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Christmas Mysteries: A Sherlock Carol @MaryleboneTHLDN

A mash-up of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes would seem an unlikely pairing. Yet it provides a surprisingly fun Christmas-themed adventure. These two Victorian tales (albeit separated by about 40 years) provide the basis for an inspired adventure at Christmastime that just also happens to turn out to be a murder mystery as well. With lavish costumes, a few spooky set pieces and some good old-fashioned stage trickery with lights and a lot of smoke machines, it is hard to resist. It returns to the Marylebone Theatre for Christmas after a run there last year.  The premise is that after Holmes sees off the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, he is left adrift in London. People thought he was dead, and he might as well be. Disinterested in the misdeeds of other Londoners, Holmes has even given up on his friend Dr Watson. It's almost as if he has become a Scrooge. Or half a Scrooge, moping about shouting, "bah" in respon

Music: Maria Friedman singing Sondheim...

After taking a break from the cultural life of London during July, last Friday I found myself watching Maria Friedman singing Sondheim. The last time I saw her it was a bit of a mixed bag, and the person next to me fell asleep. This time around she seemed a lot better and nobody was asleep. Maria may not be the best singer around, but her voice is suited well to Sondheim's music, which after listening to for an entire evening, you realise is not necessarily always music... Maria was able to convey the right amount emotion, whether it was humour, anguish or tears and for a Sondheim song that's often more important than hitting the right notes...

The programming choice was a little odd at times. I don't recall ever seeing a recital opening where the singer walks out cloaked in black as if she is channelling Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke. She then proceeds to sing a series of songs from the obsessive compulsive musical Passion, which out of context was a bit of a downer. Fortunately the cloak did not stay on for long and she took it off and let things rip with songs from Evening Primrose to Into the Woods. By the time she ended the first act with the song Broadway Baby from Follies the audience of mostly old queens were screaming.

Still, an evening of Sondheim can be pretty tough going. Particularly when the choice of songs were more torture torch songs than light-hearted fare. I could have done with some more laughs, particularly as I have a few more Sondheim shows ahead of me in the coming weeks... I could end up losing my mind...

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