JJ and Kate Musgrove found the inspiration for their new Sherlock’s Mystery Dinner Theatre show “Spy Games!” while watching episodes of the 1960s TV series “Get Smart.”
The TV show, created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry, was a satire on the secret agent genre.
In “Spy Games!,” super-villain, Dr. Sudoku, threatens the balance between good and evil in the world.
The audience becomes a union of S.N.E.A.K.s, or Spies, Ninjas, Evil scientists, Assassins and Kindergarten teachers.
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The union’s job, with the help of Agent 85 and Agent 98.6, is to defeat Dr. Sudoku.
Actors E.J. Cameron and Caroline Garcia play the agents.
The two actors play all the major roles in the show while the rest of the ensemble is culled from audience members who volunteer to perform.
Roles are passed out a few minutes before show time and guests have a chance to read their lines before delivering them. Guests may chose to participate by taking on a role or they may simply enjoy their dinner and watch the action unfold.
Her first Sherlock’s play
This is Garcia’s first dinner theater play.
She’s playing three characters, including Agent 98.6. Two of the characters are good, but the third one is evil, she said.
“It’s pretty exciting to play the thief,” she said. “She’s so different from what I’m like in real life. It’s just different when you get to play the bad guy.”
Though this is first performance at a Sherlock show, she’s familiar with the concept having been both house manager and stage manager for previous shows.
Cameron, a Sherlock’s veteran, also plays three characters, one of whom is evil.
Cameron and Garcia are both graduates of Columbus State University. Cameron graduated last spring and Garcia graduated in December.
JJ Musgrove prefers to cast graduates over current students so the intense eight-to-10 week run of each show doesn’t interfere with class schedules and study time.
“We’re a good gig to get,” Cameron said. “These are difficult parts to do and we want to have quality performers who can handle a crowd and work well in a crowd. It takes skilled actors to pull it off.”
“Spy Games!” was originally performed by Sherlock’s in 2009 but the show has been rewritten for Cameron and Garcia.
“Not a lot of people saw it. It was in the summer and that’s why we stopped doing summer shows,” JJ said.
Now Sherlock’s sticks to performing one fall and one spring show.
The Sherlock’s team has written 10 shows.
JJ Musgrove said the audience should expect at least one “groaner” joke in each show.
“If you don’t like a joke, then wait until Act 2,” he said. “There may be a better one in the next act.”
The actors enjoy the audience’s laughter and sometimes they even crack up at a joke while performing.
“The audience likes to see you laugh,” he said.
“They become part of the team,” agreed Garcia. “It’s sort of a bonding experience.”
A special performance
All performances are in the Columbus Marriott Hotel, except for one night.
The Feb. 16 show will be in the Columbus State University Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center for Continuing Education on the main campus.
This special one-night show is $55 and must be ordered by 5 p.m. Monday. It begins at 6:45 p.m.
All other shows are in the Marriott, 800 Front Ave., and begin at 6:45 p.m.
Tickets are $48.50 and must be reserved 24 hours in advance.
The menu changes each week, and can be viewed at sherlockscolumbus.com Tickets can be purchased online or by phone.
JJ Musgrove said the shows average 50 people a night. Some nights sell out, so guests should make their reservations early.
The Marriott space can hold as many as 100 people, but 80 is a comfortable number, he said.
Aside from that summer show in 2009, he’s been pleased with audience numbers.
“We have had just past 7,000 people in four years see our shows,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing.”