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Wednesday, July 03, 2024

‘Jersey Boys’ at Toby’s: Oh, What a Night!

Benjamin Campion, Ben Clark, Nicky Kaider and Patrick Gover

One summer’s day in 1962, as a youngster I recall listening on a portable radio an interesting new song with a unique sound: “She-erry, Sherry baby, She-erry, Sherry baby…” The falsetto lead vocal with backup singers was tuneful, rhythmic and haunting. Many others agreed.

“Sherry” vaulted to the top of the Billboard Top 100 and held the spot for 5 weeks in 1962 and was The Four Seasons’ first big hit. It launched the group into stardom with Frankie Valli as the lead singer and the group was ultimately enshrined in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.    A multitude of Four Seasons’ songs experienced success like "Sherry " that I along with millions worldwide have enjoyed over the years.

The Four Seasons was among the most potent pop rock groups of the sixties. This despite the fact it had to compete with iconic groups like the Beach Boys, the advent of Motown, myriad superstar solo performers, and the historic British invasion, the band still sold 175 million records worldwide.

And here I am again, over six decades since “Sherry,” taking pleasure in the work of The Four Seasons. It could have just been a concert that played the pop group’s numerous hits, and the audience would have been enthralled. 

Jersey Boys, the well-received jukebox musical, is now gracing the in-the-round stage at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia for the first time. It is not a concert as one might have expected. It’s a gritty biographical story that weaves together those fabulous songs and the roller coaster lives of the band members.

The musical tells the story of a bunch of young guys hanging around street corners in Newark, New Jersey getting into mischief and more.  They formed a group called The Four Lovers that went nowhere; then it evolved into The Four Seasons once “hit” songs were written; and they eventually became Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. 

Under the impeccable direction and choreography by Helen Hayes award winner Mark Minnick, the show is a tapestry of superb performances both in music and acting. Blending the performance of memorable hits and strong acting from a fantastic cast amid precise staging, Jersey Boys at Toby’s is a stellar entertainment experience.

Jersey Boys with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice has been a Broadway success capturing four Tony Awards in 2006 including Best Musical and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2007.  It brings to life the story of the creation of The Four Seasons through its ups and downs—and there were many of them—not unlike many popular musical groups who have experienced huge success but also internal splits, money issues, mistrust, individual tragedies, romantic tensions, and run-ins with the law.

Much of their popular catalogue of hits is included in this masterpiece of a production. The aforementioned “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Walk Like A Man,”, “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Stay,” “Let’s Hang On,” “Rag Doll,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and many others are among them.  All told, over 30 such songs are in the show, including 5 Number 1 hits plus one from the pop group the Angels (“My Boyfriend’s Back). There is also a comedic appearance by Joe Pesci (Christopher Decker) and for good measure Ed Sullivan (via screen projection) to lend even more nostalgia.

"In a breakout performance, Nicky Kaider is simply sensational."

Not all songs are performed to completion, but they go far enough to recognize and enjoy them. Music Director and Conductor Ross Scott Rawlings (Nathan Scavilla conducts in other performances) and the six-piece orchestra do a splendid job backing up the outstanding vocals.

Perfectly cast, the very good looking core performers—Patrick Gover as Tommy DeVito, Benjamin Campion as Nick Massi, Ben Clark as Bob Gaudio and Nicky Kaider as Frankie Valli—are spot on in their individual and blended vocals and excel in their acting skills particularly during the tension-filled encounters.  They also replicate the group members’ characteristic dancing moves during their numbers attired in vintage suits and ties, especially those cardinal-red blazers, designed by Heather Jackson that add more realism to an already realistic production.  

Each member of the group shares his own personality, history, goals, values, problems and achievements distinct from the others, which are carried out with supreme excellence while those wonderful songs are performed.

Patrick Gover is scintillating as bad-boy Tommy DeVito, the guy who formed the group.  In addition to his strong vocals, which are evident from the outset when he sings “Silhouettes,” he ably conveys the gruff character who has been in and out of jails, plunders the group into debt with a dangerous loan shark, hides unpaid taxes from the group and hits on Frankie’s girlfriend.

Benjamin Campion does a good job as Nick Massi and is The Four Seasons’ bass player.  He is the one who helped train Frankie with his vocals.  Mr. Campion offers dead-pan humor in his role, acts with skill when it is his turn to narrate and sings very well in the group numbers.

As Bob Gaudio, the songwriter and keyboards player who previously experienced success with the hit “Short Shorts,” Ben Clark, is excellent. Driven to write hit songs and delves deeply into his music, Gaudio decides to execute a side deal with Frankie.  Mr. Clark gets to showcase his singing talent in “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”.

Then there is Nicky Kaider as The Four Seasons’ lead singer Frankie Valli. Frankie had to cope with keeping the group together, bailing Tommy out of his debt, dealing with marital strife and enduring an unimaginable tragedy. 

In a breakout performance, Mr. Kaider is simply sensational. Oozing with charisma, he conquers the extraordinary vocal challenge of singing the lead and does so with aplomb all the way through the end with amazing endurance. Pitch perfect in every song including falsettos, Mr. Kaider crushed it. If you close your eyes and listen to him sing, you’d swear you’re hearing Frankie Valli.  Even if you open them, you’d think it was him.  That’s how authentic Mr. Kaider’s performance is.

And if that isn’t enough, his acting skills that exhibit a full range of emotions from anger to triumph to despair to resolve are jaw-dropping. Bravo to Nicky Kaider on this elite-level tour de force!

Helen Hayes award winner David James is splendid as Bob Crewe, the producer and lyricist for the group.  He is campy and flamboyant, and the band recognizes he is “a little off” in the manner of Liberace but he delivers the hits.  Mr. James, as always, comes through.

Other notable performances are turned in by Brian Lyons-Burke as the mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, MaryKate Brouillet as Frankie’s first wife Mary Delgado, and the energetic Anwar Thomas in a variety of roles.

