John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes in Classical Theatre’s production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Amelia Fischer as Helen Stoner in Classical Theatre's production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Amelia Fischer as Helen Stoner in Classical Theatre’s production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

Classical Theatre’s John Johnson Takes on the Great Detective

After his dashing performance last season as Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest, Classical Theatre’s artistic director, John Johnson, is ready to get back on stage, this time as Sherlock, in The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, Feb. 4 – 22, in their new Chelsea Market digs. A + C editor Nancy Wozny chats with him on the role and Sherlockmania.

How did this choice come about?

Timothy Evers and I were chatting at a party a few years back about how much we both loved the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I mentioned that I had never seen a very good stage adaptation of the Great Detective. He said that there was one play which Doyle had written that had some excellent potential if it could be trimmed down and worked with a bit. So, here we are some four years later getting ready to put the play to the test.

Why a Sherlock piece now?

With BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, catapulting Holmes to iconic pop culture status, we thought that the time was right to produce a Holmes piece.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Love as Dr. Watson  in Classical Theatre's production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Love as Dr. Watson in Classical Theatre’s production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

I can see you as a total Sherlock nerd. I bet you rock that hat, too.

Yes, I will be returning the CTC stage to play a role I fell in love with at the age of eight. When all of my friends were running around as He-Man or G.I. Joe, I was pretending to be Holmes. I had two baseball caps wedged onto my head to mimic his iconic deerstalker cap, and I would swipe my dad’s tobacco pipe and run around in the woods pretending to solve crimes. Man, does that sound nerdy.

Why are we endlessly fascinated with this detective?

Holmes falls into the same category as other landmark British literary icons: James Bond, and more recently, Harry Potter. Each of them attained pop culture acclaim in their original literary medium, but was catapulted to longevity by transference to film. These characters, Holmes included, are enigmas. They are bigger than life, and at least in some aspect or other, have qualities that we all long to have ourselves.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Love as Dr. Watson  in Classical Theatre's production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

John Johnston as Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Love as Dr. Watson in Classical Theatre’s production of The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Pin Lim.

What makes Classical Theatre’s production different?

Timothy has streamlined the original script, which was littered with extraneous filler. He then went back in and inserted portions of text from the original short story, adding a real dramatic ebb and flow to what was otherwise a too straightforward plot. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you may rest assured that the design elements in this production will be full of surprises.

NANCY WOZNY