A collection of historic reviews and articles on Sherlockian theatrical performances from contemporary newspapers.

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Sherlock Holmes (William Gillette)
1902
October 5 - 8: Metropolitan, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
October 9 - 11: Metropolitan, St Paul, Minnesota, USA
October 16: Illinois Theatre, Rock Island, Illinois, USA

1903
January 1: The Academy, Richmond, Virginia, USA
January 28: Sweeney & Coombs Opera House, Houston, Texas, USA
March: Grant Theatre, New York, USA
August 15: McVicker's Theater, Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 20 - 23: Metropolitan, St Paul, Minnesota, USA
September 24 - ?: Metropolitan, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
October 4 - 5: Broadway Theater, Butte, Montana, USA
October 9 - 10: Spokane Theatre, Spokane, Washington, USA
November 11: Crawford Theatre, Wichita, Kansas, USA
November 12: Crawford Theatre, Topeka, Kansas, USA
December 4: Grand Opera House, Greenville, Mississippi, USA

1904
January 1: The Academy, Richmond, Virginia, USA
April 4: Fordís Grand Opera House, Mechanicstown, Maryland, USA
April 18 - ?: Metropolis Theatre, New York, USA

1907
August 4 - 18: Alcazar Theatre, San Francisco, California, USA

(Information above on performance dates is derived from newspaper archives and is therefore likely to be incomplete.)

 

WITH THE PLAYS AND THE PLAYERS

Kelcey and His First Cigar

In "Sherlock Holmes," the play selected for the tour of Herbert Kelcey and Effie Shannon, the part of Sherlock Holmes requires the incessant smoking of cigars. Unfortunately, Mr Kelcey has ever been a confirmed hater of the weed, and until he was forcibly confronted with the situation had not given it a thought

Things were too far advanced to recede, so he proceeded to investigate the position by “tackling” a cigar. The first attempt was well nigh disastrous, the second but little better, and before he conquered his aversion to the habit he suffered agonies of nausea.

He had about concluded to retire when a friend in the tobacco trade suggested a cigar of such mildness and flavour that the actor was able to use it. It is really not a cigar, but a stage “property.” However, it answers the purpose and has saved the Kelcey-Shannon tour.

Jennings Daily Record, Friday 12 December 1902

At the Theatre by Kate Carew

Which reminds me of the important fact that Mr Herbert Kelcey has become an actor.

Honest – he has!

After all these years on the stage, he has joined the profession!

It’s a little late in life, to be sure, but he deserves encouragement, and actually shows indications of success.

As that impossible hero of preposterous melodrama, Sherlock Holmes, Mr Kelcey plays his part instead of playing Mr Kelcey.

He has sacrificed not only his mustache, but many other personal characteristics that he never parted with before. If I hadn’t seen his name on the bill, it’s a positive fact that I shouldn’t have recognized him.

His make-up betrayed skill, and his acting was not devoid of the rudiments of thought.

And Miss Shannon, having bravely corrected a tendency toward embonpoint, glimmers forth more fair, more in-Effie-ble – I mean ineffable – and more of the Blessed Damozel than ever before.

And oh, the riotous joy of Eighth avenue! It warms one’s heart to see this blameless pair at length on the high road to fortune – for “Sherlock Holmes” has all the ear-marks of “a winner for fair.”

New York Evening World, Saturday 14 March 1903

 

SWELL GOWNS.
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Worn By Effie Shannon In Her Production of "Sherlock Holmes."

The gowns worn by Miss Effie Shannon in her delineation of the role of Alice Faulkner in William Gillette's dramatization of Conan Doyle's strange creature of fiction, "Sherlock Holmes," are up to the high artistic standard set by Miss Shannon in all of her previous dramatic triumphs.

Artistic simplicity has always been her aim in regards to dress and as a consequence, instead of dressing a part with that extravagance of color and material so common to the stage, she attracts attention by her superb taste in choosing a gown that blends with the part she is playing and thereby adds to the artistic value of the performance.

Her light hair, blue eyes, fair complexion and slim figure assimilate with her ideas of dress so ideally that a dainty creation of crepe de chine or a chiffon looks as beautiful and fetching as a "tailor made," fresh from the establishment of a Felix, Worth or a Paquin.

For this season's tour in "Sherlock Holmes," Miss Shannon has had made by Mrs Osborn, the celebrated New York modiste, three sets of gowns. Miss Shannon's reason for having so many is that by constantly changing them it is easy to keep them from wrinkling and general wear and tear and moreover, keep them looking fresh.

The gown worn in the first act is a dainty white chiffon, hand made, trimmed with real Irish point lace. The dress is soft and clinging and is exquisite in its simplicity. Never has her beauty shown out with such lustre as it does in this act, as the poor persecuted heroine. Robed in etherial white, she obtains the sympathy of the audience before she asks it in "Sherlock Holmes."

