Photo by Erik Stuhaug/Taproot Theater
Playwright John Longenbaugh

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol debuts one year after the Taproot arson.

For Seattle playwright John Longenbaugh the wait is finally over - his play debuts Friday night, one year after its supposed premiere.

Last year, the cast and crew were in the rehearsal stage when an arson damaged Taproot theatre. Without a stage, the play was cancelled.

“I started on the play in 2007,” said Longenbaugh. “So in reality, I have been waiting for three years.”

It’s been a long time waiting but Longenbaugh said that at this point, he’s not nervous but keeps his fingers crossed all the same.

“After the arson, I’m really hoping for no snowfall, no meteor showers or anything like that’” he said.

Longenbaugh’s play combines two classic stories: Arthur Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes” and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

It takes place on Christmas Eve of the year 1894 on 221B Baker Street. After being presumed dead for three years, a hardened Sherlock Holmes resurfaces, turning his back on the people who need him most. Three unexpected callers arrive on Christmas Eve uncovering clues from the detective’s past, present and future.

The concept of combining Sherlock Holmes with other literary characters is nothing new, Longenbaugh said.

“In the world of Sherlockians there are many stories in which Holmes meets other fictional or real-life characters like Nicholas Meyer’s “Seven Percent Solutions” in which Holmes meets Freud,” he said.

“There’s Holmes meets Jack the Ripper, Holmes meets Houdini, Holmes meets Teddy Roosevelt, etc. When I came up with the idea for this play I had no idea.”

After thorough research, Longenbaugh concluded that no one had yet thought about combining Sherlock Holmes and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

“Everyone has been trying to find alternative ways to have an annual Christmas play,” Longenbaugh said.
“As Holmes says, ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’, but I think this play might give folks something different.”

Longenbaugh said that while he uses the 1890s characters of Sherlock Holmes, the story, in many ways, stays true to Dickens’ original Christmas Carol.

“It’s Dickens but with an unexpected, inevitable twist’” he said.

Dickens is one of Longenbaugh’s favorite authors and he grew up reading “A Christmas Carol” every year, he said.

“I remember reading it in college and thinking, ‘this novel is prefect’,” he said. “Most Victorian novels are imperfect in many interesting ways but “A Christmas Carol” isn’t. I swear you couldn’t add or take one word without changing the story.”

Prior to writing this play Longenbaugh wasn’t a particularly big Sherlock Holmes fan. But after re-reading all of Doyle’s books and doing research, Longenbaugh found a local chapter of Sherlokians called The Sound of the Baskervilles to read his play.

“They were such a lovable, eccentric group, I joined them so now I’m an official Sound of the Baskervilles member,” he said. “It’s all kind of silly at some level but I find it fascinating.”

Longenbaugh said that he thinks Holmes fans are “like the original Trekkies”.

“They’ve been going at it for over a hundred years. They’re like the beginning of fandom,” he said.

With his play, Longenbaugh hopes to show his respect and admiration for both authors.

The play is directed by Scott Nolte and features the original cast apart from Stephen Grenley, who joins the company as Watson.

“I’m tremendously happy with the show,” Longenbaugh said. “Taproot is a great company to work with.”

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