Beverly Dinner Playhouse
Old Jefferson: Labarre Road At Jefferson Highway
Everybody wanted the Beverly Dinner Playhouse to be a big hit. The appeal of combining professional theater and restaurant food and service into one big evening out was tremendous. And the venue was ideal. The Beverly had a long history as a nightclub from the 1920s onward. After World War II, the building was dressed up with a plantation-like facade and a glittering interior. Its theater was big enough to accommodate big-name acts, and it did.
For a time the Beverly Country Club was a casino–legal in Jefferson Parish in those days. This caught the attention of various local and national crime fighters, and the Beverly went through a period of close, reopen, repeat through the 1950s and 1960s. Even when the gambling was gone, a lot of people assumed it continued, thereby giving the place a slightly tawdry reputation.
In 1972, dinner theaters were on the rise around the country, and investors reopened the Beverly to that end. The plays were usually light fare–a mix of classics (Tom Jones), long-running Broadway hits (The Fantasticks), and a lot of Neal Simon. Most of the shows featured a recognizable performer–often best known for their television work. The entire cast was professional.
Before each play, of course, was the dinner. I was a reviewer of everything at the Figaro weekly newspaper during most of the Beverly Dinner Playhouse’s career, and covered many plays there. Recalling those, two consistent elements stand out. First, the minor gay subplots that seemingly every play worked in somewhere. Second, the buffet of mediocre food.
The best comparison would be to the secondary Sunday brunch buffets in the outlying hotels around town. The food was simple and ample. There was always a haunch of beef being carved. But nobody ever went to the Beverly to eat. Sometimes the kitchen would have a great night, but that was the exception that spotlighted the rule.
The Beverly ended in a disastrous fire in 1983. There was talk of reopening it, but it remains an empty lot. Other dinner theaters have opened and closed. I’m asked about them now and then by people who think that there must be such a thing somewhere around here. But there usually isn’t. Show biz and cookery have never got along as well as the customers would hope. When one side of the presentation was good, the other wasn’t.