LUMBERTON — If you are of a particular age, the words, “Last dance…” might bring to mind the sound of disco-era queen Donna Summer singing about her “last chance for love.”
That era of the leisure suit, disco balls, and platform shoes will be revisited later this month as Purple Door Productions presents an audience-interactive murder mystery dinner theater.
“Last Dance for Dr. Disco” will be take the stage at 6 p.m. on April 27 and again April 28 at the Workforce Development Building on the campus of Robeson Community College, 5160 Fayetteville Road. Tickets for the RCC Foundation fundraiser are $40 for individuals, $75 for couples and $300 for a table for eight. For tickets or reservations, call 910-272-3236.
From descriptions of the show, the characters appear to be a cross between John Travolta in 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever” and Mike Myers of the 1990s “Austin Powers” franchise.
The story revolves around a mad scientist’s plans to take over the world during the “National Championship of Disco,” said Jeanne Koonce, director of Purple Door. There is a murder during the competition and the audience, while enjoying a three-course meal, is invited to help solve the whodunit.
Interactive murder mysteries have become increasingly popular, according to Koone. Unlike in more traditional dinner theaters, the audience in the interactive production eats their meal while the play is performed. That gets the audience in and out in about an hour and a half.
Solving the mystery is not a no-brainer, Koonce said.
“It’s not an easy thing to guess. Players could convince you that any one of them had the motive and ability, so the whole idea is to challenge and channel it away from who did it,” Koonce said.
It takes an actor who is comfortable with improvisation and with audience interaction to do a good job with this type of production, she said. She said there are several Purple Door Productions actors who fit that bill, which is key because about one-third of the story is scripted; the rest is improvised.
“You make it a very personal thing with the audience,” she said.
Choreographer Lance Carter said the cast will be afflicted with disco fever.
“Expect to see a lot of John Travolta-ness from ‘Saturday Night Fever’ — that’s what it’s being pushed as but in a very, very gimmicky way,” Carter said.
There is part of the show where during which members of the audience will be asked to come up and dance, he said.
The production serves as a benefit for Robeson Community College scholarships.
As a former cast member of “Last Dance for Dr. Disco,” she expects a lot of fun, said Rebekah Lowry, director of the Robeson Community College Foundation.
“You’ll have Dr. Disco who is wheeled around in a wheelchair and his kind of shady assistant who talks with a very thick German accent,” Lowry said. “There’s a lot of audience interaction and it’s a lot of fun.”
The relationship between RCC and Purple Door Productions has been a positive one, she said. The theater group’s performances on campus are good for students and for the community.
“It made perfect sense to create a partnership where we could raise money for scholarships for students while performing and bringing the arts to a county who longs for it and needs it,” Lowry said. “Our students need it.”
The RCC Culinary Department, under the direction of chefs Lester Locklear, James Ingram and Kendra Cummings, will cater the three-course dinner.
“Their food is amazing,” Lowry said.
This year the proceeds of the murder mystery dinner theater will benefit the fire training programs at RCC, which includes firefighter certification, and certification in technical rescue, driver-operator, aerial, and other courses.
“We offer one of the most robust fire training programs in the state of North Carolina,” Lowry said. “The goal of our program is to provide fire and rescue personnel opportunities required, or desired, by fire and rescue units or individuals.”
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.