There's dinner, there's dinner and a show, and then there's dinner AS the show.
If you want to upgrade your typical steak-and-potatoes night on the town with an arresting alternative, consider taking your partner out for a murder mystery dinner theater date.
Conjure your inner Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, or Sherlock Holmes to solve the crime. As an interactive experience, murder mystery diners can participate in the solving of the crime or relax with their meal and cocktail and simply enjoy the show.
Being a detective for an evening has traditionally been a favorite recurring date idea for Mr. and Mrs. Cubic Zirconia. You can uncover the clues between courses and celebrate solving the brain teaser with your favorite gal or guy. And who knows, out of all the people in attendance guessing “who done it?” you too may be able to bring home the winning trophy for the evening.
Miss Scarlet in the Library? Guess Who Done It!
A murder mystery theater show needs to give the audience a limited list of possible murder suspects, along with the promise that one of these individuals will later be exposed as a murderer.
During dinner theater performances, the show’s creators often accomplish this easily because the actors often dine among the diners-- and the narrator will explicitly tell you that it wasn’t a one-armed man or random passing stranger who pulled the trigger, used the poison, or strangled the victim(s), but that one of the people in the room is guilty, guilty, guilty of putting one or more dead bodies into bodybags.
In fact, you and your partner might even be sitting beside the show's ‘murderer.'
In traditional mystery dinner theater performances, the actors typically appear to be enjoying their meal along with everyone else.
But then, a broken glass, a faint, a scream, or a shout alerts you that the show has begun and you'll want to pay close attention to clues.
In other theater troupes, the actors circulate and say lines in front of the diners-- plus answer questions posed to them while audience members eat their dinner.
But watch out! Nothing says the actors/suspects have to answer your questions truthfully. You won’t have a polygraph machine to tell if they’re lying, but you can turn on your own bullshit detector. Everyone has one, and it’s right more often than not!
Today, the murder mystery dinner theater date has grown in popularity with venues all over the United States and around the world feeding people's love for delectable cuisine and crime detection in the same evening.
Although many dinner theater venues follow a traditional storyline, others might change up their theme or incorporate special features into the show.
Mystery dinner theaters also tend to change up their shows routinely to ensure that performances differ for guests who develop a taste for solving murder-- and want to come back again and again.
Plan Your Mystery Dinner Theater Date
Although it may be possible to get tickets for a mystery dinner performance at the last minute, you don't want to risk missing out on the fun if the performance is booked. Make your weekend plans a month early, and weekday plans a week to two weeks earlier if you can.
Most venues offer tickets to mystery dinner events online. Just visit the dinner theater's website to purchase tickets and reserve your seats, view the menu, and note any special show details. If the next show is sold out, go ahead and book the one offered after that!
Most shows allow for casual attire, but if there's a special theme for the performance, you and your date may want to dress up to get yourselves into the mood of the event. Also, plan to arrive about 15 minutes before the start of the show so you have time to get comfortable, make your dinner order and get to know the room.
Brush Up Your Crime-Solving Skills
Riddle me this, Sherlock…
Is there any way to get better at solving a murder mystery show than doing it again and again and again?
Sure is! Part of the fun for your upcoming mystery dinner theater date is to get in the mood for the performance. You can stream a mystery like the 2019 release of Murder Mystery starring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler-- and maybe do the sequel, too.
You may wanna go even more high-brow in your preparation. If so, we recommend the masterful film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express or the more recently released Death on the Nile that features Kenneth Branagh and Gal Gadot. Both are amazing.
You could also test your murder solving skills with expert TV detectives like David Suchet of Poirot fame or Chief Inspector Barnaby from Midsomer Murders.
Why not make a themed date night month out of the idea-- culminating in your in-person murder mystery dinner theater date?
In the weeks leading up to the main event, you could cozy up with your partner on the couch, pop some popcorn and stream or rent mystery TV shows like these to get you ready for your dinner mystery event:
- Midsomer Murders
- Inspector Morse
- Murder, She Wrote
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
- Father Brown
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
If you really want to test your penchant for crime solving, do some nighttime reading or listen to some first-rate mystery audio books like these:
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
- The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
- The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
- Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
- The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverete
- Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
As you’re watching, reading or listening to other murder mystery media, there are two main skills you should be trying to practice:
1. Learn how to identify THE USUAL SUSPECTS and either confirm or eliminate these suspects from suspicion as the murderer
2. Watch out for the “plot twist” that makes untrue something you had previously thought to be true…or confirms as true something you had previously thought to be false.
11 Final Tips from a couple serial solvers with serious sleuthing skills:
Don’t be frustrated if the 4 hour show is 75% over and after the first 3 hours you still feel like there’s a half-dozen suspects. The show’s creators want to keep you guessing until the very end if they can! Besides, it’s much more fun this way when there isn’t a trail of blood leading to just one obvious, common-sense suspect as the killer… trust us!
