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Show goes on after creator’s death

Tags: Arts
Greg Kramer

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is going ahead with the world premiere of the play Sherlock Holmes next month despite the death of its author, Greg Kramer.

The British-born Kramer, a respected figure in Canadian theatre since the early 1980s, died unexpectedly in Montreal on April 8 at the age of 51.

“We mourn the passing of our dear friend and colleague Greg Kramer,” said Segal artistic producer Paul Flicker. “We cherish the time we spent with Greg, an inspired and talented actor, director, writer, musician and magician.

“Greg devoted his life to his art. We honour his memory and legacy by continuing on with his final gift to the world, his Sherlock Holmes,” which runs May 5-26.

Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes will star Montreal film actor Jay Baruchel in the title role. Baruchel has appeared Hollywood movies that include Million Dollar Baby, How to Train Your Dragon, Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He also starred in the Canadian film, The Trotsky, and co-wrote the hockey comedy Goon.

“I am honoured to get to play this iconic character, and in my home, of all places,” said Baruchel, 31. “Montreal is my heart, and having the opportunity to make my little contribution to our great city’s culture means the world to me.”

Directed by young Montrealer Andrew Shaver, this Segal Centre production is Kramer’s original adaptation of the classic tales of the fictional English detective.

The Segal commissioned the Montreal-based Kramer to pen this new work. Kramer, who reportedly had battled cancer for a long time, died on the eve of rehearsals. The production will be dedicated to his memory.

Kramer appeared in more than 100 productions across the country, at the Vancouver Playhouse, the Tarragon Theatre, the Factory Theatre, the National Arts Centre, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and, here in Montreal, at the Centaur Theatre, most recently in SideMart Theatrical Grocery’s play, Haunted Hillbilly.

His directorial highlights include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Inherit the Wind at the Segal and Kit Brennan’s Tiger’s Heart at the Centaur.

His talent also extended to writing. He penned the original plays Lies of the Vampyre, Skateboard Tango and Isadora Fabulist for Imago Theatre, and the novel The Pursemonger of Fugu, among others.

The Sherlock Holmes adaptation is set in London, England, at the end of the 19th century, after the opium wars have ended and Jack the Ripper has wreaked his havoc.

Lord Neville St. John gives a moving speech in the House of Lords to ban opium and a vote on the matter is imminent. Meanwhile, Prof. James Moriarty, a notorious criminal kingpin, plots to thwart the upcoming vote.

When a drowned body is discovered and Lord Neville goes missing, the incipient Scotland Yard turns to “the world’s only consulting detective” and newest resident of 221B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes.

“Sherlock Holmes will take you on a heart-stopping adventure through the opium dens, the muddy docklands and the gritty backstreets of London,” Flicker said.

Shaver, known for his his work with SideMart Theatrical Grocery (Trad, Haunted Hillbilly, Gordon), directs an 11-member cast of local actors.

Joining Baruchel as the sleuth’s faithful associate and biographer Dr. John Watson is Karl Graboshas, who appeared alongside Baruchel in Goon.

Science fictional steampunk, infused with a hint of the fashion style of Jean-Paul Gaultier, has inspired set and costume designer James Lavoie’s take on neo-Victorian London.

Luc Prairie’s lighting, a score by sound designer Jesse Ash and video design by George Allister and Patrick Andrew Boivin promise to offer a “cinematic” theatrical experience.

Sunday@The Segal, a talk preceding the opening night on May 5 at 11 a.m., will feature playwright and novelist Kent Stetson and Paul Stetson, a retired RCMP officer and novelist.

Tickets are available at 514-739-7944 or segalcentre.org.

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