In fact, the remainder of the talented cast and Ensemble perform multiple roles. They include: Leela Aviles-Dawson, Brandon Bedore as Tommy’s brother Nick, Carter Crosby, Christopher Decker, Lydia Gifford, Adam Grabau who also did a wonderful job providing the pre-show introductions and announcements, Shane Lowry. Jackson Miller, and Helen Hayes award winner Jeffrey Shankle.

David A. Hopkins provides excellent scenic and lighting design creating a concert atmosphere. Many set pieces are employed denoting a recording studio, cars, TV cameras and even a 4-toilet holding cell in a police station.

Tori Alioto and David A. Hopkins make good use of projections on screens along the theater’s walls to include “breathtaking” images of New Jersey.

And Mark Smedley’s sound design is excellent in that all the songs and dialogue are clearly audible as well as sound effects.

The Four Seasons over decades had quite a journey individually and as a band before and after the release of that iconic hit “Sherry.”  Jersey Boys at Toby’s conveys this ride so adroitly. It is a thoroughly entertaining masterpiece steeped in nostalgia and wonderful music. Extraordinary talent in both cast and crew under skillful direction makes this an absolute don’t miss show.

Running time. Two hours and 50 minutes with an intermission.

Advisory: Jersey Boys contains some profanity and sexual situations and is not recommended for small children.

 Jersey Boys runs through September1 at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 4900 Symphony Woods Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 410-730-8311or visiting online.

The Menu for the fabulous buffet is shown here.

Drink Special: Rag Doll

Photos by Jeri Tidwell Photography

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Howard County Summer Theatre’s ‘Guys and Dolls’ is a Sure Bet

Danny Bertaux as Sky Masterson and Company
In 1975 the Howard County Summer Theatre launched its long and distinguished run with the iconic musical Guys and Dolls. The community theatre annually produces a classic Broadway musical to enthrall audiences during the warm summers. Now, nearly 50 years later, HCST has brought back the five-time Tony Award winner Guys and Dolls that is currently gracing the stage at Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, Maryland.

I will give 8 to 5 odds that members of the original cast, which undoubtedly was a good one, do not appear in the new iteration. But I can say definitively, this mostly youthful company can rival anyone in talent, energy and enthusiasm.

The beauty of superior musicals is that they are timeless in that they are as captivating and entertaining today as they were in say, 1950, when the original production opened on Broadway. The success of Guys and Dolls on Broadway led to well-received revivals. In 1955 the film with the same title was released starring Marlon Brando Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine and Frank Sinatra.

The current production of Guys and Dolls restores the nostalgia of 1950 New York while delivering a bravura musical extravaganza under the impeccable direction of Tom Sankey, who has been helming HCST productions for 40 years. Also standing out are Kassi Serafini’s meticulous choreography, the solid orchestra direction of Kevin George and the stellar musicians, as well as the absolutely fabulous costumes designed by long-time HCST stalwart Laural Seivold Clark.

Then there is the wonderfully creative set design by Douglas Thomas and lighting design by Em Muryhina.  In all, an exceptional, perfectly cast company and technical crew carry out the vision of the director in a way that will render your hands raw from all the applause-worthy moments.

Contributing to this effort is the show’s superlative material.  With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, it is no wonder Guys and Dolls captured so many awards in both its original rollout and the subsequent revivals.

"...a bravura musical extravaganza under the impeccable direction of Tom Sankey..."

Needless to say, the music catalogue, which is outstanding and varied from top to bottom, plus the clever book, places Guys and Dolls in the same category of brilliance as the Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Jerry Herman musical classics.  As in the case of those shows, Guys and Dolls withstands the test of time and is loved by folks of all ages.

The music is delightfully entwined in the zany plot involving gambler Nathan Detroit (Todd Hochkeppel), who needs $1,000 for a venue to stage a crap game—“The Oldest Established Floating Crap Game”—with all the big-time gamblers in town, whom he cannot disappoint for the sake of his own reputation, and yes, safety.  He also has been avoiding marriage as he has been the fiancĂ© of Miss Adelaide (Tori Farnsworth), a lovely blond nightclub singer, for 14 years and counting. Notably, Ms. Farnsworth is a late replacement for Marloe Lippert on the day the show was reviewed and turned in a sturdy performance; she is a real trouper.

There is Sarah Brown (Heather Moe) who is under pressure to save the souls of sinners in the mission she runs.  Any thoughts she may harbor of romance take a back seat to her mission. 

Nathan who is desperate to come up with the grand in which neither he nor his employees Nicely-Nicely Johnson (James Toler) and Benny Southstreet (Justin Moe) have or the credit to rent space at the Biltmore garage. This venue was selected to avoid the watchful eye of policeman Lt. Brannigan (David Zotian) who is relentless in his quest to stop the gamblers.

As a last-ditch effort to raise the money, Nathan places a $1,000 bet with a more successful gambler Sky Masterson (Danny Bertaux) that he will not be able to convince Sarah—so committed to saving souls at the sacrifice of her personal life—to go with him to Havana.  He accepts the bet, and she is lured to Havana based on Sky’s promise to deliver 12 sinners to her mission. The rest of the hilarious tale will be up to the audience to enjoy.

Danny Bertaux as Sky Masterson and Heather Moe as Sarah Brown

As pleasing and endearing the book is, it’s the music that makes the show a classic.  Songs like “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Guys and Dolls,” “If I Were a Bell,”  “Luck Be a Lady,” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” are famous.  But all the numbers in Guys and Dolls are gems.

“Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” are fantastic production numbers with Ms. Serafini’s choreography and the talented dancers all in synch providing unforgettable “wow” moments.

The cast did these great songs justice with outstanding vocals throughout.  As Miss Adelaide, Tori Farnsworth performs “A Bushel and a Peck” and “Adelaide’s Lament” in the way Frank Loesser had imagined.  The beautiful mezzo-soprano vocals of Heather Moe as Sarah are on display when she performs “If I Were a Bell” and in the bouncy duet with Ms. Farnsworth in “Marry the Man Today.”  

Danny Bertaux as the commanding Sky Masterson brings home the iconic number “Luck Be a Lady” with his strong tenor voice.  He also delivers “My Time of Day” in style. His onstage chemistry with Ms. Moe is strong as he seeks to woo Sarah. The effort to do so is whiplash-producing in its multiple changes in direction.

