Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles is an ingenious mystery story, but Sherlock Holmes' witty elucidations aside, it is largely humorless. Leave it to playwright Ken Ludwig, who previously penned the hilarious, Holmesian The Game's Afoot; or Holmes for the Holidays, to make a madcap romp. Under the direction of Josh Rhodes, Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery transports Doyle's sweeping (and frequently grim) novel to the Old Globe's little theater in the round.
An indefatigable, charmingly costumed cast of five brings Ludwig's farcical whodunit to life. Euan Morton is Holmes, Usman Ally is Watson, and Andrew Kober, Blake Segal and Liz Wisan do quick-change duty as multiple characters, sometimes before your very eyes. The versatile Segal and Wisan in particular would fit nicely in a Mel Brooks ensemble.
Silliness carries the day, and Doyle purists might harrumph. But there are enough spooky visual and sound effects to satisfy that contingent. For everyone else, the swiftly paced Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery with all its Ken Ludwig signature zaniness is a howl.
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery runs through Sept. 6 at the Old Globe Theatre's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Carlsbad's New Village Arts Theatre launches its 15th season with the likable mishmash that is Return to the Forbidden Planet. British playwright Bob Carlton's jukebox musical mixes the iconic sci-fi flick "Forbidden Planet" with Shakespeare (not just The Tempest, upon which in part that 1956 movie was based, but others of The Bard's works as well). Then—who knows why?—it tosses into the goulash of hit pop songs from the '50s and '60s.
It's all rather ridiculous and overambitious. But NVA's production is distinguished by a deft and fun-loving cast. Manny Fernandes basks in the Dr. Prospero mad scientist part, Keavne L'Marr Coleman nails the role of the roller-skating droid Ariel, and among the singing actors soloing, Marlene Montes soars highest. If you banish the classic film from your mind and brush up on your Shakespeare a little, you'll enjoy this excessive but genial extraterrestrial trip.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do: This musical featuring the classic songs of Neil Sedaka is about a woman left at the altar, but who decides to go on her honeymoon anyway. Directed by Randall Hickman, it opens Aug. 7 at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido. broadwayvista.com
Legally Blonde the Musical: An entitled sorority girl decides to go to Harvard law school out of spite, only to realize she may have a knack for it. Presented by Center Stage Productions, it opens for four performances on Aug. 7 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. artcenter.org
The Sea Horse: The story of a loner sailor who attempts to court the owner of the bar he's been coming to for years. Presented by Different Stages, it opens Aug. 9 at the Swedenborg Church Hall in Normal Heights. differentstages.biz
Shrek the Musical: A singing-and-dancing take on the movie about an ogre in love. Opens Aug. 12 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Love Labor's Lost and The Tempest: High school students participating in the Old Globe's Summer Shakespeare Intensive program will perform one-hour versions of the two Bard classics. It happens Aug. 10 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?: Robert Dubac plays multiple roles in this one-man show exploring the differences between the sexes. It happens Aug. 11 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org