Breckenridge Backstage Theatre presents ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’
If you go
What: “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus
When: Champagne opening night is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12 (special pricing applies), with performances on select days through Saturday, April 4
Where: Breckenridge Theatre,
Cost: Tickets start at $25 for adults, $20 for youth younger than 18; groups of 10 or more receive a $2 discount
More information: Tickets are available online at http://www.backstagetheatre.org, by calling (970) 453-0199 or by visiting the box office one hour before show time.
Change your clothes, run out onstage, deliver a few well-executed lines, and then exit gracefully, grab another costume and do the whole sequence all over again. Now do it again, and again, and again — dozens of times in a two-hour period.
That will give you just a small taste of the breakneck pace of the Backstage Theatre’s newest play, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which makes its regional premiere on Thursday, March 12, in Breckenridge.
As the play begins, Dr. Mortimer has recently lost one of his patients, Sir Charles Baskerville. Despite the official report of a heart attack, Mortimer has found evidence that a legendary, spectral hound, which has long haunted the Baskerville family, may have been involved. In his quest to find the truth, he enlists the help of the infamous duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who set off to solve the mystery of Sir Charles’ death and the curse of the hound.
Reminiscent of the fast-paced, gag-oriented style of “Monty Python” or the Marx Brothers, the adaptation by Steven Canny and John Nicholson of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale is rooted in comedy, with each of the three actors taking on multiple roles.
“The mystery and intrigue are there, but we turn the story on its head by structuring it the way we do and taking all of these scary moments and making them sort of ridiculous,” said Chris Boeckx, who plays the role of Holmes, along with an assortment of other characters, both male and female.
“You can’t image a sillier 90 minutes. That’s definitely the real draw for this one. If you want to laugh pretty much nonstop, that’s what this production offers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It doesn’t slow down from the moment we get started.”
Boeckx alone plays eight or nine roles, said Charlie Schmidt, director and sound designer for the production, so the actor is constantly backstage changing into different characters.
“He plays two sets of couples, he plays the butler, his wife and he plays one of the suspects and he also plays his sister,” Schmidt said. “I’d say he probably has over 50 to 70 changes for the two-hour period of the show.”
“Any time you get to see me in a dress, that’s worth the money, right there,” Boeckx said with a laugh. “I have great legs.”
The constant costume and set changes become a centerpiece of the show, Boeckx said, as the actors are challenged to hit their marks and the crew behind the scenes, from sound effects to lighting to costuming, take on roles as important as what’s happening onstage.
“It starts to become a show where you get excited any time someone leaves the stage because you don’t know where they are going to come back, who they are going to be and what the situation is going to be,” Boeckx said. “You get wrapped up in the action with these three actors. You really start pulling for the actors to get to where they need to be and continue to move the story along.”
Costume designer Cindy Franke was tasked with creating ensembles that could be easily donned and removed, time and again, often only moments apart.
“She’s built these incredible costumes that can be on and off super quick,” said Seth Maisel, who also credited stage manager Brecken Chamness and the rest of the Backstage team for their contributions. “This is a very, very tech-heavy show, moving extremely fast onstage and offstage. They have been putting in some really stellar work. … Everything is relying on their timing and how fast and organized they can be, and they’ve just been amazing.”
ALL IN THE PREPARATION
Maisel plays the role of Watson, among others, and said he’s had experience with the high-speed antics of shows like “Hound of the Baskervilles” from his stints in past Backstage productions “Completely Hollywood” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
“They’re very funs shows, but it makes for a very frenetic pace,” he said. “You’re onstage or changing costumes or set pieces. It’s always hectic and exiting. During the show, you do two hours of putting out all the energy you can while you’re putting on the show. During the rehearsal process and the tech week, it’s really exhausting.”
Rounding out the onstage trio is Backstage Theatre newcomer Cody Lyman as Sir Henry Baskerville.
“Cody has performed all over the country doing these various kinds of shows, and he brings that pedigree of experience to the cast,” Boeckx said.
Rehearsals began in Denver before moving to the theater and adding the rest of the bells and whistles — literally — with almost 150 different sound effects incorporated into the show. Rather than working individual scenes, Maisel said, the actors have been doing a lot of straight-through runs to perfect the pace and flow of the show.
“The space is really perfect for this because the actors can interact with the audience and break the fourth wall a couple of times,” Schmidt said of the theater. “They really bring the audience into the story, and there’s a lot of clowning around. The audience will really get to see the facial expressions and all of the nuances of the actors’ comedy bits.”
Penned in 2007 for Peepolykus, “Hound of the Baskervilles” broke box office records at West Yorkshire Playhouse in London, completely selling out its entire five-week premiere run. Schmidt said it’s exciting to be bringing the production to Breckenridge and Colorado for the first time.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind show that I’ve never seen or had the chance to work on,” he said. “There’s nothing really like it that I’ve ever experienced before. I think all of us are really excited to open it because we feel like we have this really great secret and we cant wait to tell audiences what we’ve been working on.”
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