It's one thing to sit down to a perfectly nice three-course meal, surrounded by your close friends and loved ones. It's quite another thing to sit down to the same meal surrounded not only by your friends, but by a slew of shifty-eyed murder suspects. Such is the situation guests find themselves in at Mystery Caf?, America's original murder mystery dinner theater.
Like the perfect crime, the idea behind Mystery Caf? is equal parts simple and brilliant. The line between dinner guest and audience member is blurred as a crew of potential murders attempts to evade suspicion by serving a delicious three-course meal. All the while, guests answer a series of questions based on their observations; at the end of the meal, the individual with the most correct answers wins.
Popular though it may be, the mystery dinner is only one of several gut-busting comedy acts sponsored by Mystery Caf?. Another is ComedySportz Boston, a lightning-fast improv competition in which two teams vie for points by playing in a series of goofy improv games. Regularly held at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, ComedySportz has all the elements you'd look for in a more traditional sport: breakneck speed, a rowdy audience, and a referee who governs the action and decides if the losers get to live.
Not all live comedy is contained to Boston’s Theater District. Just ask the folks at Improv Asylum, located in an underground spot in the North End, where local actors perform different sketch and improvisational comedy shows nightly. The subterranean space on Hanover Street hosts 90-minute shows with up to six different actors in each show, performing skits that touch upon family humor, current events and even some adult topics (suggested minimum age for shows is 17 years due to the content). There are nine different shows held here each week, with a cast that interacts with the audience to ensure the authenticity of each show. Best of all, military and student discounts keep the already-low prices at rock-bottom levels.
Celebrities from Busta Rhymes to Gisele Bündchen have visited Limelight Stage & Studios, a karaoke lounge designed to give every guest—even ones who have not joined Hollywood’s ranks—a chance to shine onstage. Performers can belt out their favorite tunes on a general stage while an emcee waits in the wings; alternatively, groups can retire to private karaoke studios that accommodate up to 30 for a more intimate vibe. The studios’ Mixr technology allows singers to personalize their sets by choosing their own songs, videos, lighting, and foreign accents. As stars show off their vocal cords, a team of waiters delivers platters of cocktails and finger food such as egg rolls and chicken tenders.
A step inside the opulent Boston Opera House, located near Downtown Crossing in the Theater District, reveals a magnificent marble lobby complete with a grand staircase and classic red theater carpeting, plus gold leaf finishes and brilliant crystal chandeliers. This grand dame was lovingly restored in 2004, but has managed to retain (or at least recreate) much of its historic gilded interior and gorgeous silk tapestries. The 2,677-seat theater, which is now the official home of the Boston Ballet and touring Broadway shows, was originally constructed as a movie theater in 1928. Upgraded seating options include comfortable plush red seats for both the orchestra and mezzanine levels, and choice views of the stage throughout. In addition to the Boston Ballet’s annual holiday performance of The Nutcracker, the revolving roster of year-round performances here includes everything from The Lion King to Phantom of the Opera.
The Paramount’s brightly illuminated Broadway-style sign in the Theater District has taken over the role of eye-catcher along Washington Street, now that the Filene’s infamous clock tower is no more. The space was originally opened as a cinema in the 1930s, but was forced to shutter in the mid-1970s, a time when the entire downtown area needed to be revitalized. In 2005, Emerson College purchased the building, renovated the interior and transformed it into the intimate 596-seat venue it is today. With large gold columns and artistically painted walls, The Paramount’s main stage stands out. But the facility also hosts nine rehearsal studios, four classrooms, a sound stage, the Bright Family screening room and two smaller performance spaces that host everything from comedians and dance troupes to more official theatrical productions.
Influenced by dance trends from Europe to Latin America, the staff at SuperShag Dance Studios splits its time between three Boston-area spaces filled with dancing poles, yoga mats, and custom sound systems. Founder Chris Johnston—who won several amateur Latin dance championships as a kid in Ireland and was named a World Class adjudicator by the National Dance Council of America—carefully amassed his talented troupe of teachers from dance schools around the world and from Fred Astaire’s botched attempts to clone himself. During private and group lessons, they spice up Latin-, ballroom-, and pole-dance numbers with an urban twist heavily influenced by British Dancesport, and ready students for competitions.