That there is a hunger in Cranbrook for dinner theatre can’t be denied.
A planned murder mystery set for the Royal Alexandra Hall in the Cranbrook History Centre in November sold out so quickly a second show was planned, for December, which sold out in a day.
Gordon Sheridan, Programming Coordinator for the Cranbrook History Centre, and author and director of “We Are Not Amused,” said Cranbrook has staged murder mystery dinner theatres in the past, but it’s been quite a few years.
Sheridan, former manager of the Wildhorse Theatre at Fort Steele, said that when he started at the Cranbrook History Centre, the Royal Alexandra immediately inspired him.
“It’s a gorgeous space that should be used,” he said. “When I saw the space, and the fact that we have a kitchen … it was a space I wanted to use, and [dinner theatre] seemed to be the most appropriate use for it.”
So what’s behind the appetite for the coming production?
“I think it’s a combination of a couple of things,” Sheridan said. “Covid, with restrictions being lifted and people being allowed to get out in public. A matter of offering something new here — dinner theatre hasn’t be around in this town for a long time.
“And I think people want to see this space being used, and we’re going to get a great turnout because people are excited to go to those entertainment events in these great spaces that we have in the city — this being just one of them.”
The murder mystery — “We Are Not Amused” — which will take place in front of and among the dining audience in the Royal Alexandra Hall, is a “reunion of real life people who have stayed on our trains,” Sheridan explained.
“We have a train called the Strathcona. And in the past it has hosted Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. They are the characters of the piece. They all have a relationship with the porter, and one of those relationships is deadly.”
The cast is Jelena Jensen, Jerrod Bondy, Amanda Casey and Michael Prestwich. Hudson Gross and Shaye Wood and Kealey Spoljarevic.
Sheridan wrote the script in accordance with the History Centre’s mandate, “which is to work within the history we have here.”
And the fact that the four characters had been on the train inspired him. “It spoke to me of the 1960s, and what we could do with this. What could we do to have these people interact — so it’s a sort of reunion, that they’re all gathering again on these trains?
“And there’s going to be a couple surprise guest stars along the way.”
While set on a train, the whole play can’t be held on the vintage rail car, with 60 people attending. But the audience will get to experience that milieu before, dinner, in the form of a prologue.
“The first portion — the prologue — does take place in the Argyll dining car, so everyone does get to experience that,” Sheridan said. “The prologue will be played twice, to two groups of 30 people, then it converges back in the hall.”
The audience shows up at 6 p.m. Bar is at 6:15. There are appetizers and mingling until 7, and at 7 the show itself starts in the Argyll dining car. After the prologue, people go back to the hall. Act 1 is played. They have dinner, which is a buffet provided by What’s For Dinner.
The first showing “Of We Are Not Amused” is November 12, and a second show on December 3.