Billy Joel murder mystery musical returns in August
Writer / Jocelyn Vare
Photography/ submitted photos and Mark Langley
A murder is going to take place in Fishers this summer. The scene of the crime is the Historic Ambassador House, and the victim is none other than the legendary entertainer, Billy Joel. And the witness is you.
Every guest is a witness at the murder mystery dinner performance. Don’t worry, no one will be harmed in the making of the show. The audience interacts with actors to solve a fictional murder scene while enjoying live music, a four-course dinner and a cash bar.
“Death of a Piano Man: Who Killed Billy Joel?” is a musical parody created and written by Fishers residents Sandy Thorne, Amanda Bell and Beth Clark. It will be performed by Nickel Plate Players on Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5, at the Historic Ambassador House. Tickets are $50 each for Fishers residents and include a full dinner.
Audience members will mix and mingle just like at a real piano bar, enjoying drinks and dinner with fellow guests. They must also pay attention to the activity happening around them. While “Billy Joel” and his piano entertains the guests, other character actors will be plotting a murder and leaving clues.
The murder mystery is based on the characters in the Billy Joel classic hit, “Piano Man.” The actors portray the characters found in the song, including John at the bar, The Waitress who practices politics, Davy who is still in the Navy, The Old Man “sitting next to me” and others. One of these characters is plotting the murder of the piano man.
“The audience doesn’t role-play but they are right in the middle of all the action,” Wolf says. “They will need to stay on their toes to pick up all of the clues the characters drop while music is playing and dinner is being served.”
Guests may have started the evening in the mood for a melody, but by the end, it is up to them to piece the clues together to figure out who killed “Billy Joel.” After dessert, the audience will guess who the murderer is. The performance concludes with the detective revealing the true culprit.
The dinner show features a locally-written original script and live music from Ashton Wolf, who plays the role of “Billy Joel.” Wolf is a piano man in real life. The Fishers resident tours the country as a dueling piano player. He is also the co-founder of Nickel Plate Players, a Fishers theater group that he and his wife, Sandy Thorne, started in 2014.
The City of Fishers has purchased “Death of a Piano Man: Who Killed Billy Joel?” from Nickel Plate Players for the August performances. The Fishers residents who served as the creators and performers of the murder mystery are compensated for their creative work. This transaction fulfills Nickel Plate Players’ mission.
“Nickel Plate Players is the Fishers Music Works ensemble that specializes in creating, writing, producing and selling new musicals and plays in Hamilton County and across the nation,” Wolf says. “We are producing our first full season of local performances this year and are even working on an original, youth-oriented, hip hop musical.”
Although Nickel Plate Players has performed at several Central Indiana venues in the past few years, they are pleased to be returning to the Historic Ambassador House & Heritage Gardens in Fishers. It is unlike any other place in the community because it blends Fishers’ 19th century history with a fresh, elegant atmosphere.
The Ambassador House’s history began with a farm log cabin in the early 1800s, on what is now the northwest corner of 96th Street and Allisonville Road. Days before a scheduled demolition in 1996, the Ambassador House was rescued by the Fishers Historic Preservation Committee and the Historic Landmarks Foundation. It was relocated to its current location in Heritage Park at 106th Street and Eller Road. Refurbishments, garden design and plantings continued up through the official public opening of the venue in 2009.
Today, the Ambassador House is owned by the City of Fishers and managed by the Fishers Park Department. This hidden gem hosts weddings, showers and special events. For the murder mystery dinner, audience members will have the chance to experience the venue’s historic and fashionable interior while solving a nefarious crime.
The City of Fishers has collaborated with Nickel Plate Players several times before, including the first performance of the mystery musical in 2015. The show was so popular that encore performances were scheduled for this August. This time, audience members are invited to dress in a “Night on the Town” or 70s costume. Costumes are optional but a prize will be awarded to the best one.
“The Fishers Parks and Recreation team has been wanting to collaborate more with local businesses and community organizations, so this partnership fits perfectly with our mission of becoming a smart, vibrant and entrepreneurial city and investing in our local talent to grow the economy from within,” says Rebekah Thomas, Fishers Parks’ Recreation Program Coordinator. “This collaboration among The Nickel Plate Players and the Parks Department will hopefully be the first of many offerings to create unique experiences to all of our residents.”
“Death of a Piano Man: Who Killed Billy Joel?” Murder Mystery Dinner is an original show created, written and performed by Fishers’ own Nickel Plate Players.
The show will be performed on Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5 at 6 p.m. at the Historic Ambassador House and Heritage Gardens at Heritage Park, 10595 Eller Road in Fishers.
Tickets must be purchased in advance by July 28. Adults 21+ only. Admission is $50 each for Fishers residents and $75 for non-residents.
A delicious four-course dinner will be served and a cash bar will be available.
To purchase tickets for the Friday, August 4 show, visit bit.ly/MysteryFri
To purchase tickets for the Saturday, August 5 show, visit bit.ly/MysterySat