Tell me what you got on me!
— Serial killer H. H. Holmes (Keith Allan) says to Detective Frank Geyer (Eric Curtis Johnson)
Writing a musical, is anything but easy. I’m sure Lin-Manuel Miranda had difficulty writing about someone who wasn’t well known but was still important part in history. Miranda and playwright Vanessa Claire Stewart, an accomplished playwright and actress, shared that problem. Stewart’s topic was about the first known serial killer. Not only does she choose a homicidal character with no sympathetic appeal, she had to find a way for the audience to be captivated of this soulless yet charming figure in music. She pulls the grand feat with a lot of talent and grace. For lack of a better phrase, she killed it!
H. H. Holmes aka Dr. Henry Howard Holmes born Herman Webster Mudgett (May 16, 1861 – May 7, 1896), must be the most intelligent, visually appealing son-of-a-bitch who ever lived. This man was a sophisticated, cultured “gentle”man with a certain swag that women couldn’t help but fall madly in love or sweaty heat toward him. He’s also a man with a lot more issues than Dr. Phil can handle. He was truly out of his mind in a genius manner. Going by H.H. Holmes, the crazy-ass doctor specialized in dissecting the human body during his brief time in medical school. A little gory but a skill he will later use on living beings and cadavers. Like I said, the man wasn’t in his right mind.
In between being interrogated by Detective Frank Geyer (Eric Curtis Johnson does a great job standing up to the deranged doctor). The women serve as a background to Holmes’ crimes. Lizzie Sommers (wonderful job by Brittney S. Wheeler) is the first to be vocal about her death. Other victims include mother Julia (Erica Hanrahan-Ball) and 10-year-old daughter Pearl (Ashley Diane). Evelyn Stewart (Kristyn Evelyn) and Emeline Cigrand (Cj Merriman) huddle around Lizzie supporting their fallen sister. His (almost) next victim is a proud and charismatic Texan, Minnie Williams (Samantha Barrios is the one to watch). She’s convinced that Dr. Holmes and she are meant to be together. She tells her doubtful sister Annie (Rebecca Larsen) about moving to Chicago to be with him. Of course, Annie doesn’t agree with her sister’s choices but decides to accompany her. Evelyn is another independent and strong willed woman who’s searching for adventure in Chicago like Minnie. Evelyn, is looking for escapade and Holmes delivers it, not the kind she asked for, but she does get the adventure of a lifetime.
He locks her up in one of his vacant apartments.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Pitezel (played with excellence by Davis LM McIntyre) plays Holmes unwilling partner-in-crime. It’s Benny who designs a trap room to secure future victims from leaving. This toxic bromance is true and real. Holmes readily confesses to Benny how he enjoyed the beatings he got from his abusive father because that’s how he showed affection. Holmes was bullied mercilessly by other kids. This may explain why he murders. I don’t buy it. He killed little Pearl Conner when she was 10. There’s no excuse for that. He did it because he wanted to and could do it.
Keith Allan is almost guaranteed to get some heat playing this menacing role. With his good looks and piercing blue eyes, he is irresistible and pleasing to the eye. Allan does a remarkable job as Holmes. He plays the doctor with charm but underneath he is predatory and chauvinistic. He has a fondness for killing mainly women. Sounds like mommy issues! He gives a phenomenal performance. In a nano-second, he turns from beastly to charming. He keeps his game face on only to drop it and reveal the evil that bubbles underneath the surface.
Director Jaime Robledo does an excellent job in fulfilling writer Vanessa Claire Stewart’s vision. Stewart says she found out about Holmes while binge watching the History Channel and a docuseries about Holmes. Much love goes out to costume designer Linda Muggeridge. She created different grunge and tattered brides dresses complete with a mesh veil. Those dresses are a representation that one, this is no ordinary wedding and two, the brides simply won’t last that long being Mrs. Holmes. Holmes is a grim depiction of how somebody with that much evil inside, cannot live much longer.
Deadly plays until Sunday, November 3rd, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. and Monday October 21st at 8 p.m. playing at the Broadwater Main Stage, located at 1076 Lillian Way, in Los Angeles. Tickets are $15. For reservations log on to www.sacredfools.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.