The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

May 8, 2013

Whodunit? Only audience knows...

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — This weekend the Medina Theatre will be the scene of a crime. This weekend, someone will be murdered.

And the police will not be involved.

For what is believed to be the first time in this area, The Mystery Company of Buffalo is bringing its brand of dinner theater to local patrons eager for an inclusive whodunit. And it will occur in Medina with the show “Murder at the Medina Theatre.”

Producer/director Jerry Kelly founded The Mystery Company in 1997 after he retired from Sierra Research Corporation. He recalled his first show — a send-up of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” — was done with help from his son. Since then, the company expanded and branched out for a simple reason.

“There’s a need for this type of thing,” Kelly said, adding how the desire for participatory performances is a bit of a “niche” market. 

Kelly said most of what he and his company do occurs at fundraiser events or at country club happenings. He said there have also been occasions when his company has performed its act at private homes for smaller parties of under 40 people. The largest crowd he said he could recall was for a show put on for county court clerks of New York State.

Kelly’s company wound up scheduling their event for Medina thanks to just a few degrees of separation from the Medina Theater. He said his friend Dave Green, who is the club pro at Shelridge Country Club, mentioned to him how Theater owner Joe Cardone was looking to do a murder mystery show. Kelly said to pass his number along, and the rest fell into place.

Visiting Medina to get a feel for the place, Kelly said he found it charming.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “I played golf at Shelridge, bought some apples at Lynoaken Farms, and ate downtown. It’s a great community.”

The Mystery Company’s visit to Medina this weekend is one of the 15-18 shows it annually schedules. The company has grown since its first performance in 1997 and has fine-tuned itself to the point where Buffalo Spree magazine has labeled it a premier group because of its unique performance style. Acquiring that style for a show can be tough to come by, though, as Kelly said he tries to let his company keep as many Saturday nights as possible.

But this Saturday is a bit special, as the Murder at the Medina Theatre will take place on Mother’s Day Eve. Cardone said he thought it would be a good night out for couples.

“I thought it’d be a nice thing for a husband to treat his wife or a son to treat his mother to a fun night out with good entertainment and good food,” he said. Cardone, who is the Orleans County District Attorney, said the idea was originally suggested to him by Legislator Lynne Johnson.

Medina Theatre Event Manager Renee Schuner said the participatory production is just one of the various events she has been working bring to the community, as it provides a different kind of entertainment.

“I think this will be great,” she predicted. “It’s our first dinner theater … and it’s with a well-seasoned group.” Schuner said those who attend will have a “packed” evening. Starting with hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., the cast from the show will mingle with the crowd. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m.

“They’ll drop hints that coincide with the play they’re performing,” Schuner said of the cast. “The characters have a bit of a script, and at the end the audience will participate by solving the murder.” 

After the murder is solved the theatre will open for the Rochester-based Bill Tiberio Jazz Band, which is part of the Lake Shore Coffeehouse Musical Series.

Tickets to the show are $49.95, are pre-sale only, and include hors de-oeuvres, dinner, and admission to the mystery theater and jazz band. There is a cash bar.

Kelly said the show promises to have “a lot of audience participation, a lot of old Vaudeville schtick, and a lot of laughs.”

Part of the laughter, Kelly explained, will come at the show’s conclusion when the audience must solve the murder by writing and reading a limerick to the rest of the crowd. He said the only rule for participants concerning the short stanza is that it may not mention anyone who comes from Nantucket.

With that he laughed, and promised more laughter to come because “it’s contagious.”