The gown worn in the third act, for she is not in the second, is a pale blue house gown, and with it she wears a Japanese fashioned cloth coat. Sometimes a tan coat, cut in Empire style, is worn. In the last act she wears her most beautiful gown. It is a gray crepe de chine, made entirely by hand, with faggoting folds and trimmed with Cluny lace, dyed to match the color of the dress. She has another gown that sometimes she wears in this act, and is a counterpart of the gray crepe de chine, except as to color and trimmings. It is a light shade of tan and real antique renaissance is used for trimming.

Butte Inter Mountain, Saturday 19 September 1903

 

Play House Card Is a Notable One

BY WILL H. FISCHER

At a quarter to 1 o’clock this morning, thoroughly and satisfactorily Sherlocked, some several hundred theater-goers were turned out of the Spokane. Oh, such a waiting. It was after 10 o’clock when Sherlock turned his deductive faculties loose. At 9:15 o’clock Charles Canfield, the villain of the play, came before the curtain and said the train had arrived an hour and a half late. Time dragged on, and the orchestra played out its repertoire. With very commendable patience, the audience accepted the inevitable and waited; and happily, reaped a rich reward in dramatic returns.

Mr Kelcey and Miss Shannon play the real Gillette version of this masterful drama, and play it extremely well. Even the long wait didn’t detract noticeably from the appreciation of the audience.

Mr Kelcey is an ideal “Sherlock Holmes.” His manner, voice and gestures fit the role, and he has the artistic skill to grasp and accentuate the sharp points of stage and drama craft with which the piece abounds without betraying effort.

Miss Shannon has not the opportunity before the calcium that should be hers. “Sherlock Holmes” is essentially a man’s play. Lorena Atwood, the consort of the leading villain, appears more often than does Miss Shannon. Still, the latter manages to get enough time to tactfully suggest the dramatic possibilities that are within her.

The company is a well balanced one. David Davies is an ideal “Moriarity,” and Canfield, who, by the way, used to play with Willard, the English actor, is a satisfactory Larrabee.

The “dark stage” curtains are a distinct novelty. The scheme was introduced by Gillette, and is followed out by Kelcey and Shannon. Tonight the play will start promptly on time, and it should pack the house. It’s the best detective story ever staged.

Spokane Press, Saturday 10 October 1903

 

THEATRICAL NEWS

In William Gillette’s “Sherlock Holmes,” a dramatization of certain detective stories by A. Conan Doyle, one is given a view of the drawing room in the home of the late Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield; an underground room in the notorious Whitechapel district of London, a quarter of the British metropolis which has shocked the world by the awful crimes committed there, and also a view of the late Sir Morell Mackenzie’s surgery.

Sir Morell Mackenzie, it will be remembered, attended the father of the present emperor of Germany in his last illness. Other scenes in “Sherlock Holmes” make the play one of the most interesting on the stage today.

Herbert Kelcey is playing the part of the detective in the production of “Sherlock Holmes” that comes to the New Crawford November 12, and Effie Shannon is appearing as Alice Faulkner. These two popular stars are the only persons privileged to use the drama in the United States this season.

Topeka State Journal, Saturday 24 October 1903

 

NEW SHERLOCK HOLMES
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Topeka Enjoys Herbert Kelcey in the Part
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“Sherlock Holmes” was at the Crawford last night. Much was expected of the great detective but outside the plot of the play he had no opportunity to display his powers. He might be used to advantage in Topeka right now.

There was an incident in the audience, two in fact, which might have given Holmes a chance to display his wonderful discernment and powers of deduction. Right in the middle of the last act, while the play was running smoothly and quietly and there was no particular excitement, there was a noise on the north side of the theater on the aisle.

Something fell to the floor with a thud. It was a pint bottle of whisky. It fell from the pocket of a sedate and tall individual who had his nether limbs protruding well into the aisle. The tall, sedate young man grabbed for the bottle. Then he tried to kick it out of sight of the people who had turned to see what fell. Then the young man grabbed frantically for it and shoved it behind him on the plush opera chair.

There was quite a lot of tittering in that part of the theater and the young man’s face was redder than was the face of Holmes when the red spot light was thrown on him as he sat in front of the fire in his rooms in Baker street and smoked and pondered. Those who want to know who the young man is can ask Sherlock Holmes. He would know by his wonderful powers of deduction.

The young man was up and out of the theater after the last act before any one else. Perhaps County Attorney Hungate will want him to tell where he got it.
The other bit of excitement was caused by a rat which sallied forth soon after the episode of the bottle, to see what he could see. The rat started in at the rear of the theater under the seats at the north side and travelled eastward toward the stage. There were suppressed screams and exclamations from women in the path taken by the rat. They grabbed their skirts and pulled their feet off the floor. Holmes went right on with his lines in the play without paying any attention to the rat.

