Columbus is now a whitewater rafting destination. So it only makes sense that whitewater has its own mystery dinner theater.
Sherlock’s Mystery Dinner Theater will open “Sherlock’s Whitewater Mystery!” tonight at its longtime home in the downtown Columbus Marriott hotel.
“We wanted to try one where we could capture maybe some of the people that are coming here for whitewater or just kind of capture the overall feeling that people have here that we are a whitewater town,” said JJ Musgrove, the theater’s managing director.
Musgrove and his wife, Kate, a retired Columbus State University professor, write and produce all of the shows for Sherlock’s Mystery Dinner Theater. The husband-and-wife team plan to show the “Whitewater Mystery” until July 5 — a rare summertime showing for Sherlock, which usually only performs in the early spring and fall.
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And, of course, the couple wants audience participation.
“This show, at the end of Act One, we actually teach them how to whitewater raft,” JJ Musgrove said. “And so everybody at the table has a whitewater rafting paddle and we teach them how to stroke.”
But don’t worry, the paddle is very small.
Musgrove said that if the whitewater show is successful, it will return every year as a seasonal staple.
“If we do it, that’s great, we’ll do three,” he said. “We’ll never do four again.”
In the beginning, the Musgroves did four shows, but the workload and ticket sales didn’t justify it.
Details about the show
Though plot details are scarce, it helps to imagine the show as a revolving door.
The cast includes 14 characters, including dueling nature enthusiasts, intrepid reporters and a drill sergeant. The story is stuffed with Columbus references such as Whitewater Express (here called “Whitewater Adventurers”) and the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Stars Blake Copeland and Samantha May play three characters each — a surfer dude; a sexpot; a photographer — changing identities at the end of each act.
“They’re both very comfortable trying to find the joke through honesty,” Musgrove said. “They’re looking for the punchline but it’s got to be real.”
The pair’s biggest roles are as detective Jack Hammer and the platinum blonde “E.Z,” who, in past productions, has played some variation of Hammer’s assistant, girlfriend or fiancée.
Now, she’s the wife.
“She’s hilarious without even trying to be and that’s what I like about her. Because she’s so sweet and nice,” May said. “Kind of dumb. Kind of smart. She’s this very complex yet simple person.”
Copeland plays Hammer as a combination of Dean Martin and Leslie Nielsen (the exact ratio may change by the night).
Both actors knew each other as students at CSU, where Copeland is still a senior.
“It was a mutual exchange of, ‘You’re awesome,’” Copeland said of their first meeting for Sherlock.
Perhaps the night’s most important participants are the guests, who will play the majority of the roles.
“Really the success of the entire show is the audience,” Musgrove said.
IF YOU GO
7 p.m., every Friday and Saturday night from May 23-July 5.
Downtown Historic Columbus Marriott Hotel
$48.50 (includes three-course meal)
Reservations are required: 706-604-5634 or www.sherlockscolumbus.com