REVIEW: The Dinner Detective PLUS Interview With Creator Scott O’Brien

They say you can’t reinvent the wheel, but this isn’t entirely true. After all, haven’t most of us experienced a product or service that left us thinking, this could be SO much better? While most of us only think it – some people take the initiative to DO it. Scott O’Brien is one of those people, and he is the force behind The Dinner Detective.

With a BA in Communication and a minor in Business, O’Brien found himself lured to Los Angeles where he worked as a Production Assistant in film and television before breaking into development and writing under the legendary David E. Kelley. O’Brien justifiably sees Kelley as the “best television writer of our generation”, and he considers his time spent working with him as “the greatest television education you could ever imagine”.

Wisely sponging valuable knowledge from brilliant minds on the set of shows like “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice”, O’Brien developed a keen insight for quality entertainment – smart entertainment.

Attending a mystery dinner show at the urging of his then-fiancee, O’Brien was intrigued by the concept, but he left the show feeling that it could be better. The actors doubled as servers – the scripts were outdated and falling flat. His fiancee casually challenged him to try it himself if he felt it was so easy to improve. Challenge accepted – and met.

What started off in a trial run for a small, selective group in the “champagne room” of a Culver City Italian restaurant has now grown impressively – as The Dinner Detective now offers performances in 55 cities across the nation, and Orlando is one of the newer additions to the roster. We recently attended a show, hosted at the Doubletree in Downtown Orlando. A change from the Orlando dinner show “norm”, and off the beaten tourist path, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (especially for us locals), is it? Furthermore, it’s not an unintelligent business model!

Upon arrival and check in, you are seated at round tables, typically with other guests unless you have a larger party… but the social opportunities are a big part of the experience. You’re encouraged to chat with your tablemates as hors d’oeuvres are served. Ask them questions, but remain a bit suspicious as you never can trust their banter… suspects are seated among you.

“Unlike other murder mystery dinner shows, here you will find no cheesy costumes, no recited campy dialogue and no hokey song and dance. Our performers are dressed just like everyone else, leaving all of the guests to suspect who is a part of the show and who is not”.

Menu choices at The Dinner Detective are what you would expect for a dinner show – limited choices, but fair in quality, and the options though few, offer enough diversity to accommodate everyone. The baked tilapia vera cruz garnished with white rice and green beans seemed to be a popular choice on the night we attended. We opted for the other two options – the grilled chicken with natural mushroom jus with red bliss mashed potato and glazed green beans and the eggplant parmesan penne marinara and green beans. Guests are also served salad and dessert. A bar is set up in the room at an additional cost, but iced tea and coffee are free.

The Dinner Detective shatters the stigma that a dinner show guest can expect a good show OR good food, but not both. As O’Brien explains, “For most theaters that is an unspoken truth. This is why most of our partnerships are with hotels for our events. They have certain standards they are required to meet with the corporate office and have kitchens with chefs and not just cooks. As far as the performers, it is the same. We hold numerous auditions throughout the year and are constantly bringing in fresh and new talent. We pull from major improv houses across the country and don’t just hire someone because they played a supporting role in Cats twelve years ago and therefore are considered a ‘professional’ actor”.

Scott O’Brien has no plans at this time to return to television, and can you blame him? The Dinner Detective is growing in popularity, with no signs of slowing. Currently, they “are looking at expanding across the northeast and eastern seaboard as well as International. Looking into non traditional venues and more traditional venues as well such as cruise ships, amusement parks, etc.”

O’Brien states that he would like to see The Dinner Detective reach 100 venues within the next few years. For more information on The Dinner Detective, you can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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