Jacob Toth Brings Broadway to Toledo, Helps Community Theater Thrive

Jacob Toth has superior Broadway experience. From performing on stage with greats like Harvey Fierstein and Laura Bell Bundy to seeing Dolly Parton’s collection of wigs in her home, Toth has stories from his time on Broadway that would universally impress. 

Those aren’t the stories he shares, though, when recounting his exciting life of performing. Instead, what he remembers are the lessons he’s learned, the friends he’s made and the way he can take his experience and bring it back to Toledo,  the community where he grew up.  “I loved growing up here,” Toth said. “To be able to come back and teach Broadway choreography, to give kids that confidence… is life changing.”

Broadway baby

Toth grew up in Oregon, OH and has loved the thrill of performing since a young age. He gravitated toward the footlights during his childhood and in his high school theater program. 

Toth studied music education at Miami University while still performing. One week after graduating, Toth was selected as a performer by the Royal Caribbean Group, leading to five years of performing on seven different cruise ships, singing and dancing around the world.

Flexibility is a priority for Toth – he eschews routine, striving to shake things up with new performances, jobs and locations.  “I think it’s the only way that I survived – I would’ve become bored so easily,” Toth said. 

He left Royal Caribbean feeling accomplished and hungry for more performing. Then a close, New York City-dwelling friend convinced him to come to the City and make a concerted effort to be a Broadway performer.  Toth moved to a life of scrapping for work accompanied by a lot of rejection. The experience hardened him, but also taught him a lot about accountability and the importance of separating your personal and professional life. He auditioned more than 300 times before he eventually got a gig. “You learn so much about yourself and what you’re able to do,” Toth said. “Luckily for me, I got a gig.”

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Making the decision to be a small fish in a big pond paid off when Toth was cast in Barry Manilow’s Copacabana for a US and Canada tour. Following that tour, Toth entered the world of precision choreography,spending two years with the Fosse international tour. 

Those experiences led to Toth’s big break: being cast as Brad in Hairspray on Broadway. He worked with Broadway legends like Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell. Forming a relationship with them led him to the cast of Broadway’s Legally Blonde as a featured dancer. 

Choreographing a change

With those Broadway performing credits, Toth decided he was interested in choreographing, too. At first, he did both performance and choreography. However, he received advice that no one would legitimize him as a director/choreographer until he left performing behind.

When he made the decision to commit to directing, Toth received a request from Kathleen Marshall, a Tony Award-winning choreographer, to be an assistant, choreographing Grease on Broadway. He adored the people and the creativity choreographing brought him.

“Have I done Broadway? Yes. Do I think I’ve made it? No, but I stop and breathe in the fact that I went and lived in New York City for almost 20 years and did Broadway shows. That’s a huge accomplishment,” Toth admits.

After the success of Grease, Toth had other jobs, including his role as artistic director for The Encore Theatre Company in North Carolina. He then learned that his friends from Royal Caribbean had taken over operations and they welcomed him as a show director/choreographer. He now creates and coordinates shows for the ship. 

Job security along with flexibility is key for Toth. He is creating and teaching performers, with a new cast every six months. Half of his year he works on the ship, and the other half he spends living in Northwest Ohio with his parents. 

Connecting with community

Being close to his parents is a huge factor leading to Toth’s return to the area. His dedication to helping local theater groups thrive allows him to perform, choreograph and direct locally.“The best part of it for me is that teaching side,” Toth said. “That was my connection to coming back here.”

Toth gives community theater players accolades because, unlike his performing career, theater is not a job for them. These local performers are expected to work in evening rehearsals after working day jobs, caring for families and handling other daily responsibilities. More than anything, though, Toth is proud to be able to share his experience with the community he grew up in.

“It’s bittersweet because as performers, we never feel like our journey’s done,” Toth said. “I’m hoping the work I have done and the relationships I have made will foster that growth (in community theater).”

Toth can be contacted at 917-721-5838 or [email protected]

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