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Good Life: staging a good meal

Randal Huber and Steve Hewson check out the upgraded Playbill Dining Room. - Don Bodger
Randal Huber and Steve Hewson check out the upgraded Playbill Dining Room.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Let’s face it, atmosphere is a huge part of any memorable dining room experience.

After 21 seasons, the staff at the Chemainus Theatre Festival felt it was time for a change in decor at the Playbill Dining Room to freshen the surroundings to complement the consistently sumptuous fare from the buffet.

“We wanted to move up with an updated look,’’ said CTF’s managing director Randal Huber. “We’ve got this elegant space. So we’re set for years and years.’’

More than 650,000 people have enjoyed the Playbill’s fine dining before theatre shows over the years.

“This is part of it, just trying to keep it fresh and reinvigorate the experience,’’ said Huber.

“We carefully reviewed the feedback that we’ve received and assembled a team to set about recreating the Playbill Dining Room.’’

R.W. Bob Wall Construction and Patti Ransom Design were employed for the transformation. And what a transformation it was!

There was precious little downtime between shows from the It’s A Wonderful Life performance that ended 2013 and the 2014 opening of The Buddy Holly Story on Feb. 11.

“It started on the second of January,’’ said Huber of the quick transition. “In the first four hours, we had the entire space stripped bare.’’

People working on the project likened it to a runaway freight train until everything was finished on time.

Executive chef and hospitality manager Steve Hewson added his own special touch after a trip to Las Vegas that inspired a concept for the dessert table.

“When I came back from Vegas, that’s when I designed that table,’’ said Hewson. “The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas is where I got the idea. Eventually, we’re going to also serve a la carte.’’

The Playbill’s redesign will allow repeat patrons to experience it in a different light and newcomers to appreciate its elegance for the first time.

“There’s still a lot of people when they come to the theatre don’t realize there’s a dining room here,’’ said Huber.

“This room now suits the whole idea of theatre,’’ said Hewson.

Huber said discussion about the changes has been five years in the making. “It took until now to come together.’’

The room seats about 175 and people will just have to see all the changes for themselves, ranging from the roof to the draperies and everything in between.

The creation of a separate section within the larger space, known as The Fireside Room, is sure to be popular.

A special program has also been launched to find sponsors for each of the 55 tables in the room. Table sponsorships will be recognized with charitable tax receipts and table signs.

The nightly buffets feature a wide variety of salads, entrees and desserts to appeal to any taste. There’s frequently themed dishes pertaining to the show that’s playing to make the food selection a little more fun.

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