By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican
---- — MONTREAL — Sherlock Holmes often brings suspense and thrills. This time, he also brings a bittersweet and poignant dedication.
The Segal Centre presents “Sherlock Holmes,” a new production of everyone’s favorite British sleuth. The play comes with star power — Hollywood actor Jay Baruchel is in the lead role — a cast of 10 and some clever directing with SideMart Theatrical Grocery’s Andrew Shaver at the helm.
It also comes with sad news, though, as playwright Greg Kramer was found dead in his Montreal apartment April 8 during the first week of rehearsal.
“About two years ago, the Segal Centre commissioned Greg to pen this new work,” Segal Centre artistic director Paul Flicker said. “He was also to play (Inspector) Lestrade.”
Kramer was not only a playwright, but also acted in a number of films including minor roles in “300,” “I’m Not There” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Kramer was reported to have previously battled cancer, had only one lung and was HIV positive. He was 51.
“It’s a huge loss to the production,” Flicker said. “The big loss for me is that Greg never got to hear his words spoken on stage.”
Flicker said that Kramer at least got to hear the actors read their lines at a table-reading workshop.
“The best way that we can honor his memory is to do the best we can for his final production,” Flicker said.
The play offers Hollywood actor Jay Baruchel in the lead.
“Getting Jay is a huge coup for the theater,” Flicker said. “We’re honored that’s he’s part of this production.”
Baruchel was raised and still lives in Montreal. He has appeared in “Almost Famous,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Cosmopolis.” He will also appear in the remake of “Robocop” set for release next year.
Flicker said Baruchel offers the perfect reinvention of an icon.
“The role has been played by a number of actors over the years; Sherlock Holmes really is one of the great characters of all time,” Flicker said. “And Jay brings his own take to it, which has been nicely formed and refined at rehearsal.”
While the work offers some familiar faces and places found in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved work, it is an original.
“Greg is such an iconoclast himself, but he’s incredibly well-steeped in the (Sherlock Holmes) canon, so the play refers to a lot of the stories but at the same time is its own invention,” Flicker said.
And it is, indeed, a murder mystery.
“And, at last count, I believe there are three murders,” Flicker quipped.
The Segal production comes with period sets and costumes “with modern touches,” Flicker said.
Flicker dubs the design as “steam punk.”
“Kind of like Jean Paul Gautier meets 19th century,” he said.
Flicker said the “stark but beautiful” brick-and-mortar set is highlighted with video that transports the audience to the likes of Paddington Station full of crowd scenes and even Sherlock Holmes’ apartment.
“These technical elements, video design and set choreography make for an exciting ride.”
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.IF YOU GO WHAT: "Sherlock Holmes." WHEN: Continues through Tuesday, May 28. A word of note: Many performances are already sold out. WHERE: The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is at 5170 Chemin Cote St. Catherine, Montreal. Take Autoroute 15 North (I-87 after the border), and continue over the Champlain Bridge. Take exit 66, Cote St. Luc/Queen Mary, and continue on the Decarie Expressway service road for about five minutes. Turn right on Chemin Cote Ste. Catherine. The Segal Centre is two blocks on the right. ADMISSION: Adult tickets cost $61 online. Discounts are available for seniors, students and those 30 and under. CONTACT: Call (514) 739-7944, or visit www.segalcentre.org.