Texas Star Dinner Theater

Wild West performers settle in Grapevine

In Chris Whatley's Grapevine, there is trouble brewing in the vineyard and Jacques Bordeaux, a would-be wine maker, mysteriously dies twice a week.

Investigating murders is a messy business, but Whatley's Keller-based company — Lagniappe Productions — has been making it fun and funny for more than a year now at the Texas Star Dinner Theater on Main Street Grapevine.

The Lone Star Murder Mysteries, "where historical meets hysterical," were launched in 2003 in the Fort Worth Stockyards. By 2004, the players were asked to move their performances to the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center. And in April 2011, Whatley and his wife, Phyllis Addison, opened their theater at the corner of Main and Dallas streets in a building previously used as a hair salon. The location was perfect.

"It's hard to beat Main Street Grapevine," Addison said. "The biggest draw for us was the historic district, but it was also the opportunity to offer our production our way. This theater has been our pride and joy."

The location was also ideal because it shares a courtyard with Chill, which provides the dinner portion of this dinner theater.

"It was just meant to be," Addison said.

The troupe's latest show, "Herd 'Em Through the Grapevine," is set in Grapevine and presents the murder of Jacques Bourdeaux while delving into major issues of 1880s Texas.

Was Bourdeaux killed by a cowboy angry at his attempts to keep cattle from driving through his vineyard, a member of the Women's Temperance Union railing against drinking, the local saloon girl or the local marshal willing to fight for the woman he loves?

"One show has four endings and small subtleties get shifted around, so you never know who it's going to be," Addison said.

Tables acting as teams have the chance to interrogate the suspects at the end of dinner and submit their guess, and winners receive free "I Solved the Murder" T-shirts as reward.

Whatley and his crew have been turning out Wild West entertainment at corporate functions, private events, festivals and amusement parks for more than 30 years.

His love affair with the 1880s genre started as a teenager working in the gunfights at Six Flags Over Texas, and he founded The Gunfighters in 1978. Three years later he started Topher Productions, and in 1999 he and Addison merged the companies to create Lagniappe Productions.

"Chris started as a gunfighter at Six Flags and now he produces their shows," Addison said. "He's really come full circle."

Theater Highlights

Lagniappe (n) [lan-yap]: A small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus. Most commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas.

Show times: Doors open at 7 p.m.; Show starts at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Thursdays will be added to the schedule in July and August.

Tickets: $55 per person

Meal Options: Fish, chicken, beef or vegetarian + dessert (full menus online).

Texas Star Dinner Theater, 816 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-310-5588, www.texasstardinnertheater.com