A Toby Show: A Tale as Old as Time, With a Bit of a Drawl

By Jamie Bullins

Lincoln Community Playhouse, Thursday, July 15, 2021, 7:30 pm. 

It’s summertime, what’s better than some outdoor (free) theatre in the park? Not to mention that it’s suited for all ages and, in my experience last evening, folks of all ages will find something to enjoy. 

Now, to be clear, I did not get to see the outdoor version of the performance but attended one of the final rehearsals at the Playhouse. But, you know, I could imagine being outside and taking in the environment around me. A blanket, the cool (sort of) breeze, laughing kids. Especially when the actors made their way out into the ‘crowd’ several times. The experience was clear, even in my chair in the auditorium. 

The night was ushered in with musical accompaniment by The Vintage Trio. Two guitars and a ukulele, certainly setting the tone right away. The Trio pops in and out to support certain moments throughout. It’s a great addition to the overall show and adds a welcome warmth to the experience as a whole. 

Meet Toby, a charismatic country bumpkin-type narrator of the story who is super hard not to like. Whether he’s a distant member of our family or a family-friend, we’re all familiar with Toby. He’s the happy homespun hero, whose simple understanding of life and humanity always outwits those who view him as that same simpleton who, of course, is no match for the more refined, educated, or wealthy. He’s our guide as he steps in and out of the story we all know, a look at Cinderella. It is because we all know it so well, the writer, director (Morrie Enders), and ensemble can embrace the leeway that familiarity provides to add a new folksy framework as well as some super fun adjustments to the characters and storyline. Think Cinderella with some wink-winks and knowing nods. You get it. 

Our introduction to Dan Peters (Toby) is a mighty fine shimmy as he grooves to The Vintage Trio. Dan’s performance of the naïve but big-hearted Toby is charming and certainly keeps you smiling, curious what his next interaction with the remaining characters may bring. 

And those characters include a Mrs. Van Undersquire (her name takes a humorous beating throughout), played by Lynette Boyce. Just her hat makes you want to like her, but you cannot. She is the wicked stepmother, keeping Cindy (Cinderella of course) down and out, away from the upcoming ball and the prince. And, without spoiling anything, she is pretty dishonest and horrible. Even the Colonel’s dog (Ulysses) doesn’t like her. The Colonel (Marissa Gill Keyzer) keeps us on task, making sure that the Prince’s family fortune and titles don’t disappear from their rightful heir. Her only obstacle is a difficulty hearing clearly, which makes her conversations some of the most entertaining of the show, and to the chagrin of Mrs. Van UnderWATER. It’s an old gag, but it’s still funny. 

And it doesn’t take long for the Prince (Noah Mason) to recognize that his choice for a princess is pretty obvious. I don’t want to reveal too much. Let’s just say that the stepsisters have characteristics that make them undesirable. Even before the shoe incident. Olivia Sis and Zoe Tien absolutely run wild about the stage and their over-the-top stepsisters garner their share of chuckles. 

Just know that even though the stepsisters may be flawed, Cindy (Emily Moore) is not just some consolation prize, she seems a bright star in the household of dullish, deceptive women. She’s a hard worker, has dreams with an understanding of the fact that they aren’t just handed to you, and makes a ‘human’, almost immediate, connection with the Prince. Not to mention a graceful dancer. All the makings of a fine princess. (Side note: I hear Emily also helped out with the props, emphasis on Community here. Everyone pitches in however they can. Kudos.)

It’s no surprise that it all ends happily-ever-after for most of the folks here. Just desserts are handed out for the others, and we can all gather up our picnics and blankets with happy hearts and smiles all around. It’s certainly a great opportunity for a family outing on a summer evening. Thanks Lincoln Community Playhouse!  

If you go: You can catch A Toby Show July 20 (Havelock Park), 22 (Peter Pan Park), 27 (Trago Park), and 29 (Hazel Abel Park) at 7:00 pm. Performances are family friendly and FREE.  

Jamie Bullins is on the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now. 

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