Poor schnook Nathan Detroit is played exceptionally and with flair by Todd Hochkeppel. A regular laugh machine, he skillfully executes all the comedic scenes in which he is featured, and his performance in the duet with Ms. Farnsworth “Sue Me” is spot on.

Then there is James Toler as Nicely-Nicely Johnson.  Mr. Toler demonstrates his comedic props in several scenes with well-timed lines, facial expressions and body language.  Vocally, he is off the charts.  He performs well in several numbers including “Fugue for Tinhorns,” “Oldest Established,” and “Guys and Dolls” with other cast members.

However, his lead in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” represents the show-stopper that every great musical must have.  Mr. Toler and the rest of the company at the Save-a-Soul Mission sing the ultimate up-tempo number with gusto while the precise choreography is amazing. 

So spectacular was this performance on the day this show was reviewed, that the raucous ovation was extended well beyond the norm. It was akin to a baseball player hitting a home run and the crowd’s cheers continue so long in quest of a curtain call from the batter.  “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” was the production’s home run.

To be sure, choreography throughout the production is dazzling thanks to choreographer Ms. Serafini and the company. 

The “Havana” number that is highlighted by a fight scene is simply sensational.  Executed to near perfection, the ensemble attired in eye-popping colorful costumes manages the high-energy extended dancing and fighting while they seamlessly clear the stage of the props and furniture at the scene’s end.  Also, the lively and comedic “Take Back Your Mink” performed by Ms. Farnsworth and the Hot Box (Nightclub) Dancers is another one of the show’s highlights.

Kudos goes to David Zotian as Lt. Brannigan, the intrepid policeman, who maintains his Irish brogue as a throwback to New York’s Irish policemen.  On that point, most of the actors consistently display New York accents without any slips.

Also, a nod goes to J.R. Hontz who convincingly plays Big Jule, the fear-invoking gangster from Chicago thirsty for the craps game and doesn’t like to lose. To that end, he brings his own dice to the  game with no dots on them, but he remembers where they were!

The remainder of the company is proficient in their acting, dancing and vocals that add strong support to the leads. Notably among them are: Sam Bishop/Kevin Nolan as Rusty Charlie, Chris Wilhelm with his strong tenor vocal in “More I Cannot Wish You” as Arvide Abernathy, Douglas Thomas as Angie the Ox, Dana Bonistalli as General Matilda R. Cartwright, and Michael Gbadamoshi as the Hot Box Emcee.

As noted previously, Laural Seivold Clark and her costume crew does a splendid job is fitting the cast in 1950’s attire from suits and hats for the guys and colorful dresses and gowns for the dolls, to missionary uniforms and costumes for assorted street characters.

HCST’s well-staged and performed production of Guys and Dolls is first-rate with all the pieces expertly fitting together.  A talented cast and crew under superb direction will result in one of the most memorable shows you will see.  You can bet on it.

Running time. Three hours with an intermission.

Guys and Dolls remaining performances are June 26, 27, 28 and 29 at Marriotts Ridge High School, 12100 Woodford Dr., Marriotsville, MD 21104

Ticket Prices are $22 for adults, $18 for children under 12 and seniors over 60. All seats are General Admission. Proceeds benefit Prepare for Success, The Salvation Army and Grassroots of Howard County. Tickets may be purchased at the door the evening of the performance or online.

Photos by Neil Rubino

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Mystery Solved: ‘Clue’ Kills It at the Hippodrome

I confess not being a player of the old Hasbro board game Clue as a kid. I was more of a Monopoly kind of guy, whose experience was invaluable in helping me buy up beachfront property in Atlantic City and to get out of jail free so many times (j/k). However, you did not have to play Clue to enjoy the laugh-a-minute Clue: A New Comedy murder mystery as it is appearing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre as part of a national tour.

Written by Sandy Rustin based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn with additional material by Hunter Foster and Eric Price, Clue: A New Comedy is inspired by the classic board game and the 1985 cult film with the same title. 

Veteran director Casey Hushion helms this rapid-fire, tight, well-paced slapstick comedy in a 75 minute window with an abundance of physical humor and quick sarcastic rejoinders. A talented ensemble cast executes the madcap zaniness with aplomb.

A gothic deserted New England mansion—Boddy Manor—is the scene of a dinner party on this dark and stormy night in 1954. (Come to think of it, when is a night not dark?)  The six mysterious invited guests are given aliases—Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet. They all have their own individual skeletons to hide but the one thing they have in common is that they are being blackmailed by the host.

In keeping with the board game, each guest is handed a weapon: a revolver, a rope, a lead pipe, a wrench, a candlestick and a dagger. Soon the host is murdered, then a visitor to the mansion is killed and is followed by others.

"...an abundance of physical humor and quick sarcastic rejoinders."

Bodies are turning up at Boddy Manor and given the secrets the guests hold and the fear of exposure by the blackmailer, the motives are ever-present with each guest and the butler suspecting another amid the mayhem. And some of this fear can be traced to McCarthyism that was frightening during the time, fostering even more paranoia about their lives.

Because Clue is a whodunit with dizzying twists and turns, I will not divulge the solution to the madness since every performance contains the same conclusion. So, no spoilers here.

The ensemble cast of Clue consists of in alphabetical order: Mariah Burks as the Cook, John Treacy Egan as Colonel Mustard, Michelle Elaine as Miss Scarlet, Joanna Glushak as Mrs. Peacock, Tari Kelly as Mrs. White, Mark Price as Wadsworth, John Shartzer as Mr. Green, Jonathan Spivey as Professor Plum, Alex Syiek as Mr. Boddy, Teddy Trice as the Cop, and Elisabeth Yancey as Yvette

All of these actors possess strong comedic timing and solid physical humor. As Mr. Green, John Shartzer particularly stands out with his physical comedy and antics. Other standouts include Michelle Elaine as Miss Scarlet and Mark Price as Wadsworth.

The cast has their individual moments to shine using their accents, acting-comedic skills and body language, but they also jell in perfect harmony with one another. From my standpoint, the entire cast excels in this work.

