Sherlock Holmes and T’was the Murder Before Christmas

By A.S. Waterman
Directed by Heather Hensley

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

One of the defining characteristics of WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater is that the company’s scripts constitute a veritable catalog of classic murder mystery tropes, so a Sherlock Holmes pastiche easily fits in their wheelhouse.

Holmes (Chris McConnell) and Dr. Watson (Tyler Krupp) investigate a series of murders that have occurred at a mission for the homeless every Christmas Eve for three years. There is a matron, Temperance Paine (Erica Carlson), a drunken physician, Dr. Cecil B. Tubbs (Joe Monroe), a charitable patron, Gardenia Welltower (Jodi Franklin), a sarcastic prostitute, Hermione Blaze (Rayne Henshaw), and an indigent gentleman named Bramble Strange (Bobby Smith).

If Chris McConnell’s Holmes owes more to Robert Downey, Jr. than Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett, that seems fair. Such characters survive through reinterpretation, and McConnell gives Sherlock a youthful, flop-haired ingenuousness that is appealing. Tyler Krupp is dutiful if stolid as Watson, but he also finds the humor in the man without allowing him to be an imbecile.

Joe Monroe is a delight as the alcoholic doctor, solicitor, magistrate (?) who hides his bottles of liquor in all manner of locations on the set and on his person. Monroe is a crafty enough actor to build his character in between the lines in colloquial and fluid detail.

I might say the same for Erica Carlson, who realizes the troubled, repressed foundation of a character with a deeply satirical name, suggesting the pain beneath the unyielding temperance.

Rayne Henshaw might not have needed the fiery red wig and cheap trollop’s costume to come across, her sassy delivery is so on target, and Jodi Franklin was exactly as supercilious as is required as Madame Welltower, while Bobby Smith also found his laughs with good timing and colorful delivery.

WhoDunnit productions are by necessity limited in their scenic potential by the occupancy of a party room at the Downtown Bristol, and as she has in other respects, director Heather Hensley tries to push that boundary a bit with an early scene change that is more than this company has attempted previously. While I applaud the ambition, the limited lighting doesn’t allow the intended distraction of scenes played out on the fringes of the room to work well enough. Most of the audience seemed to focus on watching Hensley and designer Chris Miske managing the transition onstage.

Such a thing may be more easily forgiven in a WhoDunnit production because the format makes the audience complicit in the artifice. Such an intimate and interactive circumstance demands it. The mystery with dinner concept may invite snobbery to relegate it to something less “legitimate” than other theatre productions, but at a time when the formal line between passive and active audience roles is being debated, let’s give WhoDunnit their due for twenty years of engaging their audience in this way.

Sherlock Holmes and T’was the Murder Before Christmas

Saturdays November 16 – December 21, 2019, & Jan. 4, 2020
Fridays November 22, December 13 & 20, 2019
Sundays December 8 & Dec. 15, 2019
Doors open at 6:30 PM 

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
At The Downtown Bristol
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202


 Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for