Murder at the Mansion

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"Death by Chocolate" cast members gather outside the Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell. “Death by Chocolate,” an interactive fundraiser and theatre experience, will take over the Mansion on April 29 and 30.

The Conrad Mansion Museum in Kalispell is a unique historical site, offering tours, educational programming and special events to the community throughout the year.

On April 29 and 30, it will also be the site of a murder.

This year, the museum is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The cast of “Death by Chocolate,” an interactive murder-mystery party, is also celebrating 15 years of mayhem in the halls of the mansion with a “1960 Ocean’s 11 Cast Wrap Party,” hosted by Johnny Carson (Chance Barrett) and Ed McMahon (Billy Angel).

“This event is a great opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy this important piece of real estate,” Barrett said. “It’s all for a great cause, and then of course you get to party at the Conrad Mansion.”

“Death by Chocolate” began as an opportunity for a few local actors to give back to the Conrad Mansion Museum, according to co-director and co-writer Leah Lindsay. The first few years involved just a handful of performers, dessert, one or two rooms and no scripted lines.

The event is now the mansion’s largest fundraiser of the year. The current show will run for two nights and has come to include a cast of more than 20 performers. It also involves the entire mansion, taking guests “behind the ropes,” according to Lindsay.

“[The mansion] is such an important piece of our community,” Lindsay said. “This cast is amazing and it will be such silly fun.”

This year’s “Death by Chocolate” will include hors d’oeuvres, music, wine and dessert. It is a black-tie affair in true old-Hollywood tradition, complete with a red carpet.

It will be all fun and games, until someone dies. At that point in the evening guests become the crime-solvers, following clues throughout the mansion to help find the murderer.

Cast guests include celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, James Dean and Liberace, along with many others. Guests are encouraged to dress in their Hollywood best.

“This is a much more interactive experience than your typical community theater,” said Lydia Hadley, who will play Ann Margaret at the upcoming event. “I love this because everyone has such a passion for it.”

The show is written and directed by Lindsay, appearing as Sophia Loren, and Lane Smith, portraying Dean Martin. The duo have worked together to write and organize “Death by Chocolate” for several years.

“Leah’s in it for the art, and I’m in it for the house,” Smith said. “This house ... I fell in love with this house. This is something I want my grandchildren to see.”

Both Lindsay and Smith said they draw inspiration for the show’s material from the mansion.

“When we hit a wall [with writing], we just take a walk through,” Smith said. “The house is the inspiration.”

Conrad Mansion Museum Executive Director Gennifer Sauter said the event is vital in keeping the museum open. This year, proceeds will go toward new carpet runners throughout the museum and repair of several stained glass panels.

“We are so grateful to everyone who puts this on, the cast, sponsors, volunteers ... Most importantly the community members who come together to support the mansion,” Sauter said.

“Death by Chocolate” will be Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, from 7 to 10 p.m. both evenings. Tickets for “Death by Chocolate” are $55 per person or two for $100. This party is appropriate for adults over 21 years old, and tickets are limited. Raffle tickets for a variety of gift baskets supplied by community sponsors will also be available for purchase.

Tickets can be purchased at the Conrad Mansion Museum; Whitefish Gift and Gear, 229 Central Ave., Whitefish; and The Bookshelf, 101 Main St., Kalispell.

The Conrad Mansion Museum is located at 330 Woodland Ave., Kalispell. For more information, call 406-755-2166, email info@conradmansion.com or visit www.conradmansion.com.


Entertainment editor Stefanie Thompson can be reached at 758-4439 or ThisWeek@dailyinterlake.com.

A scene from Death by Chocolate featuring Chance Barrett as Johnny Carson, left to right, Lydia Hadley as Ann Margret, and Billy Angel as Ed McMahon.

 

Bobbie Anderson as Jane Russell flirts with Geoff Scott as JFK, as Caitlin Smith as Jackie O looks on in frustration.

 

Greg Smith as Louis Armstrong.

 

Chance Barrett as Johnny Carson and Billy Angel as Ed McMahon.

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