Helen Hayes Nominees Partied Hardy and a Visit with Nominees Toby Orenstein & Larry Munsey by Carolyn Kelemen

The snowy rain throughout DC last night hardly dampened the warm, friendly spirit of theater folks gathered in the Hamilton Hotel’s chic downstairs lounge a la cabaret. The cozy room (with a stage and theatrical purple lighting) was the perfect setting for the Helen Hayes Awards’ Celebrate Excellence, dubbed by a twitter as “the party before the party and the after party” at the actual awards event on Monday, April 8th at The Warner Theatre.

The Helen Hayes nominees. Photo by Shannon Finney.

The Helen Hayes nominees. Photo by Shannon Finney.

The full list of 150 nominations in 26 categories can be found on the DC Metro Theater Arts Website. Buy tickets to the Helen Hayes Awards online.

Nonetheless, this little love note specifically toasts Toby Orenstein, founding director of Toby’s Dinner Theatre, and her co-director Larry Munsey for garnering the most nominations of any musical honored this past season.

Toby Orenstein.

Toby Orenstein

“I looked around the room and saw all these wonderful theater people,” Toby told me later. “Here’s this little theater in Columbia Maryland that’s up against Arena Stage and Signature Theater. I am absolutely thrilled to have been nominated.”

Larry Munsey (who has been nominated three times with Toby Orenstein) acknowledges the same honor in a telephone call earlier today. “Ditto,” he laughs, referring to the eight nominations for The Color Purple and Legally Blonde. As for last night’s party, Larry mingled. “The award night is heightened excitement, Munsey mentioned. “But this party is a little bit more relaxed. There’s no pressure, and it’s just for nominees.”

Larry Munsey

Larry Munsey

Both Orenstein and Munsey mingled and talked with friends I haven’t seen in a while. “We’re both so busy…it’s nice to have an evening to talk and hang out,” they agreed. They were both smiling in the class photo, available when the programs are printed.

So what’s next for these two theatrical dynamos?

“We are in the process of directing our next show together, In the Heights which opens May 2nd at Toby’s Dinner Theater of Columbia, South Entrance Road, Columbia, Maryland 21044. Reservations are required. Call (410) 730-8311, or go to their website.

And do check out the very cool Hamilton Hotel – 600 14th Street, N.W., in Washington, DC. near Metro Center.

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