From a Jacksonville, Fla., gem that’s serving macadamia mahimahi along with its professional production of South Pacific to an evening of dining on roasted tomato quinoa and wine while being wowed at Teatro ZinZanni in Seattle, dinner theater is alive, well, and ever-inventive. And while the genre may have gotten a bad rap in the past, we’ve found 10 dinner theaters across the nation that will bring you to your feet with both their food and what's on stage.
It's unfortunate that sometimes our image of dinner theater is like the scene in the film Soapdish, where Kevin Kline is trying to do serious theater over talking patrons and scraping dishes. And while the idea of dinner and a show is fun, ticking off the stereotypical "chicken or beef" box or standing in a long line for a buffet with congealed processed food can quickly rub the polish off a glamorous evening. But the idea of dinner theater is ripe for enjoyment. Food and entertainment — what's not to love?
Dinner theater did indeed have a heyday: From the 1950s until about the 1980s, the business flourished and many theaters were stomping grounds for recognizable names from the film industry. But tastes changed, the economy hampered the industry, big names didn't want to be associated with it, and the whole notion became stale rather than the fresh and exciting venture it should be.But the 21st century started to see a resurgence, and dinner theaters now are recreating the image of the industry. Many venues know how to produce a stellar experience, with tiered seating and top-notch service for the least disruptions. The theaters focus on promoting the shows themselves rather than relying on the draw of celebrities, and aren't afraid to use up-and-coming actors, often with excellent results. They also don't forget how important the food is in a culture where customers know they don't have to settle for bland choices; an emphasis on appealing menus with fresh, varied choices makes these dinner theaters a pleasure to attend.