The Spaghetti Warehouse in Ybor City is becoming known for more than its meatballs. Every month there's a murder in the restaurant.
A murder mystery, that is.
MurderS She Wrote, Inc. performs a monthly dinner theater show at the Italian eatery, filled with all the goofy cheesiness you'd expect.
Maria Buckley of Zephyrhills created MurderS She Wrote in 1998, and the company performed its first production at Wacky Weaver's Comedy Club, a regular comedy night at the now-defunct Brew House in Brandon. Since then she and her team of actors have been performing all over Florida, mostly at the Spaghetti Factory and the Clarion Inn and Suites in Clearwater.
Several actors, including Buckley's husband Richard, have been with the group since the beginning, but for the most part the team is a rotating group of actors filled with retirees, stay-at-home moms and folks with regular day jobs. Some are local entertainers who have performed in Tampa Bay theatrical productions and commercials. All the actors are paid for each MurderS She Wrote gig.
Actor Pepper McGowan, who's been with the group since the beginning, said she strives to make her mystery dinner theater shows more interactive than most. Many of the shows she's performed in only allow a handful of audience members to participate, but with MurderS She Wrote, she said, at least half, and sometimes all, of the audience plays a role.
Each show begins basically the same way. Customers check in at the hostess stand, are seated and given a limited menu to peruse while actors from the show welcome the crowd and assign roles.
In some shows, the murder and action begin right away; other shows build up to the murder and mystery. Most of the audience will have a line or two throughout the night, and everyone will be given a worksheet to follow along with the clues.
Spaghetti Warehouse house manager Nick Baker said the restaurant originally started hosting them as a source of entertainment to increase crowds on slow nights, and they've done a good job of bringing in people that might not have stopped by otherwise.
There are two upcoming productions at the Spaghetti Warehouse: "Murder on the Menu" on June 28 and "Murder on Budget Cruise Lines" on July 26, Aug. 23 and Sept. 13.
"Murder on the Menu" pulls almost the entire audience into the action of a new hit reality TV show called Get a Grip — Lose A Hip. Characters like "Enormous Norm" and "Fatty Patty" compete to be the biggest losers. In "Murder on Budget Cruise Lines," cruise activity directors Elsa and Yourgie lead the crowd through activities such as bingo, table karaoke and a fashion show. Throughout your "cruise," you'll meet the Captain's new wife, learn of an unexpected stowaway on board and find out who will be sleeping with the fishes.
For more information on MurderS She Wrote, visit murdersshewrote.com.