Another star is the accomplished scenic designer, Lee Savage. The Boddy Manor is elegant, sophisticated and detailed. The main room with its high ceilings, dark wood-paneled walls and two large chandeliers provide a perfect contrast to the zaniness unfolding on stage. Other rooms, such as the billiards room, the library, the kitchen, etc. open up at the sides flawlessly via turntables making for smooth transitions. Hushion’s direction is precise.

Also, lighting designer Ryan O’Gara does an excellent job employing lighting effects to accent the numerous dramatic moments and punch lines and illuminating the never-ending thunderstorm that night.

Jen Caprio’s costume design is effective in taking us back to the 50’s with style.

What music exists it serves as background similar to what you would hear in a thirties movie. As the main cast shuffles in well-choreographed movements from room to room as a group in search of clues, they do so comically to the background music.

Clue is a darkly funny, sometimes silly, high-energy, well-directed and performed play with most lines landing on the target. But these lines do come quickly so be prepared for that; it could seem like a whirlwind.  

This is a unique experience, and why would anyone want to miss this fine body of work? I don’t have a clue.

Running time. One hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.

Clue: A New Comedy runs through May 12 the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit ticketmaster.com or BaltimoreHippodrome.com.

Photos by Evan Zimmerman

The actual Clue board
courtesy of Wikipedia

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Enchantment Galore in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Toby’s


Rachel Cahooon as Belle and Justin Calhoun as the Beast
It’s great that Toby’s Dinner Theatre has brought back Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at a time when we can all use a heartwarming fairy tale to relieve some stress. It’s also notable that Toby’s maintains a cache of veteran actors that can enchant us again.

If memory serves me, several performers—Jeffrey Shankle, David James, Lynn Sharp-Spears, Robert Biederman 125 as well as most of the technical crew—reprise their roles from Toby’s 2017 production. A lot has happened since that time. For example, we never heard of the word “covid.” But miraculously, these actors still remember their lines!

Yes, there are new cast members that add freshness and energy to the 2024 version of this classic musical. However, a theatrical star has emerged in the person of Rachel Cahoon who delivers a Broadway-worthy performance in the role of Belle (the beauty part of the title). There will be more about her later in the review.

Directed and choreographed by Helen Hayes Award winner Mark Minnick, who also helmed the 2017 iteration, the production clearly reflects his meticulous attention to details as well as his keen awareness of the in-the-round stage that is a hallmark of Toby’s.  It is an enchanting spectacle of superb music performed by a talented company demonstrating strong vocals and dazzling, high tempo dancing.

"...a theatrical star has emerged in the person of Rachel Cahoon who delivers a Broadway-worthy performance in the role of Belle."

Combine that with brilliant, extravagant period costumes designed by Janine Sunday; the imaginative set by David A. Hopkins, that add set pieces, props and dropdown fabric denoting the woods; Lynn Joslin’s effective lighting design; and the precise staging, Beauty and the Beast is far more beauty than beast.

Countless costume pieces are employed including colorful 18th century gowns, dresses with hoopskirts, as well as attire for wolves and the beast himself.  Prosthetics and other devices are used to outfit the enchanted objects—clock, tea pot, candelabra, etc.  There are great challenges in designing such costumes, but Ms. Sunday is clearly up to the task, which fortifies the aesthetics of the show.

The atmosphere representing the interior of a castle is amplified by Mr. Hopkins use of simulated oil paintings of previous kings on the walls around the theater and well-placed hanging lamps above and around the stage. Ms. Joslin makes good use of her vast lighting design experience as well as the appropriate use of fog effects to take us back to a time when princes inhabit castles while fierce wolves roam the woods nearby.

The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1994, was based on Oscar-nominated Disney’s 1991 animated feature film with the same name. It became the tenth longest ever running musical on Broadway.

Patrick Gover as Gaston

Beauty and the Beast featured the Oscar-winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with additional songs composed by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice. The book was written by Linda Woolverton.

Show-stopping production numbers that highlight the singing and dancing talents of the ensemble are audience pleasers to be sure.  Menken’s rich score is ably presented by Ross Scott Rawlings and his six-piece orchestra (Nathan Scavilla conducts on alternate performances).  Entertaining as that is, the fairy tale itself sweeps you away on an emotional and romantic journey.  

The story centers on a spoiled prince (Justin Calhoun) who had been transformed by an enchantress (Alexis Krey-Bedore) into a boorish, hot-tempered, unsightly creature because of an act of unkindness. That horrendous condition can only end, and the prince could return to his human form, if he can find love before petals fall off from an eternal rose given by the enchantress.  

The mutual love would come from a beautiful book-loving woman Belle (played by the aforementioned Rachel Cahoon) from a provincial town who enters the castle in search of her father Maurice (Robert Biederman) who had previously stumbled into said castle having lost his way. The story is tender and endearing, and the relationship between Belle and the Beast has the audience rooting hard for both. 

Also pushing hard for the couple to fall in love are various servants in the prince’s castle who were converted into enchanted household objects when the spell was cast on the prince.  They, too, have a stake in the spell being removed so they can return to being humans.

Simultaneously, the town’s egomaniacal, bicep-flexing, bully, Gaston (Patrick Gover), rejected by Belle to be his wife, strives to make her change her mind.

As Belle, lovely Ms. Cahoon, making her Toby’s debut in stunning fashion, shines throughout.  Considered “weird” by the townsfolk because of her passion for books, Belle is strong-minded, and her eventual attraction to the Beast that requires his becoming more gentlemanly for starters is tearful in its sweetness.    Ms. Cahoon displays her exquisite soprano voice in such the ballads “Belle,” “Home” and “A Change in Me.”

Not only are her vocals stellar, Ms. Cahoon brandishes her polished acting skills. Regardless of whom she interacts with, there is great chemistry. Whether it is with Mr. Biederman, Mr. Gover or Mr. Calhoun, those scenes hit the mark largely because of the chemistry displayed between the actors.

