South Charlotte

A New Year's event for the whole family

On New Year's Eve in Matthews, diamonds will be stolen and a murder is planned.

Luckily these crimes will happen at Matthews Playhouse, right under the noses of audience members.

June Bayless, the artistic director and founder of the Matthews Playhouse, said the theater company has been holding the Opening Night Matthews New Year's Eve event for nearly a decade.

"When we began the show, I wanted to model it after the opening nights many small towns have at the end of the year, much like they do in uptown Charlotte," said Bayless. "But there weren't any options for families and children, so we started something families could do together."

Matthews Playhouse opened in 1995 and has two types of shows. The Children's Theatre has 199 children in its programs and performs hour-long children's shows. Theatre Matthews produces full-length shows with adult casts; the New Year's Eve event raises money for the adult productions.

Every year, the playhouse's Senior Musical Theatre group, which consists of high school students, puts on a different show for the New Year's Eve event. Sometimes the script is written by Bayless, sometimes it's purchased, but the turnout is always high.

"We always sell out at least one of the two shows," said Bayless. "We generally have about 500 people come every year."

The production has two performances, both an hour and 15 minutes long; one show is at 7 p.m. and another is at 9 p.m. Dec. 31. Bayless said they hold the shows early so parents can still make other holiday plans.

"We understand that adults want to make their evening plans, but we want to provide something that they can do with their kids that doesn't include alcohol," she said.

In this year's production, "The Dazzling Diamond Caper," a whodunit plot will unfold through a mixture of music, dance, comedy and mystery. The one-act show takes place in the Ritz Hotel in New York City where a set of expensive diamonds are stolen from the hotel lobby. A murder occurs and the cast must figure out who the culprit is.

"It's a murder mystery that unfolds right under the audiences' eyes," said Bayless. "They are let in on the clues as the play goes on."

Bayless said that although there isn't any violence, she recommends children who attend be 8 years old or older.