By Frankie Kujawa
Toby’s Dinner Theatre’s production of “Elf: The Musical” wraps up this week after a bringing the spirit of Christmas to the hearts of all theatregoers this summer. Running until Sunday, August 22nd, “Elf: The Musical” is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. DeCarlo Raspberry, who plays Santa in the production, recently chatted regarding his role in the production.
“You’ll find [Toby’s] “Elf” to be the funny, quirky, full of one-liner’s type of show that is similar to the movie, but also very different,” Raspberry began. “The difference with this [show] is Santa narrates the musical along with Mrs. Claus. It’s a really cute musical. It’s a good, fun time with lots of jokes for children of all ages.”
As Santa in this production, Raspberry’s character is a Toby’s first. “I am the first black male to ever play a Santa role at Toby’s. He’s fun and jolly. My Santa is very quick. He has jokes up his sleeve, but he’s definitely real. [Audiences] get to see a Santa that is just open and honest. [Santa] opens the show and he talks about how he’s relaxing, but everyone comes [there] for Christmas. He’ll remind you of that uncle that everyone has in their family. You know, the uncle that likes to watch the game, eat Doritos and kick up his feet in his slippers. He’s ‘that type’ of guy. So, my Santa does remind me of an uncle-type.”
In recent years, Raspberry has dazzled audiences at Toby’s. The Helen Hayes-award winner grew up in the Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia area before eventually settling into Prince George’s County for high school. After attending Suitland High School, where he studied in the visual arts program, Raspberry went on to eventually attend the Boston Conservatory for opera performance. “I realized that I enjoyed singing classical music. It wasn’t until high school that I started taking voice lessons. I always sang in choirs as a kid, but I took it seriously in high school. I then made the decision that I was going to attend a conservatory, and that music was something I definitely wanted to pursue.”
It wasn’t until Raspberry returned back to the area that he eventually found a love for musical theatre. “I thought I’d give musical theatre a try and found that I really was good at it. I found a new love in musical theatre.”
Putting on a performance in the times of Covid-19 has definitely been a daunting task, but Toby’s has put in many precautions to make the audiences feel as safe and comfortable, while enjoying a live performance. “The waiters all wear our masks when we’re on the floor,” Raspberry explained. “We still have precautions in place like there’s no salad bar or ice cream bar. We have brought back the buffet, but it is of course limited to how many can go up there. Also, the employees are wearing gloves while working it. The house is also not as full. The house is capped off at a certain amount that provides both space and distance for everyone.”
For more information on safety protocols, as well as Toby’s upcoming production of “Godspell” (Running August 27th – October 31st), please visit: tobysdinnertheatre.com/