For his part, Mr. Calhoun as the Prince/Beast is also excellent.  He is called upon to be mean, gruff and demanding. Yet, he competently softens his demeanor as his love for Belle grows, demonstrating his acting gifts.  Mr. Calhoun’s pleasant baritone is evident in the emotional “How Long Must This Go On?” and the tender, beautifully delivered “If I Can’t Love Her.”

Patrick Gover romps through his role as the superior, perfect-looking God’s gift to women, Gaston.  His character, though an antagonist, provides comic relief early on because of his over-the-top self-centeredness and swagger with the amusing help from Lefou, Gaston’s goofy, ever-fawning sycophant, played with flair by Jeffrey Shankle. But his character darkens towards the end as he sets out to destroy the Beast. Mr. Gover showcases his commanding baritone in “Me,” “Gaston” and “The Mob Song”.

Rachel Cahoon, Adam Grabau and enchanted objects in "Be Our Guest"

As mentioned earlier, because of the spell, the Prince’s-then Beast’s staff had been turned into enchanted objects. One of those was a teapot, Mrs. Potts, played by Lynn Sharp-Spears. She executes the role with humor and warmth, and her rendition of the title song in the second act is performed tenderly. 

One of the characters in this group is Cogsworth (David James), the head of the castle and who was converted into a mantle clock. With his adroit comedic timing and delivery, multiple Helen Hayes Award winner Mr. James is an ongoing laugh machine.

Others in the talented cast include Babette, the enchanted feather duster (Patricia “Pep” Targette); the suave Lumiere, the maitre d’ of the castle and enchanted candelabra (Adam Grabeau); former opera diva Madame de la Grande Bouche; the enchanted wardrobe (MaryKate Brouillet); and young Chip (Elijah Doxtater who alternates with Julia Ballenger and Dylan Iwanczuk), the teacup and son of Mrs. Potts.  All perform brilliantly in their mostly comic roles as foils to the Beast.

Also, turning in a solid performance is the always reliable veteran Robert John Biedermann as Maurice, Belle’s inventor-father thought to be crazy by Gaston and the townsfolk.

Production numbers, such as “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” and “Human Again” involving the ensemble are extraordinary in their execution of Mr. Minnick’s choreography.  Precise throughout, these numbers are simply sensational especially when the enchanted objects have to navigate the floor with oversized, bulky costumes. As a nod to the times, waltzes are occasionally featured.

Rounding out the energetic, talented ensemble are Brandon Bedore, Carter Crosby, Lydia Gifford, Angelo Harrington II, Sarah Joyce, Nicky Kaider (see him as Frankie Valli in Toby’s upcoming Jersey Boys), Amanda Kaplan-Landstrom, Alexis Krey-Bedore and Anwar Thomas.

With the talent overflowing and the technical crew’s skill, Toby’s presentation of Beauty and the Best excels in all facets from direction to staging to performances.

This production proves why the musical has received such worldwide popularity. No matter our age, we can all enjoy a good fairy tale with a happy ending to brighten our lives.

Running time. Two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs through June 16, at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 4900 Symphony Woods Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 410-730-8311or visiting here.

Photos: Jeri Tidwell Photography

The Menu for the fabulous buffet is shown here.

Drink Special: The Gray Stuff

The cast of Beauty and the Beast

Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘Peter Pan’ Lets Your Imagination Take Flight at the Hippodrome

Spoiler alert: Peter Pan is not a true story. In fact, it is one of the most make believe-fantasies to ever grace the stage. With its sparkling production, technical excellence and a talented, multi-cultural young cast, Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre is the venue for the national tour launch of this re-imagined and newly adapted musical version of the classic story.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit my first encounter with Peter Pan was, as a little kid, watching the fairy tale on my family’s black and white console TV (it was televised in color, however) back when there were only four known planets. My recollection of that experience besides the fun songs and exciting story was my confusion as to why the character Peter Pan was played by a woman, Mary Martin.

Ms. Martin also starred in the 1954 Broadway production and received a Tony Award for her performance as Peter. She was succeeded in revivals by Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby as well as other women on a number of tours. Alas, my parents were unable to offer clarity to a situation where gender roles had been so clearly defined back then and why Ms. Martin played Peter.

However, this dazzling touring production debuts a bright and talented young man Nolan Almeida, 17, as Peter Pan. He handles the physically demanding role with aplomb and tons of enthusiasm. The charismatic Mr. Almeida is an excellent vocalist, dances proficiently including tap dancing with gracefulness not ordinarily seen in a teenager and excels in the superb flying sequences with somersault flips.

The musical is based on J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan and his 1911 novelization of it, Peter and Wendy, whose main storyline depicts Peter Pan as a boy who never wants to grow up. The music is mostly by Moose Charlap, with additional music by Jule Styne, and most of the lyrics were written by Carolyn Leigh, with additional lyrics by the potent duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

The additional book was penned by Tony Award winning playwright Larissa FastHorse, who,
importantly, scrubbed the original material of the offensive stereotypical portrayal of Indigenous people and women. She is the first Native American female playwright whose work had been produced on Broadway. With her influence, several characters including Tiger Lily are played by Indigenous peoples in the production.

Still, under the direction of Emmy Award winner Lonny Price and choreography by Lorin Lotarro, Peter Pan stays true to the widely familiar story and pleasing music. Familiar favorites, such as “I Gotta Crow,” "Neverland,” “I’m Flying,” which is an incredibly striking and well-choreographed aerial number with sterling special effects, the iconic “I Won’t Grow Up,” the main theme of the story, “Hook’s Tango,” the moving “When I Went Home,” and the gentle “Tender Shepherd” highlight the musical. The excellent orchestra was conducted by Jonathan Marro for this reviewed performance.

For those not familiar, Peter Pan along with his mischievous fairy sidekick Tinker Bell enters the bedroom of Wendy, Michael and John Darling in search of his lost shadow. Wendy helps to sew it back on him, and the smaller boys awaken to the visitor’s presence. He tells of Neverland, an island where he is from and where there are “Lost Boys” who are in need of stories to hear and also in need of a mother.

