It’s no mystery why Sleuth’s is doing so well.

Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Theatre kills someone every night.

ORLANDO – If diversification is the key to helping businesses growth and thrive, then a dinner theater in Central Florida may be setting an example for all live stage shows.
“I don’t know if people are aware of how much stuff is going on under our roof,” said Laurel Clark, executive director of the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theatre on International Drive.
Known as the place where someone gets killed every night, Sleuth’s has 10 different shows in three theaters, and is open 370 days a year.
Ongoing shows have included “Lord Mansfield’s Fox Hunt Banquet,” “Kim and Scott Tie The Knot,” “Squires Inn,” and “Roast ’em and Toast ’em,” and the shows come with a meal. Before the shows begin, guests get a salad, assorted crackers with a cheese spread, dinner rolls and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres.
The meal during the show includes a choice between honey-glazed Cornish game hen, prime rib dinner or four cheese lasagna. Drinks include everything from soda, iced tea and coffee to Bud Light, Budweiser, White Zinfindel, Chablis, and Merlot.
It’s a two and a half hour show with food and drink.
“We have a different murder mystery every night of the year,” said Ben Wavell, Sleuth’s former sales manager. “We kill someone every night. It’s been a lot of fun.”
“You can always come and see something offbeat at Sleuth’s, and I don’t think people know about that,” Clark said.
But now Sleuth’s is expanding its offerings. Fans of late night comedy can visit Sleuth’s on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for Mama’s Comedy Club, an interactive improv show which has been extended indefinitely at Sleuth’s.
Kevin White hosts “Stand Up Comedy” on Saturday nights, and tomorrow night, Sleuth’s is hosting the premiere of Yasmina Reza’s French play “Art,” which is being produced by the Random Magic Theatre Co.
“ ‘Art’ is running this weekend,” Clark said.
As if all that wasn’t enough, “Come summer, and only in the summertime now, we’ll have our Baker Street Detective School,” Clark said. “It’s one of the funniest kids shows, and it’s a little bit of a mystery for kids.”
Another change is that Sleuth’s now has a kid’s menu for the young ones who don’t like prime rib or Cornish game hen.
“We never had kid’s food before,” Clark said. “Now we can offer it at night,” including a serving or macaroni and cheese or chicken tenders.
Clark said Sleuth’s has endured, despite some rocky times that have in the passt decade that have presented a major challenge to the region’s lucrative tourism industry. That includes the weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, which led to an unprecedented shutdown of the nation’s air space to boost security measures. That meant the local tourism industry had to rely heavily on the “drive-through” market, or people who drive to the region from neighboring states or other parts of Florida.
An even bigger challenge, she said, was the busy hurricane season in 2004, when three hurricanes struck Central Florida in August and September.
“It took about a year of there being no hurricanes in Florida to get people back,” Clark said.
Of course, the national recession also took a toll on the tourism industry in 2009, but Clark said the opening of the Wizardening World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios Orlando last June brought a lot of visitors to this region, and Sleuth’s bounced back in 2010.
In 2011, she added, Sleuth’s plans to continue to tap into the diverse acting talent across Central Florida, and present a wide variety of comedy and mystery shows.
Sleuth’s is at 8267 International Drive, and there’s plenty of parking available. To learn more, call 407-363-1985 or log on to www.sleuths.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Universal Studios actor and stuntman moves toward a long cherished dream: accessible Random and Magic theater

