- In the Parks
I'm now wondering if someone in your team was watching/listening to The Mystery of Edwin Drood musical while you were developing this. Audience participation, a murder mystery, a different murderer every performance, and a scoreboard placed near the guest exit? Check, check, check, and check (at least in the recent Broadway revival)!TEAM INNOVATORS
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Coming to Universal Studios Orlando this fall is the highly anticipated replacement for Terminator 2: 3-D, The Studio Suspects. While this new show opens in 2021, the story itself will take guests back to the 1940’s and one whale of a party at Interdimensional Studios. The only problem is someone won’t live long enough to enjoy it in this lively Hollywood murder mystery. Guests will get the chance to not only follow along with the zany cast of characters, but put their sleuthing hats on to help figure out whodunnit.
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Guests walk through the studio lot for Interdimensional Studios. This fictional studio, a parody of Universal themselves, is one of the top studios in all of Hollywood. Guests walk past offices of executives and directors alike, passing by labeled doors and movie posters for films like “Ghost of the Playhouse” and “Mouthferatu” and other parodies of popular early Universal movies. You then pass into the preshow area as you pass by police tape, hear sirens, and see flashing red and blue lights.
Meet the Cast of Characters
- Chuck Malohney - A Rival Director
- Chef Boyd Ardee - The Studio Chef
- April Acres - The Starlett
- Tipps Fedora - The Studio Head of Security
- Martin Mayven - A Studio Executive
- Tony Ravioli - The Mob Boss
- Brody Bochey - Resident A-Lister
- Jennifer Henn - The Director's Wife
- Denny Dymes - The Agent
- Fay Foyle - Fay Foyle
Guests are funneled into a preshow room where a video of a 1940s police officer is waiting for you. He introduces himself as Sergeant Ralph A. Brunderburger and says he has brought in these new recruits to help determine the culprit of the murder of famous Hollywood director Ronald Fritz at the after party to the premiere of the new movie “Hollywood Knights.” After the mysterious death, a collection of suspects have been brought in for questioning and Brunderburger has brought you in to hear the stories and alibis of all of the suspects to determine who the killer is
Guests entering the theater will notice the biggest physical change to the space from its predecessor T2. While the theater capacity will remain around the same at 700 guests, the seating and stage set up will be drastically different. Taking inspiration from Carnival Cruise Line’s Edge Theater, the newly designed space brings guests closer to the action, and still introduces a bit of tech in keeping the technical aspects of the prior and other potentially planned shows that got the ax. Vintage 1940’s theater seating (don’t worry, they are comfortable) and decor fills the space in keeping with the shows’ story.
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On the lower level, the main stage remains, but with a new extension out into some of the former crowd space, creating a nearly 360-degree front stage for the cast and guests alike. With seating surrounding and fanning out from this new stage space, the theater experience becomes a bit more immersive and gives the cast the opportunity to really work the crowd. While the bulk of the technical aspects of the show are more a part of the main stage, this new space does still offer the opportunity for lighting, small low-level effects and rigging from the ceiling as needed.
The main stage that runs the length of theater facing guests is highlighted by several large, curved, floor to ceiling projection screens. The screens can be slid back and forth creating the ability to slide any set pieces in and out for background scenery changes but also digitally change as the scenes change as needed. The screens also are utilized for character bios/details as the mystery unfolds. Above the lower level, a new smaller 2nd level seating area has been added to help keep the capacity high, but also keep guests close to the action.
Guests enter the theater that is marked off by police tape and body tape showcasing where all the players in the murder were the night of. As the show begins, officers bring out the culprits as buttons light up on the arms of the seats that guests are sitting in. The officers explain that each culprit is going to recount their stories of the events during the night for the audience and the audience will then select, using the buttons on the arms of their seats, who they think “dunnit.” The culprit who the most guests vote for will then be arrested and charged with murder.
While the cast of this show is extensive, not every culprit is in every show. Out of the ten suspects that are a part of the show, only about six are selected for each individual presentation, making it a unique experience every time you view. The six characters selected will then come onto stage in a police lineup. One will step up out of the lineup and introduce themself. The officer will state their motive and the character will then go into a recreation of the events from their point of view.
The character will begin from the time they arrive at the party to the time the police arrive, establishing parts of the story for guests to notice as they continue throughout. For instance, the chef, Boyd Ardee, had blood on his apron. He claims it is from the steak tartare he was preparing, but another character may notice they were never offered steak tartare and also state that the chef’s clothes did not have blood stains when they saw him a few minutes after he claimed to prepare the dish.
These details will be present for guests to notice and discuss, picking apart a character’s story and alibi until the culprit is caught. All six culprits will recount the events and each character will interact with each other at least once, allowing for those moments to be noticed by eagle-eyed viewers. Once all six stories are shared through actor reenactment, the six will return to their lineup and guests will be asked to vote for who the culprit is.
The police officer will then get the results from another officer who hurries on stage with it and reads the reveal. If the audience gets it, the murderer will confess and explain why they murdered the director. However, if the culprit is not picked, the person picked will plead their innocence as the police drag them away. Once the police are gone, in a Keyser Soze reveal, the murderer will reveal themself and guests are shown to have lost.
As they exit, guests will see digital scoreboards to showcase how each showing that day has done to determine how many times in a day the right culprit is chosen.
And there's also a party in both plots...