Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Toby’s Dinner Theater Oklahoma!

By • Jun 23rd, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Toby’s Dinner Theater
Toby’s Dinner Theater, Columbia, MD
$46-$51/$32.50-$51 Children 12 and under
Through August 30th
Reviewed June 19th, 2009

When I heard I’d have the opportunity to visit Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, MD, for the first time, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t just interested in seeing Oklahoma!, a show I’ve seen and loved on both stage and screen, but I also wanted to see what they’re doing right.

The cast on the whole is exceptionally talented – a treat, especially for this high energy production. Stellar performances include Jake Odmark as Curly, Jessica Lauren Ball as Laurey, clearly capable of conveying the emotions and charm of their roles. Standout performances also include Elizabeth Rayca as Ado Annie, Jeffrey Shankle as Will Parker and Kate Williams as Gertie (whose laugh is unmistakably perfect for her part). Mark Minnick‘s direction and choreography is right on the money here, as is Reenie Codelka‘s music direction, exactly right for the arena theatre space.

If you’re more familiar with the movie than the original stage version you will be pleasantly surprised by two additional numbers, “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage!” and “Lonely Room.” The former is a terrific showcase for the comic abilities of Vishal Valdya as Ali Hakim, while the latter really highlights the talents of Adam Grau as Jud Fry. Also worthy of mention are Susan Thornton as Aunt Eller and Andrew Horn as Andrew Carnes, who also serves as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening’s events.

In this tough economic climate, the dinner theatre experience is becoming a rare commodity. In this region both Harlequin in Rockville and Burn Brae in the Burtonsville area failed where Toby’s succeeds. It’s fairly easy to see why. The food is good and plentiful, the service prompt and courteous, and the social aspect can’t be beat.

Getting there right as the doors opened, I made the mistake of filling my plate to overflowing on the first round. You should plan to relax and enjoy. Last call is at an hour and a half after the service opens, plenty of time to go back for seconds while still getting dessert. Everything is included in the ticket cost except specialty drinks (alcoholic and not), ranging from $3.99 for a glass of wine to $7.95 for the fancier cocktails.

In some ways, the dinner theatre is the closest in form to ancient theatre. It’s commonly believed that Greek and Roman theatre events were all-day affairs, with picnics and socializing as key to the overall experience. While many people choose to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or other special events, you shouldn’t feel you have to wait for that special event in your schedule to see this show. You’re guaranteed a good time regardless of the occasion.

This is definitely family fare at its best, but be forewarned that this show has a few surprisingly darker aspects and some loud bangs that might frighten the youngest children.

Run time: A little over 2 hours, thirty minutes, with a 20-minute intermission. Dinner (starts two hours before curtain) is included (specialty / alcoholic drinks extra).

In short, I had a fabulous time and am really looking forward to the next opportunity to see a show at Toby’s!

Photo Gallery

OKlahoma_0239 Oklahoma! cast
LaurieCurley[1] JudA[1]


  • Aunt Eller: Susan Thornton
  • Curly: Jake Odmark
  • Laurey: Jessica Lauren Ball
  • Ike Skidmore: Shawn Kettering
  • Fred: Joel Adam Gerlach
  • Slim: Parker Drown
  • Will Parker: Jeffrey Shankle
  • Jud Fry: Adam Grabau
  • Ado Annie Carnes: Elizabeth Rayca
  • Ali Hakim: Vishal Vaidya
  • Gertie Cummings: Kate Williams
  • Andrew Carnes: Andrew Horn
  • Cord Elam: Darren McDonnell
  • Joe: Frank Anthony
  • Sam: Chris Jehnert
  • Dream Laurey: Rachel Schur
  • Townspeople: MaryLee Adams, Trish Baker, Katie Keyser, Julia
  • Lancione, Christen Svingos


  • Director/Choreographer: Mark Minnick
  • Musical Director: Reenie Codelka
  • Set Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Costume Designer: Samn Huffner
  • Lighting Designer: Lynn Joslin
  • Sound Designer: Drew Dedrick
  • Production Coordinator: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Production Stage Manager: Shawn Kettering
  • Stage Manager: Drew Dedrick, Terrence Sweeney
  • Dance Captain: Jen Kohlhafer
  • Master Carpenter: David A. Hopkins
  • Set Construction: Jason Cabrera, Jimmy Engelkemier, Dan McQuay,
  • Jason Krznarich, Russell Sunday, Cory Brown
  • Properties and Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Erin MacDonald, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Sound Operators: Jimmy Engelkemier, Drew Dedrick, Melvina Coker
  • Stage Crew: Erin MacDonald, Paul Engelkemier


  • Piano / Conductor: Reenie Codelka, Brant Challacombe
  • Keyboard 2: Ann Prizzi, Ed Myers
  • Trumpet: David Kellert, Aaron Holmes, Tony Neenan
  • Reed: Katie Kellert, Stever Haaser, Jean Gould
  • Drums: Dane Krich, Aaron Holmes, Anders Eliasson
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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 – I am glad you had such a positive experience at Toby’s and hope you continue to do so with each future production. I appreciate the kind words you had to say about our production and I hope many decided to come out and enjoy this fresh classic.