Foul play: Staging murders for laughs


by Vito Pilieci, The Ottawa Citizen

A small theatrical murder mystery group uses big hair, big attitude and a lot of bad singing to dish out humour.

ottawa-toronto-murder-mystery
Peter Dillon runs BigTime Murder Mystery Productions, which has annual revenues of $250,000 and performs 140 shows a year. Mr. Dillon founded BigTime in 1992 when the Ottawa actor secured $7,500 in venture capital to fund the endeavour.

A mysterious Ottawa company that has made a killing by staging murders across North America, is packing up the fake knives and plastic guns and preparing to showcase its act to the world.

BigTime Murder Productions, a small theatrical murder mystery group with about 50 employees, has spent the past 10 years dishing out its own brand of humorous killing scenarios.

On Sunday, eight of the company’s actors will head to St. Maarten in the Caribbean to perform three shows at the all-inclusive Maho Beach Resort. The group will put on two stagings of its new show Hari-Karaoke and its massively popular Silence of the Hams.

“We’ve travelled throughout Canada and the U.S. in past years, but we have never been outside,” said Peter Dillon, president and owner of BigTime. “We competed with about 200 other companies to get this gig. I think this is a coming of age for us.”

Mr. Dillon founded BigTime in 1992 when the Ottawa actor secured $7,500 in venture capital to fund the endeavour.

Today, BigTime is raking in more than $250,000 annually in revenues, and Mr. Dillon expects revenues to increase by as much as 40 per cent this year.

The company performs more than 140 shows a year in front of corporate audiences. The price of each show can vary between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of the audience and the complexity of the performance.

BigTime has entertained federal government agencies, companies such as Nortel Networks and, in 2000, it performed before 5,000 people at the National Hockey League’s all-star reception in Toronto.

Mr. Dillon said the trip to St. Maarten marks a huge breakthrough for BigTime.

The Maho Beach Resort has a reputation for bringing in world-class talent like the Chinese circus and Brazilian dancers.

“It’s a big deal,” said Mr. Dillon. “We hope that after this trip we will end up going down there two or three times a year.”

His hopes of returning to the Maho Beach Resort will primarily lie in the group’s new mystery, Hari-Karaoke.

The oddly named story is about a murder that takes place during a karaoke competition. Mr. Dillon said the show has “big hair, big attitude and a lot of bad singing.”

“This show has been done 12 times, and we have had eight standing ovations. There is a lot of unexpected activity and it is always comedic.”

He said the show is typical of BigTime’s work: They prefer humour and interaction with the audience to the blood-and-guts realism that one would traditionally expect.

“That’s really been our secret over the last couple years,” he said. “It has more to do with getting the audience laughing and involved with the show.”

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CATEGORIES: Insider, Press

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