Toby’s brings West Side Story to Baltimore!

We had heard of the Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia before, but we only recently found out that Toby’s has a location in Baltimore as well! So we headed down this weekend to check it out.

Located in the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center that’s part of the travel plaza on O’Donnel street, Toby’s is very easy to get to. (Though they totally deserve better signage.) We were worried how a dinner theatre would work inside a hotel, but were pleasantly surprised to see that basically the whole second floor is dedicated to Toby’s and that we really shouldn’t have worried about a space issue at all. If you’ve never been to Toby’s the ticket process is a little different then for other shows. Here you order your tickets before the show, but don’t pick them up or pay for them until the day of. And seats are pre-assigned, so you don’t have to worry if you get stuck in traffic that you’ll be crammed into a corner.

As you walk into the theatre, the first thing you notcie is the awesome amphitheater-like seating. (Unlike the roundhouse style of the Columbia theatre.) The seating allows you to be super close to the performers and the stage, and the people in the front row could probably reach out and touch the actors if they wanted to. We were lucky enough to get seats in the back on a semi-balcony section, and we had a great view of the entire show. (Though we couldn’t really see where there would’ve been a bad seat or an obstructed view.) The only real complaint we had about the theatre was that it was so cold. (But if you bring a sweater, you’ll be good to go.)

The first part of the Toby’s experience is the food. And truly, the food alone would have made the whole trip worth it. For starters, they have an extensive bar menu, with signature drinks and souvenir glasses you get to keep. Then they have an opening salad bar with all the fixings to get your meal started off right. Then they start calling tables for their wonderful and famous buffet. We were at a matinee performance, so our buffet was of a breakfast variety. And it was truly scrumptious. Not only did they have bagels, danishes, scrambled eggs, bacon (mmm bacon!), pancakes, and all the other breakfast fare you love, but they had apple crisps, salmon, a carving station with meat being sliced to order, and their famous spinach “phunque” casserole! And everything was soo good! We couldn’t stop ourselves from loading our plates with so much food, and we’re glad we did because every menu item was more delicious then the next. Then, as if you hadn’t had enough good food, they open up their make-your-own-sundae bar. (We love some soft serve ice cream and chocolate chips!) Plus, everyone got a complimentary glass of champagne to wash it all down! Here’s the other cool part about Toby’s – the waiters are the stars of the show!! It was so cool to get to talk to the waiters beforehand, and see them dressed up as their stage counterparts at intermission.

So after we had indulged greatly in a wonderful meal, we were basically fully satisfied with the whole trip without even having to watch a single second a the show. But we were so excited to see our waitress in action, and we love the story of West Side Story, and couldn’t wait to see how they pulled off such s complicated show on stage. But before the show could get underway, we were treated to a Toby’s trademark. One of the actors, this time the ever-hilarious “Doc” from the show, comes out to wish patrons in the audience Happy Birthday or Anniversary. (Hint: Let them know when you order your tickets that you’re celebrating a birthday and you too can be called out.) It’s truly a nice way to get the show started.

From moment one of the show we were captivated. The singing and dancing is truly amazing, and the choreography and staging, really make the complicated storyline work. Tony, actor Matthew Schleigh, has an incredible voice and really outshone the movie’s version of the male lead. Jessica Ball, who plays Maria in the Toby’s production, also had an incredible voice, and the emotion she brought to the end scene brought tears to our eyes. But truly, their great performances would have been lost had they not had an equally great supporting cast around them. The actors playing both Riff (Jake Odmark), and Action( Patrick Cragin – our personal favorite) carried off the Jets persona so well, and the girls singing “In America” were so entertaining and gave some serious spice to the number. (So good in fact, that we’ll forgive a few slight missteps.) An intense, and action-packed show, the day flew by, and we were sad to see the end come. This amateur theatre-goer can not truly express how impressed we were with this showing of West Side Story, and we only wish the show was running longer so that we could get more people to go see it.

Toby’s Dinner Theatre truly gave us a full day of quality entertainment. From the great food to the even better show, and the unique atmosphere that lets you interact with the stars, Toby’s is truly a theatre experience. We’d say that Toby’s is definitely worth the splurge, and we can’t wait until we get to go back!

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