At Toby’s, Elf brings an early Christmas
What’s going on at Toby’s Dinner Theatre? The Columbia theater’s current production is Elf — a holiday show about a man raised as an elf who helps save Christmas in the Big Apple.
Did Toby’s lose track of the months? Are they in a time warp? Did they want to use up tinsel left over from last Christmas?
Or perhaps, they’re thinking back to an iconic song from an older Broadway classic, Mame: “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.”
After the last 16 months, who doesn’t need a little happiness and cheer? We all do, and that’s why Elf (book by Thomas Mechan and Bob Martin) brings its comedic delight and feel-good story to Toby’s this summer.
The musical is based on the 2003 film of the same name, starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner and Bob Newhart.
The story is about Buddy, a human who was adopted and raised by elves. He eventually leaves the North Pole to find his biological father, a Scrooge-like Manhattan book publisher, and along the way helps cynical New Yorkers rediscover the magic of Christmas.
Elf the film grossed more than $200 million on a $33 million dollar budget, was well received by critics, and was nominated for nine awards. Its soundtrack of Christmas favorites sold more than 695,000 copies and was the second highest grossing soundtrack album for a Christmas-themed film.
The movie inspired the musical, with a whole new set of songs written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. (The pair were nominated for Tony Awards for Best Original Score for two other musicals they wrote: The Wedding Singer and The Prom.)
A new, safer normal
Like most theatergoers, I am delighted Toby’s is back in action, even though there are a few changes to the previous protocol.
First, Toby’s has reduced the number of people in the audience.
Second, they no longer call patrons to the buffet by table. Instead, a Toby’s staff member visits your table to invite you to eat. Gloves are offered before you head to the buffet, which, by the way, was delicious and inspired at least two trips.
Although there is no longer a salad bar, servers bring salads directly your table. There is also no longer an ice cream sundae bar; instead, desserts (usually a choice of cheesecake or chocolate cake) are brought to your table.
In another change, parties of four or less are charged for their tickets a week before the performance. For parties of five or more, you’re charged when you make your reservation. You can still leave a cash tip for the servers, who are also the actors.
A well-suited cast
After dinner, it’s on with the show. Elf was a good choice for Toby’s. Casting at Toby’s is very particular and precise, and their stable of regulars has a lot of talent.
I was pleased to see many familiar faces in the cast, including David Bosley-Reynolds, David James, Janine Sunday and Jeffrey Shankle, who has the lead as Buddy. There is not a misstep between them, including their singing and dancing.
Even if you don’t know any of the songs, that won’t diminish your enjoyment of the show, thanks to the musical direction of Ross Scott Rawlings.
Kudos to the outstanding choreography by Minnick. The costumes, designed by Janine Sunday, transport the audience to the North Pole.
The show is, of course, suitable for the whole family. An 8 p.m. curtain gets you out about 10:30 p.m. But, hey, this is Christmas during summer vacation. The kids can sleep in.
Elf runs through August 22. There are eight shows (usually) per week, including matinees on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The theater is located at 5900 Symphony Woods Rd., Columbia, next to Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Ticket prices, which include the dinner meal or matinee brunch (Wed. and Sun.), range from $65 to $68 for adults; $49.50 for children 12 and under.
Patrons 65 and over can attend Tues. and Wed. evening or Wed. brunch for $55.25.
For tickets, call the box office at (410) 730-8311 or visit tobysdinnertheatre.com.