REVIEW: ‘Ken Ludwig’s Moriarty: A New Sherlock Holmes Adventure’ Brings Murder and Comedy Together for a Killer Good Time

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have tired of his ‘consulting detective,’ but Sherlock Holmes still mesmerizes audiences. And nowhere was this more evident than at the Michigan Premiere of Ken Ludwig’s Moriarty: A New Sherlock Holmes Adventure running now through October 29, 2023, at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

Picking right where they left off this summer with Noises Off, MBT kicks off their 57th season with this wickedly funny comedy/mystery. In fact, the entire cast of Moriarty was in Noises Off, which explains their impeccable comedic timing and ease of interacting with each other.

The last Ludwig play performed at MBT was Murder on the Orient Express in 2019, making Moriarty his sixth play to grace the MBT stage and the fifth production to be directed by Travis W. Walter.

Phil Powers as ‘Dr. Watson’ and Ron Williams as ‘Sherlock Holmes.’ Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

Set in London and Europe around 1891, the story begins with Dr. Watson (Phil Powers) informing the audience that he has once again taken up residence at 221B Baker Street with his friend Sherlock Holmes (Ron Williams). Both Powers and Williams reprise their roles as the eccentric Holmes and faithful sidekick Watson from the 2016 MBT production of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, also by Ludwig.

At first, the story presents itself as a straightforward mystery. Sherlock’s services are engaged to retrieve the Bohemian king’s stolen letters. But Sherlock soon learns there are more sinister forces in play that will have him joining forces with ‘the woman’ Irene Adler (Jennifer Byrne) and ultimately facing off against his nemesis, the diabolical James Moriarty (Stephen Blackwell). Can Sherlock cut through a web of blackmail, spies, and comedic calamities to uncover the truth and save the day? Ladies and gents, this is not your BBC Sherlock Holmes.

Top Row, L to R: Stephen Blackwell, Ron Williams, Jennifer Byrne Bottom Row, L to R: Cheryl Turski, Phil Powers Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

The characters, and I do mean characters are why this play is so entertaining to watch. Five actors portray dozens of characters with such precision, that it’s a wonder they were able to keep a straight face, let alone have the right costume on. In one scene, Byrne portrayed an off-stage character while she was on stage in costume as another character! Blackwell is also to be applauded for often changing roles in just the blink of an eye – each character funnier than the last and he was memorable as every single one. His timing, accents, and physicality are amazing and hilarious to watch. Sometimes, what made something funny wasn’t the dialogue, but rather how it was delivered physically and verbally. An excellent example of this is the character Hilda Klebb (Cheryl Turski). Hilda is a housekeeper who is loyal to King Otto and her country. She looks like a cross between a milk maiden and brawn Hilda. Boy, did she have the audience eating out of her hand with her well-timed delivery. One of her funniest moments was engaging in a sword fight using a nail file. Who knew you could have a sword fight with a nail file?

Another aspect I appreciated about this production was how the set was kept minimal to allow the focus to remain on these colorful characters. A step doubled as a safe. Instead of creating an elaborate interior of a train, steamer trunks turned into seating and a toy train chugged along in the background. Examples like this are what make this show so clever and add to the enjoyment of being in the audience.   

Ken Ludwig’s Moriarty: A New Sherlock Holmes Adventure is a masterclass on comedy with good pacing, clever writing, and wit. It’s no wonder it received a well-deserved standing ovation. Sherlock Holmes has piqued people’s interest for over 130 years and with fresh material like this play, his adventures show no signs of slowing down. The game is afoot and you definitely don’t want to miss a moment.

The performance runs approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

MBT has rated this show for Middle School age and up.  

Ken Ludwig’sMoriarty is directed by Travis W. Walter, with scenic design by Jen Price Fick, costume design by Liz Goodall, lighting design by Brian Debs, and sound design by Mike Duncan. Anthony Guest is the fight choreographer, and Brittanie Nichole Sicker is the stage manager.

Tickets range from $37 to $46 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online at Student discounts are available at the box office. Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing.

Meadow Brook Theatre is a professional theatre located on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. For additional information, please visit or call 248-377-3300.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at

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