Watching a live theatrical performance is — in a word — magical. Few forms of entertainment are as satisfying as the portrayal of a story by live actors. It’s the reason humans have been taking in live performances since ancient Greece.

Throw in an awesome meal, and it’s dinner theater, the perfect ending to a day of visiting attractions and touring museums. Dinner theaters are a popular addition to group tour itineraries because they are easy to plan and fun for all.

Musicals at Toby’s

Take Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland, for example, where award-winning Broadway and original musicals with buffet-style dinners are the order of the day. And have been for 40 years.

Dinner Theater
Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Credit: Jeri Tidwell Photography

The professional theater offers eight shows weekly with evening and matinee performances.

“From our customers’ first contact with our group sales staff to watching our servers transform into glamorous, talented performers on stage, our commitment to our guests’ enjoyable Toby’s experience is first and foremost,” said Cheryl Clemens-Everidge, director of sales at Toby’s Dinner Theatre.

“Toby’s unique venue, with amazing performances ‘in-the-round,’ provides each guest with a dynamic, interactive experience and a great view, with no seat more than 30 feet from the stage,” she said. “Additionally, Toby’s is one of the few regional dinner theaters featuring a live orchestra.”

Toby’s gives visitors “an experience not many theaters can offer, being in a smaller venue in-the-round,” she said. “Groups often remark that Toby’s was the highlight of their tour experience.

”Toby’s offers pre-show performance opportunities for musical groups and talk-backs with cast/crew after the show.

Murry’s, since 1967

As one of the longest running dinner theaters in America, Murry’s Dinner Playhouse in Little Rock has been providing entertainment in Arkansas with “best of Broadway” shows for 55 years, said owner Ike Murry. “We are proud to offer a complete evening of food, fun and fabulous entertainment at one low price.”

Dinner Theater
Murry’s Dinner Playhouse
Credit: Murry’s Dinner Playhouse

Visitors can expect to laugh when they see a show at Murry’s. “All of our productions have a comedy base,” Murry said. “We don’t want to educate you. We want to entertain you.”

Murry’s can accommodate up to 280 guests.

Indianapolis’ Beef & Boards

Visitors to Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre are treated to professional Broadway productions paired with a buffet dinner prepared by its executive chef. Beef & Boards is an easy stop for tours going to or through Indiana.

Dinner Theater
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
Credit: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

“Our theater is designed so that you’re never more than six rows from the stage, so it’s a more intimate atmosphere,” said Patricia Rettig, director of marketing and media relations at Beef & Boards. “We’re conveniently located off Interstate 465 on the northwest side of Indianapolis, so we’re easy to get to with ample parking for coaches and buses and with multiple hotels located in the vicinity.”

Matinee performances are convenient for groups passing through the area because they can stop and enjoy lunch and a show before continuing on, she added.

“Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is a family-owned business, and we strive to make our guests feel like they’re part of the family,” Rettig said. “Our group sales department is skilled at tailoring each group’s visit to suit their needs because we know two groups are never the same.”

Rettig said Beef & Boards offers a memorable experience for group tours. “I always feel like we’ve been successful when they leave singing tunes from the show,” she said.

The theater can accommodate 420 guests.

Colorado’s largest dinner theater

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, Colorado, is the largest dinner theater in Colorado. Grammy Award-winning performers often star in its shows. The 15th season begins in September.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
Credit: The Creative Agency

The Candlelight is “a professional theater dedicated to preserving and cultivating the tradition of American musical theater while providing an extraordinary entertainment experience of unparalleled quality,” said Jalyn Courtenay Webb, director of sales and marketing at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

The Candlelight produces five to six book musicals and/or nonmusical plays per year, she said. It also hosts several regional and national concerts every year.

“Our hope is that our groups want to return,” Webb said. “We have several groups that have been attending since the Candlelight opened, and we love when they come back and see us. We love that we have become a tradition for groups in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and points beyond.”

The theater can accommodate 300 people.

Effortless planning

Planning a stop at a dinner theater is easy because the theater handles all the details. And theaters are easy on the tour budget, offering group rates (minimums vary).

Dinner theaters often offer comped tickets for the motorcoach driver and the tour leader as well as motorcoach parking.

Many offer a full meal, often a buffet, with the performance. Some even theme the dinner to the show. Some include dessert, and most have bar service with a separate tab.

“Our groups love how seamless the process is from start to finish,” Webb said. “We strive to make bringing a group to the Candlelight easy.”

Murry sums up why groups should add his dinner theater to their itinerary: “One stop, complete evening for a great price.”

Article by Kathie Sutin

Main image: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse; credit: The Creative Agency