Diners/sleuths to solve 'murder mystery'

LEESBURG, Ga. -- There will be murder afoot Friday and Saturday evening when the wedding of the century turns into the crime of the century.

The mysterious goings-on will take place at the Albany Knights of Columbus Hall at 2009 Gillionville Road, where the Lee Palladium Foundation and the Lee County Chamber of Commerce will present the groups' 7th annual mystery dinner theater, this year titled "Matrimony, Mayhem & Murder."

"This is the seventh year we've done this, and each one has been a blast," Rick Muggridge, who will play father of the bride "Jackie Fitzhugh" in Friday's and Saturday's shows, said of the dinner theater event. "I'm a thespian at heart, and these shows give the actors an opportunity to improvise and to get as close to the audience members as we'd like.

"Over the years we've had great audiences who really got into what we were doing, and we've had a few not-so-great audiences. If everyone goes expecting to have a good time, it will make the experience that much more enjoyable for everyone."

Ticketholders will be invited guests at the wedding of "Bruce" and "Tina," one of the social events of the year. But while everyone is dealing with the number of things that go wrong during the wedding, the unthinkable occurs: murder. Guests are given a clue package and tasked with helping solve the crime.

"The minute (audience members) walk into the room, the show is on," Muggridge said. "Actors are part of the crowd, and their interaction with the audience is part of what makes the experience so much fun.

"Before the second act -- the 'reveal' -- actors mingle with the crowd, and everyone gets to interview suspects. The table that solves the mystery wins prizes."

The real winners, though are the chamber and Theater Arts students at Lee County High School. Money from "Matrimony, Mayhem & Murder" is split between the two groups, and the Palladium Foundation has used its share of the loot to fund scholarships.

"We usually give three scholarships a year: One goes to a student planning to study Theater Arts; one goes to a student who 'found himself' through theater; and one goes to a student who has been dedicated to theater during his or her high school career.

"We usually end up splitting around $7,000."

Tickets, which are $35, are available at the chamber or LCHS. Muggridge, a Lee County Commissioner/insurance executive who has starred in such local theater productions as "The Sound of Music," "Guys and Dolls," and "Oliver," says the tickets are well worth the price.

"Every person I talk to who has been to one of the dinner theaters always tells me it's one of the most fun things they've ever done," he said. "I know it always is for me."

Drinks will be served prior to each show starting at 6:30 p.m. Show/dinnertime each night is 7 p.m.