2. Information in a murder mystery theater show is usually imparted in two ways: what the full audience hears spoken aloud to the room (narration) and private conversations between one or more actor/suspects and your private table. Characters may flat out lie, but the narrator narrates facts. If it’s clear, and said aloud to the whole room, it’s almost 100% gonna be true. But be careful! Because the director and scriptwriter could have written something in such a way so as to trick the audience into believing their interpretation of a phrase that has multiple meanings.
3. Don’t expect to receive a ton of physical evidence in a murder mystery dinner theater show. Latent fingerprints, gunshot residue and blood spatter analysis rarely come into play as a way to solve the mystery in this fast-moving, mostly-verbal interactive game.
4. It’s also rare for many characters in the show to enter the show AFTER the murder takes place (a police detective or coroner is an often-used trope…and while they are rarely the killer, it’s smart to get their alibi immediately because the show’s creators could be trying to lull you into a false sense of confidence they couldn’t have done it since they didn’t SEEM like they were in the murder location when the killing took place).
5. The public information provided aloud by the actors to ALL audience members is NOT going to be enough to guess the killer’s identity, explain the timing (opportunity), shed light on why he/she did it (motive) and provide the details on how they offed the victim (means). That means the way you create an advantage for yourself is asking questions of the actors and hearing answers that only your table hears!
6. When asking questions of the actors/suspects for individual answers privately to your table only, most of them will answer questions like these (extremely useful):
- Where were you when the murder happened? (unless the person was drunk, drugged, asleep or suffering memory loss)
- What was your relationship with the victim?
- Did the victim share any secrets or suspicions with you that might point towards whodunit?
- Who do you like among the other characters, and why?
- Who do you dislike among the other characters, and why?
--> Just don’t count on the answers they give you to be 100% truthful.
7. Female murderers are rare—they make up just 15 percent of serial killers in the real word—but not unheard of. We recommend that you don't discount guessing that the homicidal character is female if she seems like she might have been the murderer. In our experience, the theater and story directors don’t try to make the show mimic the real world so it's a 50% chance that the killer in the story is female).8. The sketchy boyfriend often kills a pretty lady girlfriend in real life but in murder mysteries he's usually a red herring meant to confuse the audience into naming him as the prime suspect who did the deed (don't fall for the "evidence" that makes you think he's the murderer).
9. Solving the case is a matter of eliminating suspects one by one who you believe could NOT have done it! If you can get the alibi for where someone says they were when the murder was committed-- and then indirectly confirm that alibi by another person in the cast-- you can often eliminate that suspect from suspicion of being the slayer.
10. Don’t pay so much attention to the words and sounds you hear that you fail to see possible clues, too (drop of blood on the actor/suspect’s shoes? An obvious hatred on her face when saying his name?). Even telltale smells can help eliminate certain suspects as the killer-- or make it much more likely they are indeed worth looking more closely at under the murder microscope!
11. It’s not dorky to use a notebook to solve this murder mystery! We usually investigate with a notebook open, in which is prepared a page for info about/from each suspect-- and jot down notes as we learn things about them. This is especially useful as it might pertain to confirming the suspect had, or doesn’t seem to have, the MEANS to murder (i.e. access to the murder weapon), a MOTIVE for murder, and the OPPORTUNITY to have murdered (i.e. no strong alibi).
Colonel Mustard vs Mrs. Peacock
You might want to solve the clues as individuals…or when the time comes to write down your guess for who did it, and why they had the means, the motive and the opportunity…you may decide you want to double down and both give the same answers you agree on.
Since the prize for getting the best answer is often a free future meal & performance, sometimes if you’re really sure of the answers it can pay to both give the exact same response. Other times, you may disagree and decide to each answer separately different answers.
And that can be fun, too (especially when one of you gets to say “I told you so!”.
The cause of death to dating in marriage is boring predictability.
This $50 to $200 USD date idea is all about how to enjoy an affordable, suspenseful evening with your date and heighten your romantic chemistry as you A) compete with each other to get the correct answers, or B) work side by side talking and laughing over the clues, and figuring out together ‘who done it.'
If you want to keep the jury's deliberations quiet-- so as not to give away your winning answer, the evening should include lots of whispering in your significant other's ear.
And well, there's something really enticing about touching lips to ears in a roomful of people who can't hear what you're saying and totally understand why you'd be having such an intimate conversation...in addition to keeping your murder suspect's identity secret-- as well as your reasons for his/her means, motive and opportunity for committing the crime you'll accuse him/her of at the end of the performance-- you could whisper anything in your husband or wife's ear and not be caught in serious flirting. Good thing there's a table between the two of you lovebirds!
As a long-time duo-- husband-and-wife gem detectives if you will-- we enjoy planning out-of-the-ordinary dates, and mystery dinner theater is among our favorite date night options
(Mr. Cubic Zirconia likes it so much that he actually was gifted by his wife a chance to act as a walk-on cast member in a performance of our favorite hometown murder mystery troupe; surprisingly, it wasn’t even that expensive).
Any last words?
The next time you and your partner are in the mood for something to tantalize your brain as well as your taste buds, we invite you to attend a mystery dinner theater performance and don't just sit there and eat-- get detecting!
You might just solve the murder by dessert.
-- Mr. and Mrs. Cubic Zirconia