Peter demonstrates his flying prowess and immediately teaches the children how to fly as long as they think lovely thoughts. A sprinkle of fairy dust dropped on them by Peter completes the task. With absolutely jaw-dropping technical effects, brilliant projections, imaginative lighting and theatre magic, Peter and the Darling children embark on an adventurous journey to Neverland. There they encounter a tribe of Indigenous people representing cultures from around the world led by Tiger Lily. The “Lost Boys” are there, of course, and there is also the evil Captain Hook and his pirate crew.

Amid sword fights, flying sequences, and clever maneuvering, Peter Pan and the Darling children, team up with Tiger Lily and her tribe to eventually vanquish Captain Hook.

Through these adventures, the Darling children are taught valuable lessons and appear to grow up. But Peter is loath to growing up. However, years down the road, Wendy’s young daughter Jane will join Peter in a trek back to Neverland.

As mentioned before, Nolan Almeida soars as Peter Pan, literally and figuratively. Perfectly cast for the role, Mr. Almeida showcases is abundance of talent in dancing, singing and acting. His vocals shine in such varied numbers as “I Gotta Crow,” “Neverland,” the sensational group number with the Darling children “I’m Flying” as well as “When I Went Home.” Unquestionably, Mr. Almeida has a bright future in theatre. His present isn’t so bad either.

Hawa Kamara is making her professional debut in playing the part of Wendy Darling. Her acting skills are excellent with her timing, use of facial expressions and body language. Mature and caring, Wendy is as likeable as one can be, and Ms. Kamara’s performance, especially her exchanges with Peter at the outset, brings that to the fore.

On the night this performance was reviewed, William Foon and Reed Epley were wonderful as John and Michael Darling, respectively. They, too, sing and dance well and can handle a sword when called upon.

The villain is Captain Hook, and that role is adeptly played by Cody Garcia. Evil and sadistic, Captain Hook can be seen as comical by adults but frightening by children. Cody (who also plays Mr. Darling) has that stereotypical pirate look of being tall, slender, mustachioed and swashbuckling.  Cody carries it off perfectly with the right amount of flair, and sings well in “Hook’s Tango,” “Hook’s Tarantella” and Hook’s Waltz.”

Captain Hook’s flamboyant devoted sidekick Smee, played deliciously by Kurt Perry, provides much of the comedy in the show with his campy rejoinders. Mr. Perry hits it out of the park.

As the generous but commanding Tiger Lily, Raye Zaragoza turns in a splendid performance. Her strong vocals are on display in the group number “Friends Forever,” which features glorious dancing from the entire Company including a fast-paced tap segment to close out the first act.

The remainder of the cast including the Pirates, Lost Boys and the Tribe all contribute to this fantastic production.

[a]"sparkling production, technical excellence and a talented, multi-cultural young cast..."

Anna Louizos’ brilliantly designed set adds much beauty to the production. The scenes at Neverland with its lush flora that serve as a hideout for the “Lost Boys” are gorgeous.

David Bengali’s projections are eye-popping and nothing short of spectacular. The “I’m Flying” number midway through the first act is breathtaking and is alone worth the price of admission. And a spotlight should shine on Paul Kieve for the creative “Tinker Bell” design, which is exceptional.

Amith Chandrashaker is on point with his rich and effective lighting design. Kai Harada should get applause not only for the quality of the sound but the impressive sound effects throughout the production.

The astonishing fight scenes are directed by Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet with music and dance arrangements by David Dabbon.

And Sarafina Bush’s stunning costume design makes it a lot easier to imagine what went on in Neverland.

Peter Pan is a high-flying musical that melds a wealth of talent, a solid score and creativity. I, for one, never wanted to grow up and didn’t. This is a must-see show for all ages whether you have grown up or not.

Running time. Two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission.

Peter Pan runs through February 25 the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit ticketmaster.com or BaltimoreHippodrome.com.

Photos: Matthew Murphy

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ is Sure-fire Hilarity at the Hippodrome

Rob McClure as Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire

Right on the heels of a shockingly disappointing loss by the hometown football team, the Ravens, the North America touring production of Mrs. Doubtfire has rolled into Baltimore to bring some needed cheer while we lick our wounds. The musical now playing at the iconic Hippodrome Theatre is a heartwarming, tender story but with high octane comedy that is sure to keep you cracking up.

Four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks adroitly directs this zany, well-staged musical with precision, which is based on the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire that starred Robin Williams. Lorin Latarro deftly handles the lively choreography, and Ethan Popp is the music supervisor.

The central plot consists of a divorced man with no custody of his children because he is unemployed and lives with his brother. He transforms into a female Scottish nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire in an effort to be close to his children. How he navigates this ruse is the core of the laugh-a-minute tale.

With some shows the plot is a vessel to carry the music, which is common among jukebox musicals, such as Mamma Mia!, Jagged Little Pill, Rock of Ages and many others. In Mrs. Doubtfire, the music by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick (the Tony Award nominated team behind Something Rotten!) is the vehicle to move the story along, and it’s well done. The book was penned by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell.

The music in Mrs. Doubtfire will not likely appear on many folks’ playlists; however, the score with its eclectic styles and comedic lyrics perform a key function and service the story pleasingly. Some of the numbers are extraordinary with their lyrics and the manner in how they are performed.

“Easy Peasy” is a standout well-choreographed spectacle that brings laughter and joy with its zany antics. “Welcome to La Rosa” is another where everything in the plot unravels—literally. And that is followed up by the equally funny “He Lied to Me.”

Nik Alexander, Aaron Kaburick, Romelda Teron Benjamin
and Rob McClure

Rob McClure reprises his Tony-nominated Broadway role as Daniel Hillard, the out-of-work impressionist in San Francisco who loses custody of his three children after a messy divorce from his wife Miranda (played superbly by Maggie Lakis who happens to be Mr. McClure’s real wife). As stated previously, Daniel transforms into a Scottish nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire, who is hired by Miranda unaware of the true identity. This takes place after Daniel uses his voice impression skills, in a hilarious sequence, to sabotage Miranda’s efforts to find a regular nanny. Mrs. Doubtfire is anything but regular.

