Dinner and mystery, always an entertaining combination

By , on April 30, 2014

The cast of Speak Easy! / Photo by Thessa Sandoval
The cast of Speak Easy!/ Photo by Thessa Sandoval

“Oooooh,” says everyone in the dining room in unison. But it’s not just the scrumptious three-course meal that makes everybody react that way.

When you step into the Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre on Yonge St. in Toronto, you will be led to a comfortable, airy dining area. Once seated at your table, a server will immediately hand you the menu. There’s nothing really suspicious at first. Appetizer of soup or salad will then be served followed by the delicious main course.

Halfway through dinner, the energy in the room rises; people are chatting and laughing and having great conversations while enjoying their food. At around 8 p.m., the dessert comes, and just as you are about to finish the last few bites, a group of people storms into the room. The tension rises. The curiosity grows. You know something really mysterious is going on. You feel that something is about to happen.

The cast mingling with the guests
The cast mingling with the guests

Sam Spade, a private detective in a crisp white suit, starts going from table to table to warn people to be watchful of the person sitting beside them. There’s also Al Capone, the rich, gangster-like businessman from Chicago, who approaches everyone while smoking his cigar. Marion, the hostess and the star of the show, graciously welcomes everybody. Marion’s fidgety assistant, Knuckles, is cracking some jokes, making a group of ladies laugh out loud. The nervous Dorothy tells everyone it’s her first time performing on Broadway and she’s very excited. Then there is Doc, who is offering people to try his latest concoctions.

Minutes later, the buzz dies down as an announcement is made—someone is dead. “Oooooh,” says everyone in unison. The mystery and the whodunit game, then begin.

How years of interactive murder mysteries began

Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre is an interactive mystery dinner theatre that has been around since 1987. Husband and wife tandem Brian and Lili Caws own the business, and both have been members of the theatre community for over three decades.

Owners and producers Brian and Lili Caws
Owners and producers Brian and Lili Caws/ Photo courtesy of Brian Caws

Brian says that the business wasn’t his original idea. He was working then for another mystery dinner theatre and it wasn’t doing very well in attracting customers. His friends encouraged him to start a business similar to it. When he did, he and his wife tried to develop the concept and the format to make it work better.

Now, Mysteriously Yours boasts of a repertoire of more than 50 original mysteries and has also performed outside Canada, in countries like the U.S. and Singapore. Every six months, they change to a whole new plot, but always keep the same format for the show. “A detective leads the investigation and you get to question the suspects as well because they’re spread throughout the room. They sit around the table with the guests, so you get to participate and you help solve the mystery,” says Brian.

Dorothy dancing with two guests
Dorothy dancing with two guests/ Photo by Thessa Sandoval

To make the play more interactive and fun, a few members of the audience, particularly those who are celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries, are also given small roles. “It’s a scripted performance. It’s 99% scripted, but it looks 50% improvised, so (the) audience would often think it’s an improv show,” adds Brian.

Mysteriously Yours does over 200 shows a year, including their private events. Either he or Lili writes the mysteries—sometimes with the input of the actors and their writers. “We usually come up with the idea or hear of the idea from someone else and we develop it,” Brian shares. Tonight, the show is called “Speak Easy!” Both Lili and Brian wrote the story and they haven’t written anything together for a very long time.

What’s in store for the future for Mysteriously Yours

After all the clues have been presented and each character has been interrogated, it’s time for the audience to finally guess whodunit. Therese Bourbara, her sister and their friends are there to celebrate her sister’s birthday. They all have different guesses of who the real killer is, but all feel the same way about the show. Therese speaks for everybody in her group and says, “We enjoyed our time (here). The actors were really entertaining. I will come again and recommend it to everyone.”

Mark and Beverly Cavanagh, a nice couple from New Jersey, both received prizes for guessing correctly who did the heinous crime. They say they both had a great time and also made new Canadian friends.

Guests who have guessed whodunit receive their prizes (L-R: Mark Cavanagh, Vanessa Hung, Beverly Cavanagh)
Guests who have guessed whodunit receive their prizes (L-R: Mark Cavanagh, Vanessa Hung, Beverly Cavanagh)
The Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre at 2026 Yonge St./ Photo by Thessa Sandoval
The Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre at 2026 Yonge St.

Although Mysteriously Yours has entertained thousands of guests at the Limelight Dinner Theatre and Brian says that they are continuously developing and growing, one of the issues they are facing is a possible relocation in the near future. “This space we’re in, in 5 years, may be gone because they’ve been developing condos here… We already talked with the landlord in possibly getting a space in the new building,” he says.

But they aren’t too worried as they have already relocated once before from the Royal York Hotel to their present location and business is still thriving and bustling. “My wife and I, it’s our business. Our daughter is our general manager. She helps us run the business as we eventually try to retire, but we’ll keep contributing and working with the actors,” adds Brian.

Mysteriously Yours will continue entertaining thousands of clients through their interactive murder mysteries in the years to come. As to who the murderer is on tonight’s mystery, you have to come and experience this unique show for yourself to know.