Murry's Dinner Playhouse
In 1967, Ike Murry—the attorney general of Arkansas from 1949 to 1953 and a gubernatorial candidate in 1952—opened the Olde West Dinner Theatre in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Tickets were $7, and the theater was decorated in a Western theme. The buffet was mobile and was rolled onto the stage for serving. The establishment later became known as Murry’s Dinner Playhouse.
Actors, including well-known performers from television, stage, and screen, once traveled a circuit of dinner theaters. Murry’s hosted some big names over the years, including Marjorie Lord, the actress who played opposite Danny Thomas on The Danny Thomas Show, starring in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park; Margaret Truman, daughter of President Harry S. Truman, starring in the production of Never Too Late in the 1960s; and Veronica Lake, famous for various film, stage, and television roles, starring in Under the Yum Yum Tree.
Ten years after its founding, the theater’s name was changed to Murry’s Dinner Playhouse and the Western theme was replaced by a contemporary decor. Current productions feature the talents of local and nationally known artists. Natalie Canerday, a native of Russellville (Pope County) and a Screen Actors Guild Award–nominated actress most famous for her roles in Sling Blade and October Sky, has been featured in many productions over the years. Another regular performer has been Little Rock native George Newbern, who is best known for his role as Charlie on ABC’s Scandal and as Bryan MacKenzie in the Father of the Bride movie series. Murry’s has also welcomed Wes Bentley, born in Jonesboro (Craighead County) and raised in Little Rock, who was featured in the movies American Beauty, The Hunger Games, and Mission: Impossible—Fallout.
In the twenty-first century, Ike Murry’s daughter, Ginger, and Ginger’s son, Ike Murry McEntire, continue to run the theater in his tradition. Productions are top-tier Broadway musicals, comedies, and a few dramas—designed to be entertaining for the whole family. Sets and costumes are made in house, and rehearsals are held for two weeks before each show. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday. The buffet dinners have themes to match the current production.
Murry’s is a member of the National Dinner Theatre Association (NDTA), an organization of nationwide professional dinner theaters. With NDTA, Murry’s sponsors the Ike Murry Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually to a theater or dance major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
For additional information:
Murry’s Dinner Playhouse. https://murrysdp.com/ (accessed November 23, 2021).
Stewart, Katherine. “Murry’s Dinner Playhouse Is a Modern Classic.” Arkansas.com, June 2017. https://www.arkansas.com/articles/murrys-dinner-playhouse-modern-classic (accessed November 23, 2021).
Ellen E. Withers
Last Updated: 11/23/2021