Theater Info for Maryland

Toby’s Dinner Theater Chicago

By • Sep 22nd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Toby’s Dinner Theater
Toby’s Dinner Theater-Columbia, Columbia, MD
Through November 6th
2:10, with one intermission
$47-$52/$33.50 Children
Reviewed eptember 17th, 2011

It might be the first taste of fall outside but baby it’s hot inside Toby’s. Chicago sizzles with all the razzle dazzle you’ve come to expect from both Fosse musicals and Toby’s Dinner Theatre productions. Billed as “A nightclub dancer…a smooth talking lawyer…and a cell block of sin. It would be a crime to miss it,” Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville (book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb), opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran for a little over two years. Both the original production and a pared down 1996 concert revival were nominated for (but did not receive) Tony awards. The story is based on the 1926 play Chicago by Maurine Dallas Watkins, but the Brechtian style (stark and detached) is more in line with today’s sensationalism and tabloids.

Co-directors Toby Orenstein and multi-talented Lawrence B. Munsey (co-director, costume designer and star, playing a multitude of roles) lead us through the sordid stories of Velma Kelly, Roxie Hart and their Chicago cohorts of seemingly soulless murderesses put glitz and glamour ahead of morals as they attempt to defend their fatally flawed relationships. Chicago starts off with a bang and never lets up. Chicago remains a musical revue, with all the parts introduced by Munsey in his various forms. We’re never far from the razor-sharp edge between performer and performance. Reality isn’t the point here. It’s all about fame and facade. David A Hopkins has provided a clean, simple cell block set as a backdrop for Ilona Kessell’s Fosse-esque choreography, keeping all the flash in Munsey’s fabulous costumes and Lynn Joslin’s evocative lighting.

From the moment we meet steaming hot Velma Kelly (Debra Buonaccorsi) in “All That Jazz” and ditsy vaudeville star-wannabe Roxie Hart (Carole Graham Lehan) and her simple, adoring husband Amos (David James) in “Funny Honey,” to the last spectacular number, “Nowadays,” we’re immersed in the decadence and excess of the roaring twenties. We meet the rest of the cell block residents in “Cell Block Tango,” a number just dripping with fringe benefits.

Matron Mama Morton (Jesaira Glover) makes a stunning entrance with “When You’re Good to Mama” and proves instrumental in connecting naive Roxie with slick legal-eagle Billy Flynn (Jeffrey Shankle) who develops their defense plan in “We Both Reached For The Gun.” By the time we get to “Roxie,” Lehan is channeling Cyd Charisse (aided by Munsey’s excellent costume choices). In stark contrast, James’ rendition of “Mister Cellophane” is understated, exquisitely timed and brilliant and Chris Rudy’s “Mary Sunshine” is quite simply hilarious.

It’s a grand night out, though one not really meant for young children.


  • The Master of Ceremonies: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Velma Kelly: Debra Buonaccorsi
  • Roxie Hart: Carole Graham Lehan
  • Fred Casely: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Sergeant Fogarty: David Jennings
  • Amos Hart: David James
  • Liz: Heather Marie Beck
  • Annie: Tina Marie DeSimone
  • June: Katie Harrington
  • Hunyak: Christen Svingos
  • Mona: Ali Hoxie
  • Martin Harrison: Ryan Patrick Welsh
  • Matron: Jesaira Glover
  • Billy Flynn: Jeffrey Shankle
  • Mary Sunshine: Chris Rudy
  • Go-to-Hell Kitty: Arielle Gordon
  • Harry: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Aaron: Gabe Veneziano
  • Court Clerk: Cody Cooley
  • The Foreman: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Reporter: Derek Tatum
  • Swing: Kate Arnold Wernick
  • Understudies: Heather Marie Beck (Roxie), Ali Hoxie (Velma), Nancy
  • Tarr Hart (Mama Morton), Thomas Hedgpeth (Billy & Amos), David
  • Jennings (Master of Ceremonies), Ryan Patrick Welsh (Mary Sunshine)


  • Conductor/Keyboard: Christopher Youstra, Ross Rawlings or Doug Lawler
  • Violin: Patricia Wnek
  • Reeds/Woodwinds: Katie Kellert, Steve Haaser or Stacey Antoine
  • Trumpet: Tony Neenan or Craig Taylor
  • Trombone: Jay Ellis, Griz Gifford or Dan Pendley
  • Drums/Percussion: Aaron Holmes, Anders Eliasson or Jack Loercher

Production Staff

  • Co-Directors: Toby Orenstein & Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Musical Director: Christopher Youstra
  • Choreographer: Ilona Kessell
  • Set Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Costume Designer: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Lighting Designer: Lynn Joslin
  • Sound Designer: Drew Dedrick
  • Production Manager: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Production Stage Manager: Kate Wackerle
  • Stage Managers: Drew Dedrick, Kate Wackerle
  • Technical Director: Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Master Carpenter: David A. Hopkins
  • Set Construction: Corey Brown, David A. Hopkins, Russell Sunday
  • Properties & Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Erin MacDonald, Cheryl Hale
  • Sound Operators: Drew Dedrick, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Stage Crew: Erin MacDonald, Ashley Grant, Jason Britt

Theatre Staff

  • Artistic Director: Toby Orenstein
  • Associate Artistic Directors: David A. Hopkins, Lawrence B. Munsey
  • General Manager: Joel Friedman
  • Assistant Manager: Patrick Albright
  • Form Manager: Steve Lewis
  • Chef / Kitchen Manager: Chuck Cofield
  • Chef / Assistant Kitchen Manager: Anthony Beachum
  • Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Cheryl Clemens
  • Assistant Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Cheryl Clemens
  • Group Sales Coordinator: Beverly Ailiff
  • Group Sales Hosting Staff: Heidi Berry, Bonnie Ciborowski, Marsha
  • Raymond, Michelle Sanders
  • Director of Marketing: Nancy Michel
  • Box Office Staff: Heidi Berry, Judy Berry, Laura Blasi, Mary Dempsey,
  • Lynae Harris, Breena Hebron, Estelle King, Marie Moineau
  • Bookkeeper: Bayna Castner
  • Youth Theatre Administrator: Janine Sunday
  • Theatre Photographer / Website Developer: Kirstine Christiansen
  • Bar Manager: Shawn Kettering
  • Maintenance Engineers: Stephen B. Harris, Mike Monahan

Disclaimer: Toby’s Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

One Response »

  1. Betsy – Loved your review; you are an excellent writer/reviewer. Fyi, although I am now retired and live in Las Vegas (NV), I lived and worked for many years in Maryland and saw all of Toby’s productions many times from 1979 to 2006, when I retired and moved to Vegas. I was a passionate theatregoer and attended many shows at many theatres in the MD/DC/VA area from the mid-1960s to 2006. I know Toby, Larry, Carole, et. al. in this production which I hope to see on Sat., 8 Oct 2011, when I return to the area for a short visit. Again, I hope to read more of your reviews in the future. Best wishes, Tom Hammant