As the sun sets over the water and boats head back to shore, there’s a group of cowboys digging up clues to find out who committed a murder in Texas – only it’s not really Texas and they’re not really cowboys. At the new Sherlock’s Mystery Dinner Theatre in Panama City Beach, talented local actors take to the stage to present a comedic murder mystery entitled “Murder Rides Again.”
When you arrive at Sherlock’s, located next to Captain Anderson’s on Grand Lagoon, various characters in Western wear start hootin’ and hollerin’ to escort you to your table – a table because this murder mystery includes a three-course dinner (prime rib or chicken cordon bleu by Chef Dee’s Catering). Guests are seated at rounds of six stocked with salads, rolls and beverages, and servers bring out a new course after each act. A cash bar is also available if you’re so inclined.
While you take your seat, characters weave their way through the tables, interacting with the audience and fellow cast members as a preview of the mystery to come. Don’t be surprised if a sheriff pretends to arrest you or a card shark plays 52-card pick up. In this show – one of many the company plans to produce – the action takes place in Miss Liddy’s Saloon, a bar lined with bottles of root beer, red-checkered card tables and barstools.
The drama begins after the first course. A murder has taken place just before the town’s much-anticipated chili cook-off, leaving an eclectic group of townsfolk – including a big-talking sheriff, his clown of a deputy, a gambler, saloon owner and schoolmarm – to start making accusations amongst themselves. The plot is murky at times, making the actual mystery a bit hard to follow, but the performances are enjoyable and the comedy well-timed. The most popular character of the evening tends to be the sheriff’s sidekick, a bumbling deputy who’s too honest for his own good.
The cast keeps the audience involved by randomly selecting guests to participate in different scenes, and again after the murder by answering questions from each table. Guests collaborate to ask a question of whichever character they choose. The actors respond to each, answering sometimes ridiculously off-topic questions (“how do you spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?”) with just-as-ridiculous answers – a highlight of the evening and a showcase of their quick wit. It’d be fun to see a longer improv segment as this is one of the night’s most well-received moments.
As the evening winds down, each guest writes down their accusations and what they believe to be the suspect’s motives. It feels like a real-life game of Clue. The audience’s feedback isn’t gathered before the final scene, but those who guess correctly receive a prize at the conclusion of the show. The three-hour experience comes to a close with dessert and the revealing of the murderer (who, of course, sticks around for a photo op along with the rest of the cast). Whodunit? Well, you’ll have to visit Sherlock’s to find out for yourself.
Sherlock’s plans to introduce other themes throughout the year, so keep an eye on their web site (dinneratsherlocks.com) for details. At $49.95 for adults and $44.95 for children 8 and up, the experience is a bit on the pricey side, but for a three-course dinner and unique entertainment it’s hard to top. Well-behaved kids above 8 are welcome but teens and adults are more likely to enjoy this show. Make your reservations by visiting dinneratsherlocks.com or by calling 850.230.0999.