Next week, the world’s greatest detective will take the stage at Soldotna High School for “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”
Director Sara Erfurth said “The Final Adventure” combines two iconic Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Final Problem” and “Scandal in Bohemia.” It features a variety of iconic characters from Holmes extended cast, including Moriarty and Irene Adler.
“You get the intrigue and the romance of Irene, but you also get the action and the death scenes with Moriarty,” she said.
Erfurth said the play afforded SoHi’s drama department the opportunity to dig deeply into rich character dynamics — the relationships between characters especially. She said that exploration was more important to the production than the story.
For the central pair of Sherlock and Watson, portrayed by seniors and best friends Josiah Burton and Darek Hatten, she said she had pictured the two in the roles for years.
Burton said Sherlock Holmes is one of his favorite characters from contemporary popular culture, which made the role exciting to step into. He described him as pretentious and mechanical.
“I just love the fact that Sherlock Holmes knows exactly what’s going on at any given moment. Nothing surprises him — unless it’s Irene Adler.”
Playing opposite Hatten’s Watson, he said, meant bringing their same relationship dynamic into the production. The two best friends found themselves playing two best friends.
That relationship was central to the appeal for Hatten.
“I’m excited for people to see that dynamic that Josiah Burton and I have — between Sherlock and Watson,” he said. “We have a dynamic as friends already … We might get along too well.”
Hatten said that as he developed his take on Watson he wanted to see the character less “aloof.”
He said that Watson — when compared to characters like Sherlock, Moriarty and Irene Adler — often becomes “the trophy wife of the cast.” He said that in SoHi’s production, Watson has been made more capable — an equal and a peer to Sherlock as much as his friend. A lot of that makes for what Hatten said is a “sassy” Watson.
In the role of the villainous mastermind Moriarty is Rory Funk. Erfurth said it was exciting to see her take on the role because she’s smaller and kind — but she “has so much power in her performance. She has the ability to be absolutely terrifying when she wants to be.”
Funk said the Moriarty in “The Final Adventure” isn’t a maniacal villain. He’s the Lord of London; he has connections and lackeys and influence. He lacks emotions and he makes logical decisions.
She said that was the difference between her character and Sherlock Holmes — they’re equals, and that if they had the same moral code they would be the same.
Sophia Micciche is portraying Irene Adler, who she described as “complicated.” She said she fell somewhere between good and bad — really only on her own side.
The character was interesting, Micciche said, because she was different from lots of other female characters.
“She’s very stone cold; she doesn’t have a ton of emotion. But when she does she uses it in a skillful way,” Micciche said.
The relationship between Irene and Sherlock was fun to realize, she said. She said she’s worked with and against Burton in roles before — but they’ve not collided as romantic partners and intellectual rivals.
JLee Webster said she would be balancing the dramatic and the melodramatic as the King of Bohemia — who she described as largely a comedic relief character, but she found a lot to engage with in his grief and emotion following a love affair.
“He wants to be this big stoic guy, and he wants to be seen as a professional and he really isn’t,” she said. “That’s why I admire the king so much — he’s so real for letting his emotions flow out even though its really embarrassing.”
In addition to Moriarty, there are several other villainous characters that the high school actors were excited to portray.
Playing the con-lady Madge is Makayla Craft, who described the character as “feisty,” and feeling as though she’s desperate to prove herself. Craft said she connected to the character to her own ambitions following in the wake of her successful older sister.
“I’ve always had that desire to see if I can be better,” she said.
Connor Kniceley-Johns is Sid Prince, a thief — who he described as sneaky and mean. He said he came out to auditions just looking to play any villain.
Several members of the cast said that they loved the characters and the mysteries of “Sherlock Holmes” from its high profile pop culture adaptations like the BBC’s “Sherlock” or the Robert Downey Jr.-led “Sherlock Holmes.”
Burton said he loves the Benedict Cumberbatch take on Sherlock Holmes, and that as he was developing his version of the character he identified “guidelines” across countless adaptations of the character. He said within those guidelines he found his creativity. He said that his and Hatten’s relationship empowered them to create their own versions of the characters that can’t be replicated.
Hatten said that it was hard to avoid looking at other portrayals of Watson, and that he took elements of popular portrayals by Martin Freeman and Jude Law, but added “my own spice.”
Moriarty in this production, Funk said, is largely different from performances like the one in BBC’s “Sherlock.” She said it wouldn’t make sense for her Moriarty to be “that kind of crazy.” Instead, she looked to historical dictators like Joseph Stalin.
For Irene, Micciche said she resisted watching or analyzing any other takes on the character until she had made it through the full show and crafted her own character. After that, she said she let her guard down a little.
Those pop culture influences extended to set design — which was led by Callie Babitt. She said she looked to previous adaptations as she worked to realize 221B Baker Street and the Reichenbach Falls — but she also found inspiration through Pinterest.
Though “Sherlock Holmes” is a drama and a mystery, Erfurth and the actors all said that comedic elements were introduced throughout largely just as a result of the chemistry between all of the actors — who’ve spent years working together in the department.
Webster said that when people think about Sherlock, they probably think of a serious murder mystery — but that they had gone beyond the script and found the fun in it by trusting one another. She said there’s intrigue, but there’s also something to snicker at.
Bringing Sherlock Holmes to the stage, Craft said, is an opportunity to share a character and a universe that she’s always loved with the community. She said when she was young her sister introduced her to the character — and she’s always enjoyed that particular mix of detective work and partnership.
Burton said that “Sherlock Holmes” was a special production to end his high school career on because he had Hatten alongside him.
“This is both of our senior year, our last performance at SoHi, and it’s just such a fun one to go out on,” he said. “It’s bittersweet because on one hand, I can’t wait to graduate, I can’t wait to go see the world — see what’s out there and explore theater. But also, these people are people that I will always love and care so very deeply for.”
Craft, also a senior, said she came into high school and drama during the COVID-19 pandemic — and said the department pulled her out of her shell.
“This whole world opened up to me,” she said. “This world is kind of going away and I’m moving on. It’s really sad and I’m really gonna miss it. I love it here — I love the community.”
Webster, a junior, said she was trying to make the most of her final production with a crew of several seniors who won’t be around next year.
“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” will play in the Soldotna High School Auditorium on April 20, 21 and 22, Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $5 for SoHi students with their ID.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.