JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dinner and a play. For 46 years the Alhambra Dinner Theatre on Beach Boulevard has entertained hundreds of thousands.The Alhambra is the oldest continuously operating dinner theatre in the United States. TV stars like Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, Alice B. Davis, Barry Williams and Mickey Rooney have graced the stage here."The food is fabulous and the shows absolutely wonderful,"said theatre patron Kay Osban who drives from St. Mary's to see the shows.
Originally opened in 1967, Tod Booth bought theAlhambra in 1984. "This place was and still is a major cultural asset to the community. It's the quality of life and to me it was the choice to be here and do my thing and wehave been appreciated by all these wonderful people again and again," said Booth.
But in 2009 the bad economy, fewer bus tours and the Beach Boulevard resurfacing project nearly closed the business for good. That's when Craig Smith, who came to Alhambra as a boy, along with other investors stepped in and saved the dinner theatre. "We're finally at a place where it's self-sufficient and folks are coming and loving it," said Smith.
The buffet is goneand nowdinners arserved tableside. Plus,the stars of TV long ago are back like Michael Learned of the Waltons. She's currentlystarring in "Driving Miss Daisy." "This particular theatre, the Alhambra, has a wonderful family feeling to it," said Learned.
From Driving Miss Daisy, to the Odd Couple, Wille Wonka and The Wizard of Oz, some who have performed here not only come from Broadway but end up going to Broadway. "My vision and dream and hopes of getting these young people of having an opportunity to go to the next and transpired. At the same time we have entertained 100.000 folks last year that came and loved it like I did when I was a little boy," said Smith.
Back in 1976 there were 147 equity theatres in the country. Now, there are only five including the Alhambra. The Alhambra, the country's oldest continuously operating dinner theatre and a Landmark Legend in Jacksonville.