No one would expect an actor to replicate the comic genius of the late, great Robin Williams. But Mr. McClure comes darn close. In a tour-de-force, Mr. McClure is exceptional in a  physically demanding and strenuous role that includes well over a dozen costume changes in rapid fashion that must be accomplished on a dime to keep up with the fast pace of the show.

In possessing  natural comedic gifts, Mr. McClure scores big in every scene. Yet, his acting abilities come to the fore when he longs to be with his children and is desperate to do so. His ability to convey tenderness in these scenes while performing slapstick comedy in others is a tribute to his talent. Everybody roots for him.

"... a heartwarming, tender story but with high octane comedy that is sure to keep you cracking up."

Oh, by the way, he can sing well, too, as he is featured in over half the show's numbers. The moving solo “I Want to Be There” where Daniel fights for custody of his children in front of a judge is beautifully delivered. In another style, the comedic “Make Me a Woman” with his brother and his brother’s husband is beyond hilarious. Mr. McClure also excels while in the Mrs. Doubtfire character in the insanely funny “Easy Peasy”—a group number with the talented Ensemble where he desperately tries to brandish his cooking skills. There are many others. And yes, he can dance real well, even tap. What can’t he do?

For her part, Maggie Lakis as the strong-willed and business-savvy mother Miranda Hillard, performs well. Miranda clearly has no more interest in reconciling with Daniel and tries everything to keep him away from the children only to be infiltrated by Mrs. Doubtfire whom she adores especially because of the influence she has on her kids. Her one solo “Let Go” that showcases a powerful alto voice is glorious. In the end, after the jolting discovery that Mrs. Doubtfire was actually her husband, she comes to the realization that things are better when Daniel is around the children. It leads to an emotional conclusion. 

Giselle Gutierrez as Lydia Hillard, the oldest daughter and on the cusp of young adulthood, and for the reviewed performance Cody Braverman as her brother Christopher and Emerson Mae Chan as the youngest sister Natalie are bona fide scene stealers. Their acting skills are spot-on though Christopher performs most of the comedic lines and does so with aplomb. He alternates with Bernard Rimmele while Emerson alternates with Kennedy Pitney.

The three kids perform in the hilarious number “What the Hell”—yes they do, and Ms. Gutierrez shines in the emotional duet near show’s end with Mr. McClure in “Just Pretend.”

Now recall that the movie was released in 1993 and this musical production had made adjustments to modernize. The use of smart phones, internet and Siri are among the technical updates to the show’s plot.

What’s not updated is that the creative team retained the stereotypical gay characters for the musical. Indeed, sensibilities and attitudes have changed regarding LGBTQ+ individuals over the years.  One of the characters is Daniel’s flamboyant brother Frank (played by Aaron Kaburick) who is a make-up artist, no less and his even more flamboyant husband Andre (played by Nik Alexander).

Though their antics are over-the-top and at times cringe-worthy, they are fabulous and provide many comical moments during the course of the show. Advice: Don’t ever say anything negative about Donna Summer in front of Andre!

The couple assists Daniel with the prosthetics and wardrobe needed to pull off the Mrs. Doubtfire persona. And musically, the trio is outstanding in the funny “Make Me a Woman.”

Leo Roberts and Rob McClure
Also performing splendidly is Romelda Teron Benjamin as Wanda Sellner, the stern, all-business court liaison overseeing the progress made by Daniel to get a job, earn enough money and provide suitable housing for the children in advance of the court’s review of the custody ruling. In this process, the exchanges between her and Daniel, Frank and Andre are side-splitting funny. She also displays a powerful soprano. In the end, Daniel does find a job using his impression skills to land a TV kids show gig and manages to find a nice abode.

Leo Roberts plays Stuart Dunmore, Miranda’s brand-new love interest almost immediately following the divorce. Good-looking and muscular, Mr. Roberts portrays the rich British character well as he is the chief rival to Daniel. Whether by design or not, there is no chemistry between him and the children. Mr. Roberts also has a solid tenor singing voice.

The remainder of the talented cast and Ensemble supports the leads exceptionally particularly in vocals and dancing.

Though the set is not intricate or highly technical, it is attractive and services the plot effectively. Scenic Designer David Korins makes use of dropdown curtains and screens for scene changes with images of San Francisco in the background.  Costume Designer Catherine Zuber is very creative in outfitting the cast in colorful garb and, of course, the costumes for Mrs. Doubtfire. Phillip S. Rosenberg’s brilliant lighting design adds to the visual excellence of the show.

Truthfully, going in, I had my doubts about Mrs. Doubtfire and its conversion from screen to stage as a musical. No more doubts. It’s a perfect blend of love and laughs, and it’s fantastic.

Running time. Two hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Mrs. Doubtfire runs through February 4 the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-ARTS or visit Ticketmaster or the Hippodrome Theatre online.

Photos: Joan Marcus

The 2024-2025 season recently announced:

Friday, January 26, 2024

5-6-7-8 'A Chorus Line' at Toby’s Will Surely Captivate

It may have been 1975 with the birth years of the dancers auditioning for a fictional Broadway musical ranging from 1942 to 1955, but the competition for such chosen roles by these show dancers is as fierce today as it was then.  An abundance of talented performers; needed jobs; few openings are available. That hasn’t changed over the years. 

Toby’s Dinner Theatre triumphs with its entertaining re-creation of the classic hit musical A Chorus Line, which humanizes these seemingly anonymous dancers. Each brings a story of struggle or dreams, of triumphs or failures, of family support or abandonment.

I was curious to see how Toby’s in-the-round configuration could adapt to a linear production, such as this. Under the imaginative direction of Helen Hayes Award winner Mark Minnick, who has been nominated for two more such awards for his work last year with Something Rotten! and Escape to Margaritaville along with choreographer Vincent Musgrave making his Toby’s choreography debut, the production team met the daunting challenge.

Rather than stringing the auditioning dancers in a single line across the stage as depicted in other productions, the performers are clustered at the stage’s three entrances as well as forming double lines across the stage. It’s very effective.

