New Year's Pick

Magical Mystery Toast

The future is mysterious. No matter how hard you try, you can't predict what the new year will bring.

Maybe that makes you feel a little insecure.

Luckily, there are some things you can figure out--and you can have fun doing it. One of these is the mystery that will be presented by Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater in a special New Year's Eve show, Murder at Magic Manor. You can to sit at a candlelit table, drink cocktails and eat a gourmet dinner (from the Red Sky Café's Steve Schultz), all while watching a whodunit unfold in front of your eyes. As you're watching, you'll constantly be given clues--but be careful, because some of them are false--and if you're attentive and smart enough, you can solve the mystery.

Here's the problem: The attractive assistants of Mostly Magnificent Steve, a handsome but bumbling magician, are disappearing--and it's not part of a magic act. Were they murdered? If so, who did it? Was it the slutty but suspiciously mannish-looking Trick Zee? The giggly, maliciously nerdy Marsha-Marsha? Or maybe even Steve himself? Special investigator Wanda Castaspella needs your help to solve the case.

Yes, it's extremely corny. But what could be more entertaining?

Besides, the show is interactive. First of all, the actors serve dinner, and they often come down from the stage to frolic among the tables, sometimes harassing the audience in fun ways--you might be hand-fed a bite to eat by Trick Zee, or a lovely magician's assistant may end up in your lap. Even better, you may get to appear on stage yourself to take part in a magic trick, do a dance or talk to a character. And you'll certainly see some interesting magic tricks, like a person being sawed in half or things disappearing into thin air.

And if you solve the mystery? Then you're a "Super Sleuth"--earning awards and some surprising accessories worthy of a true detective. But the mystery-solver won't be the only attendee to reap material rewards; the folks at Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater offer both joke prizes and stuff of substantial value.

Of course, this New Year's Eve, the interactive play won't be the whole show--actually, the play itself ends around 10:30 p.m., To fill in the time before midnight, there will be sing-alongs, vignettes, a dance contest and who-knows-what-else. Who really cares? It's all fun, and by that late in the evening, you're guaranteed to be pretty buzzed (whether it's from drinks or all the heady entertainment).

Of course, the best part of the evening will probably occur when the clock strikes midnight.

"It's not like we do this every week," says the show's co-producer and director, Ross Horwitz. "It's the most fun night we have, even for our cast members, and we run a lot of shows, so that's saying a lot. Everybody just wants to let loose. We make a really big deal out of the whole thing."

Besides the countdown, a champagne toast, party favors, streamers and confetti cannons, audience members will actually experience 1,000 balloons dropping from the ceiling. "At the stroke of midnight 2007," said one past attendee, "it almost felt like we could've been back at

Times Square."

If you're worried about having a little too much fun--and then driving home afterwards--don't fret, because you can crash (in the metaphorical sense) right at the play's venue. This year, Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater has wrangled its way into one of the newest hotels in Tucson: the Embassy Suites at Paloma Village, which boasts 120 two-room suites with all the amenities, plus spa facilities, a hot tub and heated pool, a fitness center and more. Show-goers can stay there and enjoy a deluxe breakfast in the morning for a little more than $100.

"People just love this show," declares Horwitz. "They walk out smiling and thanking us. It's probably the most unique and entertaining way that people can bring in the new year in Tucson. And there's a lot of camaraderie as people work together to figure out the mystery."

In these times of turbulence and uncertainty, it's nice when the turbulence is fun and the uncertainty is decipherable. And while mystery-solving always takes a little cleverness, Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater will make sure you don't wear yourself out with effort.

"Your brain won't have to work too hard," Horwitz assures us. "Because it's New Year's Eve, you know?"

Mystery Mansion Dinner Theater's New Years' Eve show and party will take place from 8 p.m. to after midnight Monday, Dec. 31 at Paloma Village Embassy Suites, 3110 E. Skyline Drive. Admission is $75 and includes dinner; reduced rates are also available to stay the night. Call 624-0172 for reservations or more information.