San Chez serves dinner-theater show ‘Looking for Mrs. San Chez’


San Chez’s dinner-theater show “Looking for Mrs. San Chez” features a broad cast of characters. Courtesy MP Talent Management

San Chez restaurant will serve customers seven performances of an original dinner-theater show, “Looking for Mrs. San Chez” — and a four course tapas meal — to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

The restaurant has teamed up with MP Talent Management Group to develop the script, which is a spoof on running a family restaurant and some of the challenges that come with it.

“It’s going to be fun and exciting — something different no one’s ever seen in Grand Rapids, probably,” said Cindy Schneider, San Chez general manager.

The show's synopsis gives customers a taste of what to expect: “'Looking for Mrs. San Chez' stars ‘Dick San Chez,’ retiring restaurateur who is desperate to leave his legacy to one of his three children, Nolito, Jefe and Jane. None of the three children is really qualified for the task and are much more interested in entertaining patrons with their hidden talents: dancing, singing and hula hooping. Dick attempts to betroth his children to selected audience members — if they meet his muster.”

The show opens Saturday, Feb. 9 at San Chez, located at 38 W. Fulton. The doors and bar open at 7 p.m., while the show and tapas begin at 7:30 p.m. The show will be performed six more times: Feb. 16, 23 and during LaughFest on March 8, 9, 15 and 16.

"Looking for Mrs. San Chez" will include singers, dancers, an aerialist and a drag queen, as well as cameo appearances by the San Chez kitchen staff and a VIP chef from the community.

The show will humorously recount some of the restaurant’s history and funny reactions the business has received as the first and only tapas restaurant in Grand Rapids.

For example, Schneider said that in the 1990s, several diners were confused when their soup arrived cold instead of piping hot, having never been introduced to gazpacho before dining at San Chez.

The show is interactive and will include a good deal of improv as the characters interact with guests, making each performance unique.

“Audiences need to expect to be involved in the evening,” said Malinda Petersen, owner of MP Talent Management Group. “It’s not for your wallflowers. You might get pulled up to hula-hoop or to dance or you might have someone sit in your lap or join you at your table.”

Certain dates will also include celebrity appearances, which include LaughFest’s Joanne Roehm on Saturday, Feb. 16, WZZM’s Jennifer Pascua on Saturday, Feb. 23, and MLive’s Todd Chance for the first LaughFest performance on Friday, March 8.

This is not the first time the San Chez has incorporated entertainment into the dining experience. The restaurant first teamed up with Petersen two years ago, and the two have produced a handful of shows together since then.

“We are always trying to create something new,” Schneider said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for 20 years. We have this freedom and excitement about bringing on a show, giving it a try, seeing if it works. We aren’t sure it will, but we have hope.”

Schneider acknowledged that entertainment and dinner theater, which are popular in cities like Chicago and Seattle, are missing from Grand Rapids. So far, the previous shows — which have included drag shows, sketch comedy and murder mysteries — have been greeted by eager audiences.

“Entertainment dinner is so much fun, and we don’t have it around here,” she said. “We are pioneers, for sure. We are also risk takers. There are so many things that we’ve started here that just don’t make it, and we go, ‘Well, that was a good try.’”

San Chez opened in 1992, at a time when “south of Fulton” meant the bad side of town. Grand Rapids has transformed tremendously during the past 20 years, and the restaurant now proudly sits in the center of the burgeoning downtown that it helped to create by being one of the first businesses to venture into “south of Fulton” territory.

For February reservations call (616) 774-7282. Tickets for the March LaughFest dates can be purchased via Ticketmaster under Laughfest. Tickets are $59 and include a four course tapas meal. 

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