SUU Theater Professor Premiers Adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

Published: March 06, 2020 | Author: Lyndsey Nelson | Read Time: 3 minutes

Peter Sham, Sherlock Holmes Returns

A world-renowned playwright and Southern Utah University theater arts professor, Peter Sham is known for his work with Lend Me A Tenor the Musical, which celebrated a successful run at the Gielgud Theatre on London’s West End. Sham is bringing his writing back to the stage with Sherlock Holmes Returns, a musical premiering at the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in New Jersey on March 10, 2020.

This isn’t Sham’s first time working with the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse. Sham first worked with the playhouse as a waiter and he has held a soft spot for the playhouse ever since. He was first contacted to write a show for the playhouse in 2017 and has since put on several plays with the company in an effort to redefine American dinner theatre. 

Sherlock Holmes Returns is Sham’s most recent production for the playhouse, which was founded in 1981. The Hunterdon Hills Playhouse puts on Broadway performances in a dinner theatre environment, creating an immersive experience that has drawn Sham in and reinvents the American idea of dinner theatre by directly involving the audience. 

“Writing for dinner theatre, especially an interactive audience show, is perhaps most exciting because of the inherently interactive nature the venue already brings,” Sham said. “It's the whole experience from dining and dessert to the performance that makes it exciting to write for. The challenge of how to use all these elements and create a seamless entertainment throughout the whole audience experience is what drew me and excites me the most.”

This production centers around Holmes and Watson, presenting their relationship in a style reminiscent of Abbott and Costello as the pair work to find a hidden treasure and confront Moriarty. The dinner theatre environment lends itself to a mix of scripted acting and improv that makes the productions all the more exciting, as no two shows are ever the same. 

Sham recalls a time when a woman walked through the center of the space at the climax of the play, walking directing in between Sherlock and Moriarty during their big standoff.

“She didn’t even realize why everyone was laughing and it became a part of that show and that moment,” said Sham. 

In addition to the exciting medium to write for, Sham is also proud to provide opportunities for SUU alumni to work just outside of New York City. 

I am always trying to create opportunities for current students to work outside of their college experience, and alumni to continue to work in their professional careers,” said Sham. “That was one of the main reasons I created the fellowship at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, took on the role of artistic director at Simonfest Theatre Company, and am working with this prestigious New Jersey company now. We have some of the most talented students and graduates in the country, and I want them to have rich experiences and for their work to be seen.” 

The show currently employs SUU alumni as featured actors, crew members, and alumni Rhett Guter has served as a director/choregrapher for several of Sham’s productions with Hunterdon Hills, including this most recent production.

Sham has been at SUU since 2006. He has directed several SUU productions, including the department’s productions of Legally Blonde and Richard III, and Hamlet. As an associate professor, Sham teaches various acting and directing classes, as well as directly advising the classical acting BFA students. Learn about Peter Sham and the SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts.

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