With its grand reopening in 2005, the Louise C. Murdock Theatre married the technological trappings of a modern cinema to its historic, 80-year-old interior. The theater’s original frescoes and iridescent, art-deco chandelier greet guests as they make their way toward a single 25'x16' screen. Framed by lush red curtains, the digital canvas displays images from a digital projector with high-definition capabilities, accompanied by the boisterous booms of Dolby surround sound. The theater screens a diverse calendar of cinematic fare, including limited-release arthouse films and classic foreign cinema augmented by popcorn and other epicurean goodies from the full concession stand stocked with snacks, alcohol, and more. The Murdock also proudly projects simulcast and prerecorded productions through partnerships with The Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre, transporting international stage performances to the Murdock without the hassle of getting sandbags through customs.
Dance Amore's chief instructor Deborah Loomis has been performing for more than 20 years, boasting a resumè that includes acting, dancing, and singing with the Massachusetts Allstate Choir and taking to the stage as a female lead in Bye Bye Birdie. At Dance Amore, she puts this experience to use helping children and adults alike tap into their melodious side through an eclectic curriculum. Her dance classes cover tap, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop for different age groups atop Harlequin floors. She also translates choreography into calorie-busting workouts with Zumba programs. At sessions for toddlers, she encourages freeform movement and the development of motor skills, outlining dance's foremost basics, such as refraining from repeatedly hitting the speakers to find the music inside. Deborah guides pupils in the process of making their own music, as well. She oversees beginner's flute, piano, and voice lessons that set the stage for future practice. Parents and loved ones keep abreast of their children's progress by attending yearly recitals, where each student showcases their burgeoning talent.
Bodies turn and twirl in the air, suspended from the rafters with colorful silks. Whether during a performance or class, the staff and students of Voler?Thieves of Flight Aerial Academy inspire awe with aerial dance and acrobatics. The academy?s professional ensemble includes ballet and modern dancers, along with circus artists, all of whom add their skills to lofty choreography on swings, silks, and hoops. The Voler ensemble has also performed at more than 30 notable locations including the Kansas city and Chicago fringe festivals and the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.
The academy?s primary purpose is teaching, of course, and three levels of classes instruct participants on the finer points of contorting on silks and practicing spirals, suspension, and falls.
The pit masters at Boss Hawg’s Barbeque & Catering Co, voted as having the Best Barbecue by Kansas Best 150 and continually proclaimed as having the Best Barbecue in Topeka by the Topeka Capital-Journal, have slowly smoked succulent meats over native hardwoods and charcoal for more than 15 years. Beginning as a one-woman catering business in the owner’s home kitchen, the eatery has grown into a 50-employee operation that serves more than 150,000 meals each year in a town of just 120,000 residents and only 100 forks. Each day, the cooks prepare picnic-style sides from scratch, boiling fresh potatoes before transforming them into salads and steak fries. To lock in moisture and flavor, the meat in the owner's preferred dish—the Elizabeth’s Favorite barbecued-chicken dinner—is served with its skin on, next to a cool scoop of coleslaw. The American Royal combo, a quarter-rack of ribs and quarter-pound of shredded meat or smoked sausage, comes with corn bread slathered in fresh honey butter and the imperial authority to declare Canada a fiefdom. When not dropping into the dining room for a casual dinner, barbecue lovers can place catering orders or book banquet meals in a private room that accommodates up to 100 guests.
At two locations, The Other Place’s staff fires up ovens to bake pizzas, italian subs, and sandwiches to a golden brown—the color of Pharaoh’s mask after he eats a chocolate bar. Atop hand-made pizza crusts made from a 40-year-old recipe, the kitchen team layers toppings such as italian sausage, salami, and sun-dried tomatoes, lubricated by tomato, alfredo, and barbecue sauce. Submarine-shaped bread holds italian meats, veggies, and toppings. In both eateries’ dining areas, more than 50 TVs stream sports games. The Other Place also often entertains guests with karaoke—America’s most underappreciated sport, and the one with the least funding in most school districts.
Sharing its space with a convenience store, Riverridge Mart and Grill serves freshly prepared classic diner dishes like homemade biscuits and gravy ($1.89/one; $3.69/two) in an unassuming environment, which includes laminate booths and mismatched chairs. A traditional breakfast menu features dishes such as three-egg omelets ($5.49–$5.99) and two-egg breakfast burritos ($3.89), which enhance mornings marred by a restless night spent trapped in a fold-up bed. Angus beef burgers and meaty sandwiches comprise the diner's succinct lunch menu. A gravy-laden chicken-fried-steak sandwich ($5.99) or bacon cheeseburger ($6.49) stops hunger pangs and diverts high-energy hands from their preferred pastime of finishing other people's crossword puzzles.