MURDER AT THE MALT SHOP: Wise-cracking whodunnit takes LCMS thespians to 50’s malt shop

Published 11:25 am Thursday, November 8, 2018

STANFORD — Dinner theatre usually brings to mind a fancy dining venue, not a middle school cafeteria.

But Lincoln County Middle School’s Advanced 8th Grade Drama class used the lunchroom area for the students’ inaugural murder mystery production last fall, and this year’s troupe took the makeshift cafeteria stage once again last Monday to put on another hysterical and “killer” performance.

The students presented Murder at the Malt Shop by Cheri L. Maxson to a packed house, with the number of tickets sold for the event almost double from last year.

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“I got an extensive amount of positive feedback from parents, colleagues, administrators and other community members (from last year’s performance). It was an enjoyable experience,” Lincoln drama instructor Megan Ralston said. “In fact, last year’s event was so much fun, we had many repeat guests who brought friends this year – and everyone has been extremely positive and raving about the fun that they had!

“We sold around 90 tickets last year and it was an enjoyable time for everyone involved!” Ralston added. “We sold 175 tickets to this event. Our cafeteria was packed. It was slightly overwhelming – but in a good way – and the kids and our guests had a blast. That’s all that matters!”

Murder at the Malt Shop was centered around the Lincoln Malt Shop, a popular spot frequented by the locals. The shop was filled with quirky characters and one of them was guilty of murder! When the lights in the malt shop went down after an unexpected blackout, so did Principal Jerry Atrick, played by Tanner Ramsey. It was up to the other malt shop customers, staff and Sheriff Colin Allcars, played by Trevor Bennett, to figure out who was responsible for the foul play.

But whodunnit! Everyone at the malt shop had a motive for wanting the reprehensible and unreasonable Jerry Atrick dead. Was it the trouble-making greaser Noah Count, played by Reagan Griffin? Or the bubbly and annoying know-it-all cheerleader, Bobbie Pinz, played by Emmie Releford? Or could it have been Pinz sidekick Shirley Knott, played by Erin Carmen? Or maybe the waitress, Dee Lighted, played by Chloe Ralston, who takes your order but brings you whatever she feels like. Then there was the young starlet Holly Wood, played by Peyton Ramsey, and the young jock, Jim Shorts, played by Jacob Lewis. Just who did it?

This mystery delivered exactly what viewers craved: a juicy whodunnit served with loads of puns and topped with a heap of nostalgic ‘50s references. However, in the end, it wasn’t anyone in the malt shop that had committed the crime. No, the murderer was none other than Sheriff Colin Allcars.

“This year’s performance was a MUCH bigger undertaking as compared to last year …. But my students and I sure (enjoyed it)!” Ralston said.
And why the malt-shopped themed whodunnit?

“We chose this show because it was lighthearted, funny and such a fun 50’s theme,” said Ralston. “The students loved researching the 50’s – from hairstyles and fashion to music and slang. The 50’s was such an iconic decade, too, so the kids had a blast developming the stereotypical characters of the times. After reading the script, the kids felt like it was a no-brainer. Murder at the Malt Shop was their production of choice.”

The Murder at the Malt Shop mystery theatre event is a culminating activity for the Advanced 8th Grade Drama Class and is organized, directed, produced and performed by the students. Ralston came up with the mystery dinner theatre idea when researching ways to enhance the drama program.

“When I became Drama teacher at LCMS, I wanted to continue with allowing my advanced students to produce and perform their own show, but we decided last year that we wanted to do something a little different and new – and thus – the Mystery Dinner Theatre was born!” she said. “The students who participate in this show are all Advanced 8th Grade Drama students. They work on the project during class and have some other school rehearsals. We do hold auditions for this class, which are held at the end of the school year to fill rosters for the next year’s class. Any eighth-grade student may audition for the class.”

And have the students openly embraced the concept of the dinner theatre?

“Absolutely,” Ralston said. “In fact, several of my students auditioned for the class because they were so excited about being part of the mystery dinner theatre event again this year. I made them wait a few weeks before we settled on a script because of general beginning of the year activities. We also do an ensemble-building/getting to know you unit at the beginning of each term.. so they were more than ready when the time came to get started this year!”

The Advanced 8th Grade Drama Class was in charge of everything involved with the Murder at the Malt Shop production except the food preparation. Caribbean Spice Mobile Catering cooked the “killer” menu, which included Daddy-O-Burgers & Fixins’, Suzie-Q-Crispy Fries and Tutti Fruitti Coke or Root Beer Floats, but the students did all the serving.

Caribbean Spice Mobile Catering was just one of several local sponsors supporting the dinner theatre event. PBK was again the primary sponsor for the event. AGE Engineering and Builder’s Supply also provided monetary donations for the second year in a row. Durham’s Grocery and 4 Generations provided the ice cream and sodas for the featured dessert, Patriot Petals provided table centerpieces and Lee’s Famous Recipe provided after-school meals for the drama students and caterers the night of the event.

“We would not be able to have this event without community sponsors! Every year, the same sponsors- and more – willingly support our efforts and help us make this event bigger and better than the one prior,” said Ralston. “My dear friends at Caribbean Spice Mobile Catering graciously agreed to take on an extremely challenging job of feeding 175 people grill food- and it was delicious! I have heard nothing but great things about how tasty those hamburgers and fries were – and I am so thankful for their help during this event.”

Ralston said she takes great pride in living in a community so supportive of the arts.

“I am thankful to live in a supportive community and work in a building where the arts are alive and well!” she said. “We have a Visual and Performing Arts program at LCMS that is second to none if you ask me. I feel truly blessed to be able to work with amazing, talented, and dedicated staff and young people whose hard work certainly does not go unnoticed and sets LCMS apart from the rest!”

“We look very forward to more performance opportunities in the future.”

Hedda Fuller Eyer- Lexy Clark
Sheriff Colin Allcars- Trevor Bennett
Principal Jerry Atrick- Tanner Ramsey
Norma Dreadful- Lilly Blanton
Doe Ramey- Gentry Osbourn
Ginger Vitus- Bailey Griffin
Doc Dufensmirtz- Connor Berry
Detective Squinty Peepers- Matte Peyton
Dee Lighted- Chloe Ralston
Bobbie Pinz- Emmie Releford
Jim Shorts- Jacob Lewis
Shirley Knott- Erin Carman
Wynn Fairly- Taylor Warren
Holly Wood- Peyton Ramsey
Russell Sprout- Seth Reynolds
Noah Count- Reagan Griffin
Jocks- Colton Ralston, Tramane Alcorn, Jalen Smith,
Alex Murphy
Cheerleaders- Faith Brown, Alexis Slone
Directors: Payton Byrd, Jackson Sims, Riley Griffin,
Isabelle Roach
Stage Managers: Rayna Wheeler, Bayleigh Bennett
Additional Advanced Drama Students: Katie Barrett, Tatum Brown, Kensley Callahan, Malaysia Dawson, Kennedy Stamper, Lakyn York, Alex Caudill, Linda Hafley, Eli Ladwig, Connor Sparr

Produced by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Service, Inc., Denver, Colorado.