Toby's Dinner Theatre has a sporting chance with 'The Color Purple'

When the 2013 Helen Hayes Award nominations were announced, Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia had a reason to be happy. Actually, it had nine reasons to be pleased. That's how many nominations Toby's received.

"It was phenomenal. We were all ecstatic," says the dinner theater's director of marketing, Nancy Michel.

Named for a legendary late stage and screen actress and now in its 29th year, the Helen Hayes Awards are bestowed within a highly competitive field that encompasses over 80 professional theater companies in the Washington, D.C. area. Overall, 150 nominations in 26 categories were announced late last month.

The nine nominations that went to Toby's acknowledged two shows in the resident musicals category.

Based on a best-selling novel about overcoming racial adversity and its equally successful movie version, the musical theater adaptation of "The Color Purple" also has demonstrated its popular appeal. The Toby's production received eight nominations.

Besides being nominated for Outstanding Resident Musical, "The Color Purple" received Helen Hayes Award nominations for Dayna Quincy for Outstanding Lead Actress, Theresa Cunningham for Outstanding Supporting Actress, David Little for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Lawrence B. Munsey for Outstanding Director and Outstanding Costume Design, Toby Orenstein for Outstanding Director, Anwar Thomas for Outstanding Choreography, and Christopher Youstra for Outstanding Musical Direction.

The ninth nomination was for Priscilla Cuellar for Outstanding Supporting Actress in "Legally Blonde the Musical." This movie comedy-based stage musical obviously involves much more light-hearted material, but it also makes a point about standing up for yourself.

As for the theater people standing up to receive their awards, the Helen Hayes Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Washington on April 8.

And Toby's is not resting on its laurels. Its current show, "Fiddler on the Roof," is carrying on a theatrical tradition in downtown Columbia.

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