Dinner Theatre

In 1994 my cousin and his wife told me they had gone to Halifax to see a dinner theatre. They raved about the production and were impressed that it only cost them $80 for the show, dinner, drinks, etc. On top of that they had driven from Amherst to Halifax and paid for a hotel room for the night. I thought, “Hmmm…I bet I could offer one right here in Sackville for cheaper than that.”

Karen Valanne and I went to Halifax to see a dinner theatre so we could get an idea about the format. We came home and wrote our first show, The Krazy Family Christmas Reunion. It premiered at Live Bait Theatre in December, 1994, and Granma Krazy and her family were an immediate hit. We started writing and producing two or three dinner theatres a year as fundraisers for Live Bait.

We produced Krazy Family shows for six years before we eventually killed off Granma in a show called Granma’s Wake. We kept writing dinner theatre scripts, but after almost thirty shows we started to get tired of the format. When I left Live Bait in 2007 I thought I’d never write another.

Over time, as I looked back on my twenty years at Live Bait, I realized that many of my best experiences were working on those dinner theatres. With no “fourth wall,” the format offers a direct connection with the audience that other theatre generally doesn’t. The audiences always seemed to have a great time and we had fun putting the shows together. I rarely laugh as hard in rehearsal as I do with dinner theatre.

I also got to work with some incredibly talented people. Among serious theatre types dinner theatre is seen as the lowest form of the art. I would disagree. It takes an extraordinary amount of talent to sing, act, play an instrument, wait on tables and improvise. I’ve appeared on legit stages with many actors who couldn’t do that!

I lived in Halifax for close to a decade. Shortly after I moved back to the Amherst/Sackville area in 2016 I started producing dinner theatre again. They continue to be a huge amount of fun to do.

I’ve now written or co-written thirty-four dinner theatre scripts. I won’t go into great detail about each as they’re all fairly similar – “A hilarious musical comedy featuring hits from the 50s to today!” – but here are the names of the scripts and the years they were produced. You can tell quite a bit about the show from the title. ?

The Shows

The Krazy Family Christmas Reunion (written with Karen Valanne), 1994

Murder at the Curling Club (written with Karen Valanne), 1995

Hallowe’en Part 1, Granma’s Back (written with Karen Valanne), 1995

One Krazy Christmas (written with Karen Valanne), 1995

Rock ‘n’ Roll High (written with Karen Valanne), 1996 and 2006

Possessed by Esther Cox (written with Karen Valanne), 1996 and 2019

A Rockin’ Little Christmas (written with Karen Valanne), 1996 and 2017

Cryin’, Lovin’ or Laughin’ (written with Karen Valanne), 1997

Summer of Love (written with Karen Valanne), 1997 and 2002

Christmas at the Malt Shop (written with Karen Valanne), 1997

Class of ’73 – The Reunion (written with Karen Valanne), 1998

Julio and Herb’s Christmas Celebration (written with Karen Valanne), 1998

Granma’s Shotgun Wedding (written with Karen Valanne), 1999

A Millennium Christmas (written with Karen Valanne), 1999

Granma’s Wake (written with Karen Valanne), 2000

The Complete History of Broadway (sort of) (written with Karen Valanne), 2000

Christmas at the Sock Hop (written with Karen Valanne), 2000

U-Pick (written with Dave McClelland and Karen Valanne), 2001

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (written with Karen Valanne), 2001

History of Rock ‘n’ Roll (written with Karen Valanne), 2002

Christmas Carol (written with Karen Valanne), 2002

Beach Party (written with Karen Valanne), 2003

Class of ’73 (written with Karen Valanne), 2003

A Disco Christmas (written with Karen Valanne), 2003

Great Balls of Fire (written with Karen Valanne), 2004

The Christmas Apprentice (written with Karen Valanne), 2004

Desperate Maritime Housewives (written with Karen Valanne), 2005

Desperate Maritime Christmas (written with Karen Valanne), 2005

Rise Again (written with Karen Valanne), 2006

Jingle Bell Rock, 2006

Anne of Springhill, 2007 and 2017

CSI: Christmas Scene Investigation, 2007

Uh Oh, Canada, 2018

No Room at the Inn, 2018

Grandma’s Family Christmas, 2019 (A rewritten version of The Krazy Family Christmas Reunion which was originally cowritten by Karen Valanne.)

PHOTO CAPTIONS (Top to bottom)

Shawn Firlotte, Blaine Totten, Lara Fawthrop, Stephanie LeBlanc and Andrea LeBlanc. Summer Dinner Theatre cast, 1995.

Stephanie LeBlanc, Shawn Firlotte, Janna Pardy, Paul Stark, Jon Epworth, Blaine Totten, Andrea LeBlanc and Chris Driedzic in Rock ‘n’ Roll High. 1996.

Jennie Del Motte in The Christmas Apprentice, 2004.

Tricia Black, Alan MacDonald, Caitlin Bowers, Colin Appleton, Kate LaFrance and Leah Brown (kneeling) in Anne of Springhill, 2007.

Heather MacIntyre, James Hand, Karen Kay, Morgan Grant and Carley Varner in No Room at the Inn, 2018.

Heather MacIntyre in Possessed By Esther Cox, 2019.