By JD Dotson | Photos by Christian Watson & JD Dotson
Open for nearly 45 years, Derby Dinner
Playhouse remains the only dinner theater of its
type in the Louisville/Southern Indiana region.
The theater in the round setup immerses the
audience in the action. There is not a bad seat in
the house, with actors entering and exiting the
centrally-located stage through the audience.
The shows range from huge Broadway mega-hits
to children’s programming, holiday favorites and
lighthearted comedies and musical acts.
I recently had the great pleasure of seeing
“Mamma Mia!” this season, a musical set to the
infectious music of Abba and was completely
amazed at what a brilliant production I witnessed.
The music and dancing had me singing along and
tapping my feet the whole time. Some of those
Abba songs are still stuck in my head.
I brought my hubby along, and we started out
with dinner, which is served buffet style with a
salad bar. I felt it was my duty to try everything for
the sake of being thorough. My spinach salad was
fresh and delicious, and the salad bar was loaded
with toppings as well as broccoli and tomato/
cucumber salads. I have a strict rule to not fill up
on salad when a buffet is involved but made an
exception for the sake of journalism. The buffet
was equally delightful on my second trip. Fried
chicken, pasta, carved turkey, broccoli and rice,
and a baked potato, and being a serious member
of the clean-plate club, I filled up. Luckily, we held
off on dessert until intermission.
The pre-show entertainment, or FootNotes,
consists of a group of men and women serenading
the audience during their meal with classic
Broadway show tunes and dancing. Then: There’s
my server! He was just here at our table taking a
drink order and – all of a sudden – he was singing
and dancing on the stage.
The FootNotes are made up of talented
performers doing double duty entertaining and
simultaneously serving. Our server did such a
great job at both. In between songs, the FootNotes
introduce new dessert items on the menu and the
cocktail of the day. The preshow ends with plenty
of time for a run to the buffet one last time before
the main event.
The first act began, and the audience was
immediately thrown on the docks of Greek Isle,
or a prairie, or a battlefield, depending on the
production. You feel as if you’re in the middle of
the action. Oh, and there’s my server again! He
was just here a few minutes ago getting my drink
order. He was everywhere – a super talented singerdancer
and still right there if we needed anything.
Intermission came and so did pecan pie ala
mode and hummingbird cake. I am a fan of dessert
in general, and this dessert did not disappoint.
Fresh and delicious, my sweet tooth was satiated
just in time for Act 2.
I have driven cross country and through the
state of Oklahoma. Thanks to Derby Dinner
Playhouse, the musical (“Oklahoma”) is so much
more entertaining than the state.
Thanks to this local – albeit nationally-heralded
theater – I have watched it snow inside for the
stage version of my favorite holiday classic “White
Christmas,” relived my young adulthood singalongs
to Abba and been transported to a Greek Isle with
“Mamma Mia!” and went back to my childhood
with the “Sound of Music.”
Derby Dinner Playhouse continues to bring the
best performances to our community and beyond.
The acting, singing, dinner and dessert all combine
for a perfect evening.
Derby Dinner Playhouse continues to bring the best
performances to our community – and beyond.