ORLANDO – As Toby Pruett sees it, entertainment need not be about breaking the bank.
“A lot of the world of entertainment has turned very corporate,” Pruett said.
That’s particularly true in a city like Orlando, he said, which bills itself as one of the great entertainment giants of the world, with theme parks that beckon visitors with thrill rides, live shows and plenty to do.
“A lot of people around here make their living in entertainment,” he said. “A lot of the entertainment here is amazing. But it’s high cost.”
A native of Fulton, Kentucky who now lives in Orlando, Pruett has been acting in acting and performing in Central Florida for 17 years. Now he’s taking his lengthy experience in theater and using it to address his concerns about the high cost and accessibility of live stage work.
Hence, the Random Magic Theatre, Inc.
The Orlando-based theater company that Pruett co-founded is producing its first stage play, “Art” by French playwright Yasmina Reza, with an opening performance on Thursday night at the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Shows theater on International Drive. “Art” runs for four performances. It’s the start of Pruett’s decade-old vision for a different kind of theatrical experience.
“If it’s a great story, I want to tell it,” he said. “Ever since we rose up and gave our first grunt, we were telling stories.”
Pruett has been doing just that for a long time. The Kentucky native was born to a family that owned and operated a radio station, so he became familiar with the idea of reaching out to the masses at an early age.
“Our family business was radio,” he said. “I was on radio from as far as I can remember.”
His travels took him to Nashville and New York before he settled in Orlando nearly two decades ago, and along the way Pruett has studied at The National Shakespeare Conservatory, the SAK Comedy Club, and the National Stage Combat Workshop. He’s been an actor at the Walt Disney Company and Sleuths, and an actor and stunt performer at Universal Studios and the Pirates Dinner Adventure dinner theater.
But what he really wanted to do was start his own theater company, one with a somewhat different vision. He got the idea back in the mid-1990s.
“Several years ago, I was working in New York, and I got to know guys like Greg and James Wolf and Greg Sherman,” he said. “They founded a company called Moonwork. I said, ‘If you guys need a hand, let me know,’ and they said sure.”
Throughout each theater season, Moonwork has been producing 15 evenings of original works since 1996. Pruett was impressed by their vision for totally involving the audience in each piece.
“It gave me the idea that I have a story to tell as well,” he said – yet one without the glitz that some theater companies insist on.
“I wanted to tell any kind of story that meant something, and to find a unique way to do it,” he said. “Not on Broadway, not in a commercial vein, but something that people have access to. It’s the simplest stories told in the most fantastic ways.”
His vision included presenting plays that called on the audience to use their imagination, rather than have special — and expensive — lighting and sound effects do it for them.
“With commercial theater, there’s a high cost to the production, a huge cost,” he said. “With Random Magic, there’s not going to be a mass budget. You don’t have to have a high budget. Theater can be created out of imagination and the text.”
It also includes some originality when it comes to the locations where the plays are shown to audiences. Although “Art” is being performed at a well established local theater, Pruett said future productions could be done anywhere.
“You didn’t have to have a theater with four walls and a door,” he said. “We can have it in a park and get permission to bring people in. You could use a tennis court and put the plays on there.”
So far, Random Magic is off to a good start.
“We’ve already sold out for opening night,” said Marian Mantovani, who directed “Art.” “In fact, it’s oversold.”
The show will be performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m., with doors opening at 8, and then a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
“We’re still accepting reservations for Friday, Saturday and the Sunday matinee,” Mantovani said. “There’s an open bar, and there will be an art exhibit. You don’t want to miss the art exhibit. We’ve got five or six really good artists coming with their work.”
There’s no official ticket price, but Random Magic Theatre is asking for donations, with a $10 suggestion.
Mantovani said it’s great that Pruett moved his theater beyond the concept stage and made it a reality.
“I feel like if you are working to tell a story in this world, you can’t sit back and talk about it, you have to do it,” she said. “We always talk about these ideas, but we never do them.”

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Is it “Art” — or something else? Judge for yourself at Sleuth’s.

Marian Mantovani says the play she's directing, "Art," will keep audiences laughing.

ORLANDO – Is it “Art” …. or something else?
Framed and hanging on the wall, one man’s great work of art can be the next man’s hideous embarrassment. Stable friendships can go haywire when a work of art comes in-between them …
That, in any case, is the premise behind Yasmina Reza’s play, appropriately enough called “Art,” which opens on Thursday, March 10 for four performances at the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show theater on International Drive.
That’s exactly what attracted Marian Mantovani to the play in the first place.
“One of the cast members brings this work of art home, and his friend doesn’t like it,” she said. “The third roommate is like Switzerland, being the neutral one.”
That painting, she said, has surprising comic implications for the feuding buddies.
“It turns out to be the breakup of a friendship,” Mantovani said.
Mantovani is directing the play for Random Magic Theatre, whose founder, Toby Pruett, is also acting in the production. It’s being produced in the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show’s Garden Room, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m., and then a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 13. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Mantovani grew up in England and studied directing at the University of Alabama before relocating to Orlando. When Pruett asked her to select a play to direct for Random Magic, she knew exactly which one she wanted to stage.
“I picked ‘Art’ because of my theater history class three years ago,” she said. “I was introduced to it by my professor.”
“Art” was first produced in France in October 1994, and the comedy received two Molieres awards for Best Author and Best New Show.
It tells the story of Marc, who is invited by his friend Serge to see his newest acquisition: a canvas painted white, with fine white pinstripes across it. Marc is appalled by the purchase, and turns to their friend Yvan to help him explain what a terrible mistake it was to buy it. This piece of work leds the three friends into a discussion about the nature of contemporary art.
But if it all sounds serious and stuffy, quess again.
“The play makes me laugh,” Mantovani said. “The play also has a message – what is art. What do we perceive as art?”
To help make this an interesting night out, the Garden Room will include what Mantovani calls a “fab art display” from local artists. So patrons who take in the performance of “Art’ will have an opportunity to check out contemporary artwork by Orlando artists – and perhaps even start a few debates of their own about which ones truly should be called art, and which ones are really just …
“I literally googled names,” Mantovani said of her search for local artists to take part in this event. “I typed in ‘local artists in Orlando’ and I went to people’s Web sites, and contacted them.”
The response she got was fantastic, Mantovani added.
“Everyone I asked said yes,” she said. “We have 10 local artists coming to the shows.”
In the meantime, Mantovani said it’s a great thrill to be working in the Orlando theater world. She grew up in Yorkshire, in northern England, and used to dream of escaping her little village to someplace cosmopolitan and exciting.
“I was stuck in a small village in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I wanted to get out of there so badly. I never went abroad because I was too poor to go anywhere.”
College brought her to the United States, and after graduation she came to Orlando, where she discovered both Pruett and his emerging Random Magic Theatre.
“Toby’s vision is he wanted to create theater randomly,” she said. “He wants to be able to do Shakespeare in a poor sense. He wants to do things like Shakespeare in a found space – where you can go and do it in a barn, for example.”
For reservations to see “Art,” call the box office at 407-363-7757 or log on to www.sleuths.com/art.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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