The home-style diner in downtown Lee's Summit, the Neighborhood Cafe, is probably best-known for its cinnamon rolls and home-baked pies. For the next few evenings, it's garnering a different kind of notoriety: as a dinner theater.
A new community-theater organization, the Summit Theatre Group, is using the restaurant as the venue for its first "dinner theater" production. Summit Theatre Group director Ben Martin is staging performances of the 1955 play Bus Stop, by the late Kansas playwright William Inge, inside the dining room at the Neighborhood Cafe — 104 S.E. Third Street, Lee's Summit — tonight, Friday, Saturday and March 29 and 30. Theater patrons are required to be in the restaurant for dinner at 6:30 p.m. (the actual play begins at 8:15 p.m.), and the $30 ticket price includes a choice of entree from a limited menu. (The regular Neighborhood Cafe menu will be served until 6 p.m.)
"The theater patrons get a choice of six entrees from a smaller menu," says co-owner Tony Olson. "We'll be offering a meatloaf dinner, a grilled chicken salad, fried or grilled swai, pot roast dinner, Italian baked chicken or spaghetti and meatballs. All the meals include a piece of pie."
The Summit Theatre Group requested the use of the Neighborhood Cafe because Inge's play is set in a diner somewhere between Kansas City and Montana. Tony Olson says the cast has been rehearsing the show in the front dining room after the restaurant closes each night. The cast includes Sarah Jones, Nancy Nail, Bill Bergman, Jennifer Davis, Robert Ritter, Robert Weeks, Jon Pierson and Troy Bay. The show runs about two hours and 20 minutes, Olson says.
"We've never done anything like this before," Olson says, "so we've hired some extra staff to work on the nights of the show since there will be a lot more running around."