Mystery Dinner Theater, Dinner and A Show and A Murder

By: Mel Joelle

Dinner theater, often referred to as dinner and a show, is a form of live entertainment which combines a meal at a restaurant and some form of staged play or usually a murder mystery. This style of entertaiment provides patrons with a lot of bang for their buck. Dinner theaters are located all throughout the nation and have been around for a number of years, experiencing the most success througout the 1970s. The popularity even recruited a number of former movie stars and television actors who found great success in the field creating a boom in Dinner theatre. The boom seemed to end in the mid 1980s, with many of Dinner theatres closing as they were no longer able to afford or attract celebrities, even faded ones, to star in their productions. Aging stars started receiving offers for television and commercial work and they stopped doing dinner theatre. Howard Douglass Wolfe is credited with being the "Father of Dinner Theatre” created the Barn Dinner Theatre franchise beginning in 1962 which included 27 theaters throughout the nation. Robert De Niro reportedly acted at The Barn in Greensboro, North Carolina until he was fired in the middle of a performance. Mickey Rooney and many other well-known performers have also done gigs at The Barn.

The dinner theater scene is currently experiencing a revival. Partly attributed to the long standing success of Keith O’Leary and Margo Morrison, creators of Murder Mystery Weekend and Murder Mystery USA. They are award winning writers, producers, and directors with extensive backgrounds in motion picture, television, and theatrical production. “Since 1985 they have been responsible for over 7000 live mystery productions worldwide and have been featured in the print and television media in 37 different countries from Buenos Aires to Vancouver, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii, from Alaska to Acapulco, from Hamburg to Costa Rica, and from the Bahamas to Paris.” They were quoted by the Los Angeles Times as “The Masterminds of the genre.” Their mystery dinner theater weekends and events have been co-hosted by such famous celebrities as Mary Higgins Clark, Peter Falk, and Dr. Henry Lee. They have been featured on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous as well as all major television networks. Keith & Margo's Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre offers chilling opportunities for people with a passion for cold blooded murder... slippery red herrings... diabolical clues... and ingenious detective work to indulge themselves in one of the most unusual, exhilarating, and spine tingling experiences in dinner theater. Held at restaurants throughout the nation, this a popular phenomenon and new form of audience participation theater worth the experience. Currently, they hold the Los Angeles dinner theater at Matteo’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Murder Mystery Texas, an arm of Keith and Margo’s Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, provided the same standard of Rolls-Royce dinner theatre entertainment to residents of Dallas and Ft. Worth at the Old Mill Inn Restaurant in Dallas, Texas, a unique, historic 1936 Texas landmark, next to the Hall of State and the Music Hall.

Since 1995, the Houston franchise of America's Original Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, Mystery Cafe, has thoroughly entertained keeping audiences on their toes with their unique version of the Whodunit scenario involving wacky characters committing comic mayhem to one another, “all involved in a plot with more twists and turns than a Picasso painting.” Each unique mystery show is 4 acts in length, following the traditional structure of the mystery: introduction of zany characters, one zany character is murdered, and then attempting to solve this mystery. Who did it? During each of the three breaks between acts, a different course of the meal is served and the characters mingle with the audience igniting audience participation, trying to make sense of the mini-puzzles included in the clue packets. Vital information may also be obtained from the characters by employing the bribe money provided, but be careful - some of these people are not very trustworthy. The dinner theater takes place in The Sheraton Suites Hotel off Westheimer in the Galleria Area.

So if you are looking for an engaging, fun and exciting theatre experience off the beaten path of traditional theatre look no further than a Murder Mystery Dinner Show. You are guaranteed to experience one of the most unique forms of live entertainment in your area. Eat and enjoy!

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