch working, thinking, and processing.”

The playwright describes the work as a mystery/comedy. It is meant to be played straight, with laughs coming more from its wit than farce.  In a way, the play borrows from an assortment of source material. It takes from William Gillette’s late 19th century play; borrows ideas from the classic short story A Scandal in Bohemia (changing Bohemia to England and turning the female character into a famous English actress); and adds a little Oscar Wilde to the mix.

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Centenary’s cast includes Colin Ryan, last seen on Broadway in Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s production of Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land, as Sherlock and David Sitler, last seen on Broadway in Frost/Nixon and An Inspector Calls.  The role of Lilly Langtry will be played by Sandy York, a graduate of the Trinity Rep Conservatory and Princeton University.  Rounding out the cast is Amy Griffin as Mrs. Tory, Joseph McGranghan as Oscar Wilde, Nicholas Wilder as Moriarty, John Smythe as Tom Farber, and Abdul Karim as Ameer Cooper.

Wallnau believes the timing of this production is better now than when the play made its debut at People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, Pa in 2008.  That debut came a year before the first of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey, Jr.

“I think there’s been a resurgence of interest in the character and that was one of the reasons we chose it,” said Wallnau.  “Another reason was because of its theatricality and its iconicness.  I wanted something that people could go to see without having to think of the [Presidential] election — something where people could escape into a different kind of world for two hours; a world of wit, a world of melodrama, a world of archetypal characters, a world of theatricality, and a world of intellect as opposed to whatever this election is.  The one thankful thing is that two weeks after we close the election will be over! For people who don’t want to think about it, this play is the perfect antidote.  It’s a way of escaping it and not having to think about it.”

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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
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Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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