Mystery Dinner Theatre

Cast members of the Fairbanks Drama Association’s Mystery Dinner Theatre include, from left, John Paul Kohler, Lisa Herbert, Skyler Evans, Julie Rafferty, Willie Blackburn, Kalesha Pearson, Morgan Gallagher and Johan Brun, and kneeling from left, Darren Gallagher, Gary Black and Betsy Robertson. 

Saddle up partners, because the Mystery Dinner Theatre is on the trail again — this year with a country-western twang for the evening.

“The Cow Town Mystery Musical,” written by Fairbanks Drama Association Executive Director Peggy Ferguson and John Paul Kohler, is what Ferguson describes as a “rip-roaring musical comedy.”

“I can’t give it too much away, but basically this is an old style western,” Ferguson said. “It’s set in the old west and the premise is both the sheriff and Bad Bart are in love with the same woman, Sweet Mary, and she has to make a decision.”

Between Bad Bart trying to divert the town’s water supply, a trio of three reformed women train robbers, and the occasional song, the Cow Town cast is readying up for a real showdown come July 13. And since it’s the Mystery Dinner Theatre, even the cast of guest celebrity actors doesn’t yet know the conclusion.

“It’s a mystery to me,” said cast member Kalesha Pearson, in regards to her character, Sweet Mary. In keeping with the tradition of the show, cast members are well known Fairbanks locals and have not yet received scripts.

With the production taking place outside and audience members eating and guessing the conclusion of the mystery, Pearson said she really participates to have fun and hopes the audience has fun too.

“I do like to say thank you,” Pearson said. “It is a community effort and without the community we wouldn’t have an audience.”

Pearson has been on stage with FDA before. She’s participated in a few Mystery Dinner Theatres and was in the drama association’s final production of last year’s season, “Nunsense,” which was also directed by Ferguson.

“The tone of this show is very campy,” Ferguson said. “I’ve written a very campy comedy and I love that I’ve written such really interesting and gritty women — strong, gritty women.”

The Mystery Dinner Theatre, held on the front lawn of Hap Ryder Riverfront Theatre, is an annual affair for the Fairbanks Drama Association. This is the 19th year holding the summer show on the banks of the Chena River.

“I had so much fun writing this,” Ferguson said. “My goal was to write the funniest campiest western that I could about a little town.”

On July 13, the big top circus tent will rise for a silent auction and cocktail hour from 6-7 p.m., with dinner provided by SMG Carlson Center served at 7:15 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Proceeds from the event will go to FDA, as part of their yearly fundraiser. Tickets cost $80 per person or $600 for a table of eight people. Interested parties can call 456-7529 for reservations until July 9 at 5 p.m.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Note: Cast member Gary Black is features editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and covers the Fairbanks Drama Association.

If You Go

What: Mystery Dinner Theatre produced by Fairbanks Drama Association

Where: The lawn of the Hap Rider Riverfront Theatre, under the big top tent, 1852 Second Ave.

When: Saturday, July 13; 6 p.m. begins a silent auction and cocktail hour; dinner is 7:15 p.m.; the performance is 8:30 p.m. Reservations, which include a meal choice, end at 5 p.m. July 9. Only 225 tickets will be sold. The three meal choices include roasted chicken breast, crusted Alaska cod or oyster mushroom risotto cake. The caterer for the event is SMG Carlson Center. A no-host bar will be available.

Cost: $80 per person, $600 for a table of eight. To make reservations call 456-7529, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Cast: Lisa Herbert, Gary Black, Julie Rafferty, John Paul Kohler, Morgan Gallagher, Willie Blackburn, Betsy Robertson, Darren Gallagher, Kalesha Pearson, Skyler Evans, Johan Brun