SALT LAKE CITY — In all my years of theatre patronage and reviewing, I have never attended a murder mystery dinner theatre, nor even attended a murder mystery dinner with friends. Therefore, the opportunity to review such a production was one that had me intrigued and, yes, a little petrified—mostly because I prefer my theatrical experience to be from the audience chair.
Knowing very little about what to expect, we arrived at the Hotel and Club Elevate in downtown Salt Lake City, and were ushered to the back room, where I was asked to take a name, which would become my persona for the evening. I appreciated that the staff told us that some of the audience would be speaking parts, but not all, and allowed attendees to choose the level to which we wanted to participate. While I sat down and waiting for dinner to be served, each of the cast came and talked to the audience at each table, helping me understand their role in the evenings festivities. Patrons sat in tables of four, and I was extremely grateful that another patron at my table seemed to be a veteran of these type of productions.
This evenings production was an original story written by Annelise Murphy, who also served as director. Jeff Parks and Nate Drew provided original songs for the evening. The premise is of the story simple revolves around a night club that also serves as mob headquarters. All of the characters are interested in the news that the boss is going to pick his successor. Of course, a murder happens, and the audience becomes part of the solving of the mystery.
All of the actors were skilled at keeping their character throughout the show. Jeremy Tuttle played the private investigator, Sam Bullet, a character with a mystery about him because he never shared more about himself than necessary. Tuttle was true to that character, even as the audience, were able to go and question him and his motives. Sarah Walker, as Sam’s assistant named Diane Jones, was excellent in her portrayal of the innocent, hard working dame who may or may not have something to hide. She was the first person to come and talk to the table where I was sitting, and I was impressed by her ability to remain in character, and improvise responses to audience questions.
The remaining performers, Adele Curtis (as Didi Mallory, a the waitress at the Club), Melissa Cecala (as Vivian De’Loure), Jeremy Tritchler (as Officer Billy Scott), and Scott Stone (as Stanislov Dmitriev) were all excellent at providing clues to the mystery without making the solution obvious. I appreciated Curtis’s efforts to mix information and insight into Club Mystique with humor. Stone played one of the strongest roles of the night with ease. Stone was born to play a mob hit man. Moreover, his comedic improv and timing were unimpeachable. Mr. Stone had me laughing from his first word until the end of the evening, when he continued to be in character as he thanked the audience members for coming and participating.
As a whole show, Club Mystique is a nice show, and the best parts were the improv and the interaction with the audience. The venue was a little busier than I think the company expected, and it did make it quite difficult to hear at times. I could tell that this was an unexpected downside with the venue and that the production team was already working hard to minimize the distraction. I would have loved to see the production in a private room or other location that could not be interrupted, but I understand that these things happen in a traveling performing environment.
Also, I would add that the music used in the show, while catchy and entertaining, did not seem to exactly fit with the mood of hte play. All of the actors had strong voices, and the music was written well, but the translation from a musical number to the more interactive audience was sometimes choppy.
I also commend Poison Ivy Mysteries for helping the audience feel comfortable in the environment and learning how to be a part of the experience. I hope to attend another production in the future and be a more active participate now that I have gotten over my initial trepidation. I recommend this as a fun, innovative, and interesting twist to a normal evening out.