But neither of these incidents were on the programme. The audience was there to see Herbert Kelcey in the leading role of the play, “Sherlock Holmes,” with his wife, Effie Shannon, in the meagre role of “Alice Faulkner.” Kelcey and Shannon have been seen in Topeka several times before, the most recent appearance being in “The Moth and the Flame.” William Gillette’s dramatization of Conan Doyle’s detective, in which they appeared last night, was at the Crawford in November, 1900, with Cuyler Hastings playing the part of the detective.

The Kelcey-Shannon production of “Sherlock Holmes” was good, exceedingly good. The play was well staged, the scenery was all that was required, and the acting company was excellent. Dr L.H. Munn, of Topeka, was in the audience. He also seemed to be on the stage. J. Palmer Collins, playing “Doctor Watson,” was made up as almost a counterpart of Dr Munn, and he was as good natured.

Mr Kelcey won instant favour with the audience in the role of cool and determined detective. In his makeup he looked almost exactly like the accepted pictures of Holmes. Mr Kelcey is a first class actor and his playing is always good, no matter what the role, but he has a peculiarity in his voice which is the same no matter what the character he is playing. It is not a great handicap but the peculiar intonation is not characteristic of Holmes. Cuyler Hastings’ voice was better for the part than Kelcey’s, but otherwise one is as good in the role as the other.

Miss Shannon has no opportunity in the part of “Alice Faulkner.” She was not on the stage more than a total of 20 minutes. Miss Shannon has proven herself a very pleasing actress in other plays in which she has been here, but did her reputation depend on her role in “Sherlock Holmes” she would not have many admirers in Topeka. She was a leading woman in a one man play.

Lorena Atwood made a designing “Mrs Larrabee” and Charles Canfield was a villainous “James Larrabee.” Charles A. Morgan was for all the world a pure bred Cockney in the role of “Sidney Prince.” David Davies interpretation of the role of “Professor Moriarity” was peculiar but it was quite good.

Topeka audiences would be well satisfied if all plays, all companies, and all scenery were as good as those to be found in “Sherlock Holmes.”

Topeka State Journal, Friday 13 November 1903

Herbert Kelcey's Sacrifice of Mustache Impairs Neither His Looks Nor His Art

By James Crawford

It would be silly to deny that Herbert Kelcey's mustache was a symphony in sable, but it would not be absurd to opine that he looks more interesting without it. His lips are clean cut and firm, and the area between them and his shapely nose is not disproportionate to a manly facial ensemble.

Instead of regretting the demand of art that led to Mr Kelcey's sacrifice of his hirsute treasure, one can only wonder that he ever permitted it to attain a luxuriance that concealed his mouth — that he did not nip it in the bud and steadily keep it from exceeding the stubble stage of growth. True, its twisted ends oft afforded him means of keeping the thumb and forefinger of his right hand in action after he had said "Let me see" and falling into profound thinking of how he might crush the villain and win the heroine by a single stroke, but he seemed to get along very well last evening without once raising a digit to the recently shorn spot.

It was as Sherlock Holmes that he did his barefaced acting, and I have not seen him do any better acting on the Alcazar stage. As the super-sleuth of Conan Doyle's creation he had a role entirely in accord with the quiet method in which he is most effective, whether it is exercised in making of love or baffling crime. He was equal to the part's biggest moments, because they were the moments that called for greatest force of repression — which may or may not be a paradox. And the actor who could go through those scenes without once losing his aplomb and yielding to temptation to rant may be set down, as an actor of sure self-command.

But if the Kelcey mustache was not in evidence there were others, Mr Walling appeared wicked in a black one and Mr Wesner. radiated benignity with one of similar hue. They were artificial, of course, but even at that they served to ameliorate the feeling of loneliness occasioned by the absence of Mr. Kelcey’s nurtured natural crop.

The drama was excellently played and staged from beginning to end. Aside from the title part there was not much opportunity for any one in the cast to win distinction. It is so long ago since I saw Mr Gillette play Sherlock that I am disqualified to judge whether he or Mr Kelcey gives the role the most impressive interpretation, but I cheerfully confess that the latter's performance last evening pleased me just as hugely as did that of the man who first acted it.

Miss Shannon's work was adequate, of course, and the Alcazar “regulars” seemed to enjoy their abrupt transition from "sawciety" drama to melodrama that gripped the interest of all onlookers. The lighting effects with which the play is so plentifully studded were admirably worked out and every scene was correctly pictured.

Don't be surprised if "Sherlock Holmes" runs a second week, for all the between-acts comment in the lobby was entirely favorable.

San Francisco Call, Tuesday 6 August 1907