A Chorus Line features music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante and originally choreographed by Michael Bennett.  In doing so, Mr. Minnick helms a tight production on a mostly bare stage that boasts a diverse array of talented dancers, singers and actors that perform some of the best-known songs on Broadway.

Paul played by Brian Dauglash

Songs, such as “I Hope I Get It;” “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” a brilliantly staged production number; “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three;” the gorgeous ballad “What I Did for Love;” and “One,” a singular sensation of a song, highlight the catalog. Honestly, you will have a hard time getting that song out of your head.

The eight-piece orchestra under the musical direction of conductor Ross Scott Rawlings (Nathan Scavilla conducts in other performances) provides sturdy melodic support for the singers and dancers. Lynn Joslin’s superb lighting design vividly amplifies the dramatic sequences with Mark Smedley’s sound design enabling the musical performances and dialogue to be clearly audible.

The original version of A Chorus Line ran for 6,137 performances and is the sixth longest-running Broadway show ever.  It spawned numerous touring productions and revivals, captured 12 Tony Award nominations and won 9 of them, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 

The musical is dance-heavy, and chorographer Musgrave and the performers are clearly up to the task. A variety of precisely arranged moves are deployed making excellent use of the stage. They include lifts and tap dancing among others, which are on display in solo and group numbers.

The quality of the music, dancing and dialogue (largely monologue) makes the show endearing and timeless and explains its enormous popularity.  Each of the 17 dancers is called upon to not only flaunt their moves individually and in groups in a strenuous audition but are also asked (um, told) to describe their life’s experiences to the authoritative director and choreographer, Zach (played commandingly by Jeffrey Shankle).

Mr. Shankle mostly sits above one of the theater’s balconies to simulate being in the rear of a theater’s auditorium. Zach’s assistant Larry, played well by Andrew Gordon, is a standout dancer when he joins in group numbers.

Never for once imagining they would be required to reveal their inner secrets, confessions and self-doubts to the director, much less to their fellow competitors, to vie for the limited number of openings (4 boys and 4 girls), the dancers opened their souls with remarkable candor.  I mean, how many performers attend an audition and admit they can’t sing?  One did here.

"Toby’s Dinner Theatre triumphs with its entertaining re-creation of the classic hit musical A Chorus Line..."

Talking straight ahead to Zach and responding to his questions bellowed from a microphone, these dancers tell their stories amidst a series of musical numbers including a montage.  Though some of the soliloquies slow the pace down in spots, they are mostly fun and unique and an integral part of the show. 

There are too many to name here, but these are some examples. Don, the married man who worked in a strip club (Brandon Bedore); Connie (Kiana King), a petite older Asian-American who still believes in eternal youth; Greg (Ariel Messeca), an impish Jewish gay man who describes his first experience with a woman; Sheila (Jessica Barraclough), a sassy, aging and sexy dancer who describes her unhappy childhood; and Mark (Angelo Harrington II), the youngest at age 20 who hilariously told his priest he thought he had gonorrhea when instead it was...

Paul (Brian Dauglash) presented one of the more emotional stories.  The Puerto Rican tells of his earlier experiences growing up gay and his involvement in a drag act. He was forced to drop out of school, and when his parents learned of his orientation, his relating their reaction was a particularly poignant part of the show.  Paul breaks down and Zach goes on stage to comfort him.  Mr. Daughlash is exceptional in sharing Paul’s experience.

Then there is Diana (Leela Dawson), also Puerto Rican who delivers the knockout number “Nothing” and later the classic “What I Did for Love.”  The latter follows a mishap to Paul, who injured a knee during a tap dance number, and the other dancers on the line experienced the sudden horror that their career could also end in a flash.  Few had alternative plans. 

Cassie played by Lydia Gifford

Cassie, one of the significant characters in the production, is played convincingly by Lydia Gifford.  She and director Zach once had a romantic relationship, and when Zach became more involved with theatre than with her, they split.  Zach believes that Cassie, who was once a successful solo dancer, is a feature-caliber performer, not merely a member of the chorus. But Cassie wants to be a part of the chorus and respects all those trying to make it.  

Ms. Gifford also elegantly performs a solo dance (“The Music and the Mirror”) as an angled mirror presents images of her dancing smoothly around the stage in a variety of moves donned in a sleek red dress.

Val, a fun character played by Alexis Krey Bedore, does a splendid job as a potty-mouthed dancer who needed plastic surgery to “enhance” her looks to get dancing jobs.  Her rendition of “Dance: 10; Looks: Three” is performed admirably.

The ensemble, in the meantime, learn the steps and lyrics to “One,” arguably the most iconic of the show’s numbers.  The final eight chosen dancers are announced, and those failing to make the cut exit the stage deflated. 

For the show’s finale all the dancers, including those cut, are decked out in glistening gold formal costumes (designed by Kansas City Costumes and coordinated by Janine Sunday) blending as a singular mass, absent individual identity, wonderfully performing the catchy reprise of “One.”   

Rounding out the talented cast are in alphabetical order: Dereck Atwater (Frank), Quadry Brown (Richie), Justin Calhoun (Butch), Aria Renee Curameng (Vicki), Emily Flack (Maggie), Nicky Kaider (Mike), Amanda Kaplan Landstrom (Kristine), Ryan Sellers (Al), Adam Shank (Roy), David Singletoen (Bobby), Patricia “Pep” Targete (Bebe), Danielle Tuomey (Trish), and Julia Williams (Judy).

Toby's production of A Chorus Line features a very diverse, attractive and talented bunch of dancers, singers and actors. They powerfully and gracefully glide and swerve in precise movements and none deserve to be cut.  But in the end, somebody has to go.  

Through this show, which was inspired by a number of stories from actual dancers, we’re taken back almost five decades. Indeed, some of the topics, such as homosexuality and breast implants were groundbreaking back in the day.  But truth be told, aside from the costumes, hairstyles, and cultural references of yore, it is all so contemporary and a must-see.

Advisory: The show contains adult themes and language and is not recommended for young children.

Running time. Two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission.

A Chorus Line runs through March 10, 2024, at Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 4900 Symphony Woods Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 410-730-8311or visiting online.

Photos: Jeri Tidwell Photography

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