BWW Review: Coast Anabelle in Burbank Hosts Exciting Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre Experience
It's been a few years since I have experienced fine dinner theatre in LA, and never have I been part of one presented in a truly intimate setting and that includes one-on-one interaction with the actors throughout. Such is the case with Coast Anabelle Entertainment's Here's Killing You, Kid!, a murder mystery whodunit by James Daab that opened deservedly to an SRO audience Friday June 29 at the Coast Anabelle Hotel in Burbank.
The production, directed skillfully by Paul Galliano, has an infectiously perky cast of six who are also the waiters/waitresses of the four-course dinner being served. The script is divided into five ten-fifteen minute scenes, each of which leads into a dinner course. It's scene, appetizer, scene, salad, scene, dinner, scene, dessert and the last scene a wrap-up that includes audience participation in guessing who committed the murders, with a door prize for the one that comes closest. What if there's more than one? As it's hardly an easy guess, that is highly unlikely, but if so, there's a draw. Any of the characters could be the murderer, so it's really hit and miss, unless of course you are Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, or Jessica Fletcher. Regardless of your level of interest in mysteries, it sure is a lot of fun, just watching and listening to the goings-on, which are literally right at arm's length, all around you.
The action takes place in a supposedly posh night club room at Bigelow's in Burbank circa 1953. There's the big boss Biggie played with great tongue-in-cheek authority by Linwood Sasser, Ginger, a pixie waitress who dreams of being a singer - and who sounds remarkably like Judy Holliday - delightfully essayed by Jamie McMahon, bartender Charlie, Paul David Whetstone, who serves drinks throughout the play and is perhaps the most reliable, sturdy and friendly character in the script. Then there's reporter/wedding photographer Harry, a very funny David Pires, a slick PI named Jack, Alex Elliot-Funk, who can't nail a job to save his skin and last but not least Mrs Forsythe, played by pretty Jennifer Buttell, the sexy femme fatale - "If you know what I mean!" - wife of millionaire/archaeologist Anthony Forsythe, who ends up being the first victim. We never see him, but learn that he has just unearthed the Mallorcan Monkey, a gem-laden gold statue of great wealth and power. Whoever gets their hands on it will be...well, wealthy and powerful beyond measure. So all of the characters are suspect, as each is either down-on-his/her-luck broke or in desperate straits. Oh, did I mention that Linwood Sasser plays two roles Biggie and Officer Bently, who comes in to solve the crime... well, crimes, as there's a second murder, but you'll have to go to find out for yourself who becomes victim # 2. As a matter of fact, I refuse to give away any more info. Suffice to say, the characters exchange words with you, even when they're not serving dinner, so you get to see and learn quite a bit about their individual characters, which may help in solving whodunit. The scenes are short, with snappy dialogue and cute, laugh-out-loud corny jokes, and the ending is loaded with surprises, not only as to who committed the crimes, but there's also an unexpected romantic entanglement or two and a nice, tidy inheritance to boot.
Tables are set up, each with a framed picture of a celeb of the 50s: Bogie, Brando, Bacall, Hitch (cock) and Doris Day. Thanks to Galliano's ample staging that allows the actors to play in and around the tables with ease, Don Tiffany who has coached the actors in improv and TJ Cencula, who has staged a couple of action sequences, it all flows smoothly and each scene segues beautifully into dinner and back without losing a beat. It's a great evening of entertainment that you do not want to miss! And the food at the Coast Anabelle is top notch. Go!