Sleuths Mystery Show & Dinner
8267 International Drive, Orlando 32819
(800) 393-1985; (407) 363-1985
Prices: Adults $47.95, children (3 to 11) $23.95. Prices do not include tax or gratuity.
Times: Varies. Call for current schedule.
Directions: From I-4 Exit 74 go east on Sand Lake, then left on I-Drive; the theaters are on the left just north of the Mercado.
Nestled incongruously in a suburban-style strip mall in the middle of the gaudy International Drive tourist strip is one of Orlando’s most enjoyable attractions. Sleuths presents a rotating menu of a dozen hilarious whodunits served up with relish before, during, and after dinner.
You may find yourself invited to Lord Mansfield’s Fox Hunt Banquet or discover yourself one of the alumni attending a reunion at genteel Luray Academy. Whatever the premise, the hilarity is virtually guaranteed, thanks to an ensemble of accomplished (and wonderfully hammy) local actors with a gift for improvisation and the quick comeback. Most of the fun and the biggest laughs come from the unscripted interactions with the “guests” who are made to feel very much part of the action. There are over ten different shows served up by Sleuths, so if you find this sort of thing to your liking you’ll be able to return many times before you start to get bored or run out of new material.
As you arrive for dinner, you will meet some of the cast members ushering guests to their tables and passing hors d’oeuvres. After the salad course, the murder mystery proper unfolds on a minuscule set at the front of the house. Don’t be surprised if you’re called from your seat to participate in some bit of lunacy. At one show I saw, four people found themselves galloping through the house on make-believe horses while the rest of the audience bayed like hounds. But, if you’re shy, don’t fret; cast members seem to have an uncanny knack for not disturbing those who’d rather not be chosen for “stardom.”
The humor is broad, with a healthy dose of double entendre. The cast members throw themselves into their parts but occasionally drop out of character in gales of suppressed laughter. And the audience never hesitates to pitch in, gleefully pointing out telltale clues that those on stage have missed. Before long, someone turns up dead and everyone in the cast seems to have a motive.
Now it’s your turn to play detective. Each table of eight is asked to name a spokesperson. During dinner, each table mulls over the clues and tries to come up with one telling question that will uncover some yet-unknown fact that will point to the murderer. Each audience member is asked to write down their solution to the crime — who dunnit, with what, and why.
Another bit of good news is that the food, while simple, is quite tasty. The choices are limited — Cornish hen, prime rib (for an extra charge), and vegetarian or meatball lasagna. I’d recommend the Cornish hen. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are poured freely.
After dinner, the cast reappears and submits itself to the interrogation of the audience. This is no dry exercise in forensic logic. Thanks to the expert ad-libbing of the cast, the laughter continues virtually nonstop. Ultimately, the wrongdoer is identified and audience members who guessed right win a prize.
Sleuths has become so popular that it now supports three separate theaters in its strip mall home. One of them regularly features a Merry Mystery Dinner Adventure especially for kids aged 3 to 12. The two show in this series are Faire of the Shire and Juniper Junior. They offer cameo roles for the kiddies in a mystery that includes magic but no mayhem. Prices are cheaper for this show ($28 for adults, $16 for children 3 to 12) and the kids’ meal is a marvelous creation called Worms Underground — a toadstool formed by a pizza atop a ramekin of buttered noodles sits on green pea grass studded with chicken nugget rocks. I’m told it’s what the actors in the show always order.
One indicator of the success of the Sleuths experience is that, by show’s end, the audience feels part of the family. The cast members graciously thank you for your attendance and point out the valuable service you perform in helping a local business survive and thrive without being owned by Disney or ABC. Hear! Hear!
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