Theater Info for Maryland

Toby’s Dinner Theatre In the Heights

By • May 15th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
In the Heights
Toby’s Dinner Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Columbia, MD
Through July 21st
2:45 with intermission
Reviewed May 10th, 2013

In the Heights is a smart show. It has modern music that sizzles with an infusion of Broadway and hip-hop, while it keeps true to everything that is the core of traditional musical theatre: family, community, romance, and happy endings. Toby’s Dinner Theatre brings together a strong cast and excellent technical elements to breathe life into this tight-knit community on one corner in Washington Heights.

Usnavi (David Gregory) owns a Bodega on the corner that was started by his parents before they passed away. Usnavi is the likeable hero with a warm heart and a gift for rhyme and is brought to life with passion and natural charisma by Gregory. Usnavi pines after Vanessa (Nadia Harika), who longs to escape Washington Heights and the trials of dealing with her alcoholic mother. Harika brilliantly shows glimpses of the sad girl beneath Vanessa’s tough and defensive exterior.

Usnavi’s friend, Benny (Marquise White) is also pining over a girl of his own. White is beyond outstanding as the sweet guy with the soulful voice who is bursting with big dreams. His performance is layered with delightful nuances. The object of his affection is Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez), the first to get out and go to college. She is now returning to tell everyone that she dropped out. Gomez brings great heart and powerful vocals to Nina’s journey throughout the show. Her parents, and Benny’s bosses, Kevin (David Bosley-Reynolds) and Camila (Tina Marie DeSimone) are believable and likeable with a few standout moments between them. The only small change warranted for Bosley-Reynolds would be to simply not use an accent if he cannot master a believable Puerto Rican accent.

At the heart of the community is Abuela Claudia. There is no one better for this role than the incomparable Crystal Freeman, who is pure heart embodied in the best voice around. Her “Paciencia y Fe” once again redefines the standard for theatrical ballads everywhere. Another stellar performance comes from Ryan Alvardo as Sonny. His comedic timing and delivery is impeccable. Another awesome vocal comes from Tobias Young as the Piragua Guy. Also fantastic is Santina Maiolatesi as Daniela. She creates a complete character and has an amazing voice.

The entire show is filled with impressive and exciting choreography. The costumes are colorful and character appropriate. The set is simple and still detailed down to the gum on the lamp posts. The lighting is excellent with several truly effective moments of switching the mood in one cue. With all the careful attention to detail and dynamite performances, In the Heights is a must-see.

Photo Gallery

Benny (Marquise White), Sonny (Ryan Alvarado), Usnavi (David Gregory) Abuela Claudia (Crystal Freeman), Usnavi (David Gregory)
Benny (Marquise White), Sonny (Ryan Alvarado), Usnavi (David Gregory)
Abuela Claudia (Crystal Freeman), Usnavi (David Gregory)
Camila (Tina Marie De Simone), Kevin (David Bosley-Reynolds), Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez) Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez), Usnavi (David Gregory)
Camila (Tina Marie De Simone), Kevin (David Bosley-Reynolds), Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez)
Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez), Usnavi (David Gregory)
Camila (Tina DeSimone), Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez)
Camila (Tina DeSimone), Nina (Alyssa V. Gomez)

Photos by Kirstine Christiansen


  • Graffiti Pete: Calvin McCullough
  • Usnavi: David Gregory
  • Piragua Guy: Tobias Young
  • Abuela Caludia: Crystal Freeman
  • Carla: Olivia Ashley Reed
  • Daniela: Santina Maiolatesi
  • Kevin: David Bosley-Reynolds
  • Camila: Tina Marie DeSimone
  • Sonny: Ryan Alvarado
  • Benny: Marquise White
  • Vanessa: Nadia Harika
  • Nina: Alyssa V. Gomez
  • Ensemble: Mili Diaz, Scean Flowers, Javi Harnly, Rachel Kemp, Erin McNerny, Jason Phillips, Moses Rodrigues, Ada Satterfield, Danny Tippett, Melissa Victor
  • Swings: Ian Brown-Gorrell & Amanda Kaplan
  • Understudies: Usnavi (Calvin McCullough), Nina (Mili Diaz), Benny (Jason Phillips), Vanessa (Ada Satterfield), Sonny (Moses Rodrigues), Daniela, Claudia, Abuela Claudia (Janine Sunday), Kevin (Lawrence B. Munsey), Carla (Melissa Victor), Graffiti Pete (Scean Flowers)

Production Staff

  • Co-Directors/Choreographers: Toby Orenstein and Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Musical Director: Cedric D. Lyles
  • Choreographer: Christen Svingos
  • Scenic Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Graffiti Pete Artwork: Peter Fox, David Castro
  • 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
  • Dance Captain: Rachel Kemp
  • Master Carpenter: David A. Hopkins
  • Set Construction: David A. Hopkins, Russell Sunday, Ian Wallace
  • Properties & Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Erin MacDonald
  • Sound Board Operators: Drew Dedrick, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Stage Crew: Laura Blasi, Jason Britt, Cody Cooley, Erin MacDonald


  • Conductor: Cedric D. Lyles, Douglas Lawler, or Jonathan Tuzman
  • Keyboard 2: Pamela Witt, Ann Prizzi, Ed Myers, Barry Hamilton, or Nate Scavilla
  • Drums: Matt Lampart, Tarek Mohamed, Evander McLean, N. Scott Robinson, Tom Harold, or Jack Loercher
  • Latin Percussionist: Orlando Cotto
  • Electric Bass: Michael Kellam, Jason Wilson, Dave Frieman, Linda Cote, or Zach Branch
  • Trumpet: Tony Neenan, Frank Gorecki, Chris Hutton, S. Craig Taylor, or Garrett Faccone

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

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.