North drama students stage old-fashioned fairytale fun with ‘A Toby Show’

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 7, 2021

 The cast of Grosse Pointe North High School Drama Club’s “A Toby Show” includes, standing  in the back, from left, Sarah Lawlis as Sophia and Amanda “Mandi” Campo as Mauderina,  and, seated in front, Anaya Winesberry as Cindy and Jake Sachs as Toby.

The cast of Grosse Pointe North High School Drama Club’s “A Toby Show” includes, standing in the back, from left, Sarah Lawlis as Sophia and Amanda “Mandi” Campo as Mauderina, and, seated in front, Anaya Winesberry as Cindy and Jake Sachs as Toby.

Photo provided by Tim Lawlis

Advertisement

GROSSE POINTE WOODS/FARMS — After more than a year without live theater because of COVID-19, the Grosse Pointe North High School Drama Club is reopening the curtain with a fun and folksy production for the whole family.

“A Toby Show” — which will be staged at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 16, in the Grosse Pointe South High School Auditorium in Grosse Pointe Farms — brings a unique style of American theater back to life. Toby shows were touring productions in the early 1900s that brought specialty acts and three-act plays to small American towns. Each Toby show featured a country fellow named Toby who uses his common sense, sincerity and wit to outsmart the arrogant city slickers around him.

North’s Toby show production centers on a Cinderella-esque character named Cindy — played by senior Anaya Winesberry, of Harper Woods — who’s aided in her quest for her lost slipper and the hand of the prince by Toby, who plays a comical version of the fairy godmother.

After not being able to do theater for about two years because of COVID-19, junior Jake Sachs, of Grosse Pointe Shores — who plays Toby — is thrilled to be back onstage and thinks this is the ideal show to relaunch live theater.

“It’s super high-energy,” Sachs said. “It’s fun. … It’s a new, refreshing start.”

Winesberry, in her first nonmusical role, said she sees Cindy not as a servant but as a young woman in a challenging situation who has obstacles to overcome.

“She’s hoping to be happy and find love, and that made me relate to her, because everyone’s looking to find happiness and love in life,” Winesberry said.

Senior Sarah Lawlis, of Grosse Pointe Woods, plays Sophia, one of Cindy’s evil stepsisters. Lawlis is a good vocalist in real life, but she had to learn a different skill for this role.

“Sophia sings all of her lines,” Lawlis said. “She thinks she’s an amazing opera singer and really, she’s terrible. … Learning to sing badly and doing it in a healthy way is really fun.”

Senior Jamison Townsend, of Harper Woods, a Mosaic Youth Theatre veteran, is concluding his high school theatrical career with this production. He plays the prince.

“At first, it was overwhelming because I haven’t done it in such a long time,” Townsend said of returning to the stage. “We all have such chemistry together.”

That chemistry is no accident. Lawlis said she, Winesberry and fellow evil stepsister, senior Amanda “Mandi” Campo, as Mauderina, are “all such close friends, it’s fun to pretend to hate each other.”

“I have had so much fun with this cast,” Winesberry said.

The cast also includes Dulcinea Licavoli and Ben Kociba.

Appearing as “specialty acts” performing everything from tap dancing to comical poetry are Gabrielle “Bee” Bielak, Meaghan N. Bland, Benjamin Graham, Chloe Harb, Karly Harris, Lauren Huizdos, Sloane O’Neill, Emily Smith and Naima Wright.

Lynn Dennis, a North sophomore and Grosse Pointe Farms resident, is making her theatrical directing debut with this show, after having written and directed movies with her sister and cousins. She wanted to bring the lighthearted, heartwarming elements of this show out, along with the humor.

“It’s just happy and fun,” Dennis said. “I wanted to make people happy in a sad time.”

Although the show is aimed at families with young kids, the cast says it works for adults, as well.

“You’re going to laugh,” Winesberry said. “It’s a very fun, over-the-top show.”

In true Toby show tradition, there will be singalongs, preshow entertainment and old-school concessions, including pink lemonade and popcorn.

“We are trying to make it as authentic to the mid-1900s as possible,” newly named North Theater Director Michael A. Gravame said in a press release.

Lending a further authentic period touch is South’s auditorium, which was built in 1928.

Grosse Pointe South High School is located at 11 Grosse Pointe South Blvd. in Grosse Pointe Farms. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students and young children. Tickets can only be purchased using cash and will be sold at the door starting 90 minutes before showtime.

Advertisement