In just a few short weeks, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse will open in the Ballpark neighborhood, bringing downtown Denver a venue for all kinds of comedy acts and shows, including Hit and Run Musical Improv, Makeshift Shakespeare and a weekly interactive murder mystery dinner show.
"This is a brand-new venture," says the spot's owner, Steve Wilder, who is opening Voodoo with his wife, Aubrey. "We built it specifically to house Hit and Run: Musical Improve, Dinner Detective and a couple of other shows."
Wilder originally brought Dinner Detective to Denver from Los Angeles three years ago, debuting it at the Embassy Suites hotel on Hampden. After consistently selling out performances, he opted to build out a space that was once a candle factory on 22nd between Lawrence and Larimer where he could hold shows every Saturday night.
"The Embassy Suites has been a great host for us, but we wanted a space with a little more flavor and that was a little more specific to what we were doing," Wilder says. "We also wanted to have a little more control over the look and the menu; that was the big reason we wanted to open the theater."
And that's because the show is a unique setup: Dinner Detective is a comedic murder mystery that diners are expected to solve over the span of a four-course meal. And unlike most murder-mystery dinner theaters -- which feature crimes set in the past, cheesy sets and overly dramatic actors -- crimes at the Dinner Detective are set in present day, and performers dress like guests and integrate themselves into the audience, interacting without a script. In other words, part of the fun is figuring out who's a spectator and who's part of the show -- and even those who aren't part of the show are suspects of the crime.
When the show moves over to Voodoo, it will get a menu revamp: The Wilders brought in nearby Serendipity catering to build a New Orleans-themed menu that matches the overall theming of the space. "I can honestly say it's the best dinner-theater menu in town," insists Wilder. A full bar is on hand to get you through the ordeal.
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The couple has lofty goals for Voodoo that go beyond Dinner Detective, too: They're attempting to build a unique comedy venue that's on the list of must-do things in Denver. "I saw a lot of comedy in Los Angeles, and what's going on here easily rivals what's out there," notes Wilder. "In some cases it's no comparison. It deserves to be seen. We wanted to give people another venue that's dedicated to comedy of all types." So Voodoo will play -- in addition to dinner theater -- sketch, improv, burlesque and variety shows.
And above all, Wilder promises that neither dinner shows nor anything else he puts on will be run-of-the-mill: "I don't want people to come to the Dinner Detective or the theater in general and say, 'Eh, it's about what you'd expect.' I want people to be surprised and want to come back."
Voodoo's grand opening is Saturday, October 8. The first Dinner Detective show will happen on October 15.