Mezzo Murder Mystery Magic

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Photo courtesy of the Mezzo Bistro website.

Mezzo Bistro say a packed house Wednesday night when it hosted its sold-out Murder Mystery Dinner. On Rancho Drive and Craig Road, a full house awaited six actors for this all-hands-on-deck performance. 

“You don’t usually see restaurants packed like this on a Tuesday or Wednesday night,” said customer Elizabeth Mikesell.

Audience members were equipped with a full-course menu consisting of house made Caesar salad, an entrée choice of vegetable lasagna, steak riggies, shrimp fra diavolo, or fettuccine alfredo, and a chocolate chip cannoli for dessert. An interactive playbill provided backstories on the show’s characters, with a section for the crowd to take notes on suspects as they followed along.

The theme, a 1969 New Year’s Eve wedding, cued guests to attend in their grooviest attire. Tie dyed shirts, floral patterned dresses, aviator glasses and leather fringe were some of the costumes spotted on patrons.

Owner Kelly Richards floated around the restaurant dressed as Fred Jones from “Scooby Doo.” Between breaks he connected with spectators, making sure they were enjoying themselves and understanding the plotline.

Presenting the Muder Mystery Dinner was not always his role at Mezzo Bistro. When Richards first entered the restaurant, he did so with the intention of fixing it up, rather than buying it. While on a rescue mission for local businessmen Jackie and Michael Gaughan, Richards “fell in love with” Mezzo Bistro and purchased it in 2010. 

Richards said that the darklit restaurant has a cozy atmosphere. As a longtime fan of dinner theaters, he had an epiphany to bring this type of production to Las Vegas, and specifically to Mezzo Bistro. 

“There’s only one [other murder mystery] show [that is not Murder Mystery Dinner] that goes on [in the city], and it’s more of a Las Vegas Strip type of show,” he said. “It’s not a local community type of show, it’s more commercialized. So I wanted to bring something different.”

The other show, Marriage Can Be Murder, is the longest running dinner theater in Las Vegas, with over 20 years of comedic crime-solving. It is held at The Orleans Hotel and Casino, attracting guests from all over the world.

Mikesell has been to Marriage Can Be Murder, and her only experience at the big-name show was “so fun.” Though she makes time for every Murder Mystery Dinner. 

Mikesell said that Mezzo Bistro also offers wine tasting and trivia nights to its customers. Of the attractions, she said that trivia nights are her favorite. 

“[Trivia Night] is pretty competitive and it’s usually the same people,” Mikesell said. “It’s full like [tonight’s Murder Mystery Dinner]. This is sold out, and the Trivia Nights are sold out.”

Mikesell said that rewards can include wine, gift certificates and football gear. The restaurant’s next Trivia Night will be on Sept. 27. 

The latest Muder Mystery Dinner, which Richards stated was the seventh or eighth of its kind at Mezzo Bistro, was the first to occur post-lockdown.

The restaurant stayed open throughout the pandemic, switching to donating family meals when dining rooms were forced to close. These spreads benefitted local community workers who were out of a job at the time.

“We gave away five to ten family meals every day for the entire shutdown,” Richards said. “So we ended up giving away about 1,000 the first shutdown, and 1,000 the second time. We turned it into a good thing because that always comes back to us.”

Now that in-person functions are back in full swing, Richards is once again a producer and restaurant owner. He purchases the scripts, assembles the event’s marketing package and hires a director who then acquires the actors.

The Murder Mystery Dinner’s costumes revolve around its ever-changing themes, according to Richards. Past themes include the mob, ‘80s, alien or “Stranger Things” and ‘50s sock hop.

“Themes make people get more involved,” Richards said.

The next dress-up event at Mezzo Bistro is in October for an event called Dining With the Divas, which will have a “Hocus Pocus” theme. It will feature one of the Murder Mystery Dinner’s actors, LaCherry Wild, who is also a professional drag queen. Wild is set to star on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

In November or December, Richards said that locals can expect another Murder Mystery Dinner. This production will have a theme centered around “The Office.” Characters adapted from the NBC show will be present in Mezzo Bistro’s version. Ugly sweaters will be encouraged.

Richards has no plan to grow Mezzo Bistro because, in his own words, “we just don’t want to.” Despite being asked to expand, he wants it to be known that he is content with serving the community at the current scale. 

“We make it work,” he said. “That’s Mezzo Magic.”

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