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Friday, February 03, 2017

‘Show Boat’ Steams On at Toby’s

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
‘Show Boat’ Steams On at Toby’s credit: Jenna Pinchbeck

Famous riverboat musical, without the hard edges

Want a break from politics? Audiences can take comfort in the romance and escapism in full bloom at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Running until March 19th, Toby’s production of Show Boat follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on The Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat. The performance bristles with a scintillating assemblage of performers. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with performer Russell Rinker, who plays Gaylord Ravenal.

“The Show Boat story exists in many incarnations: the original novel, the movie, the various stage productions. Ours is a slightly abridged version of the story, without a lot of the grittier side-plots and characters,” Rinker explained. “In our story, Ravenal is a fun-loving gentleman, a wanderer, and of course a riverboat gambler. He’s basically a good guy, drifting down the river of life, looking for his next adventure. On a deeper level though, he thinks it might be time for him to settle down, if he could just meet the right woman. And early on in our show, he does.”

Rinker added, that though his character falls in love during the performance, it’s not long before the calm waters turn rough and choppy.

“Without giving away the plot, [Ravenal] falls in love with Magnolia, whose father runs the Cotton Blossom show boat, and the two struggle to have a happy life together. But in an effort to do what he thinks is best, he makes some bad choices. He hurts others, but not maliciously. His faults lie in not being true to himself, and giving in to fear.”

Rinker’s powerful performance as Ravenal resonates with audiences.

The performer not only has strong acting prowess and presence but a remarkable voice. “I’ve been acting, singing, and playing the piano since age four. I always knew I wanted to be a performer. I double-majored in theater and English at the College of William and Mary, then immediately began working in regional theaters up and down the east coast,” he tells me.

Rinker continued on to perform in a vast array of entertainment ranging from Shakespeare and musicals to Wild West stunt shows and opera. “I always did music on the side.” Rinker added, “I was in bands, played solo gigs, etc.” Rinker’s life changed dramatically when he auditioned for the famed Blue Man Group. “Out of thousands of auditionees, I was lucky enough to get the job and moved to Las Vegas, headlining as a Blue Man on The Strip for five years.” After parting on good terms, Rinker moved to Los Angeles for a few years before returning back to the Blue Man Group for a two-year North American tour. “After that I moved back to the east coast to be close to my family and return to my performing roots.”

Rinker thoroughly enjoys performing musicals and if given the chance, he already has his dream roles in mind. “One thing I love about the acting profession is getting the chance to perform a wide variety of characters. I would love to play Javert in Les Miserables. And if I ever do, my mother can die a happy woman.” Rinker laughed. “But my ultimate dream role is Sweeney Todd. I understudied the role last summer and I know I’ll get the chance to do it someday. I’ve been in love with that show for 20 years. On the flip side of all of this, I would love to play Harold Hill in The Music Man again. I played it at a summer stock company in 2015 and it was honestly the best work I’ve ever done. Toby, if you’re reading this, let’s do The Music Man!”

For more information on Show Boat at Toby’s visit Tobysdinnertheatre.com.

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