CAT comes back to Black Knight Inn

Central Alberta Theatre has come full circle, returning to the Black Knight Inn for its dinner theatre shows starting this fall.

Central Alberta Theatre has come full circle, returning to the Black Knight Inn for its dinner theatre shows starting this fall.

The return of CAT to the Black Knight Inn was called a “win-win” by Ken Mandrusiak, president of the Red Deer hotel that had hosted the company’s productions from 1991 to 2011.

“We’re happy to have them back. We missed them. The concept of dinner theatre worked well for us… It was a very successful relationship,” Mandrusiak said.

This same sentiment was echoed by CAT president Paolo Mancuso, who’s glad to re-establish the 20-year partnership. He said, “We heard from so many ticket holders that they missed the atmosphere and the ambiance and the excellent service and food quality at the Black Knight Inn.”

CAT had initially tried going it alone at the former Welikoklad Centre, but found it unsustainable. The company that had been driven to the financial brink by theatre renovations, worked its way back to stability by moving its dinner theatres to the Quality Inn North Hill for the last couple of seasons. But “it wasn’t as good a fit,” said Mancuso.

He believes a chain hotel couldn’t be as responsive to the company’s needs, regarding sight-lines to the stage and consistent food requirements. When a caterer quit before the end of the last show at the North Hill Inn, CAT had to relocate the last few performances to space in CAT Studios, next to the Memorial Centre.

Through the last five years, CAT members and their audience had retained a soft spot for the independent Black Knight Inn, and “Ken and I had always kept the door open,” said Mancuso.

Mandrusiak also heard some hotel clients missed the dinner theatre. As well, he heard discussions at a recent conference about how unique draws can help indie and boutique hotels remain competitive in an “over-saturated” market, such as Red Deer’s.

“It’s unique having a dinner theatre here,” said Mandrusiak. “The partnership has been good for us and good for them.” He noted CAT shows in the past had 85 to 90 per cent attendance.

The hotel and theatre company are planning to ramp up joint promotions with overnight stay/theatre packages. CAT also intends to make the most of marketing opportunities this summer when Red Deer’s public market relocates to the Memorial Centre parking lot.

Starting in late October, CAT will be back in the same Black Knight convention room as before with the first of four dinner theatre shows for the 2016-2017 season:

The opener is The Fox on the Fairway, a comedy about the goings-on at a private country club, by Ken Ludwig.

Making God Laugh is a Christmas dramedy about an American family celebrating 30 years worth of holidays, by Sean Grennan.

Early in 2017, CAT will stage Soul Mate, a Faust-ian comedy by David Belke.

And the season-closer will be Norm Foster’s touching dramatic comedy, The Melville Boys, about two brothers who have their plans thrown into disarray by the arrival of two sisters.

Mancuso noted season tickets should be available from the Black Knight Ticket Centre by the end of August.

lmichelin@redeeradvocate.com