It’s not surprising that ELIZABETH RAYCA, in Show Boat  at Toby’s Dinner Theatre  through March 19, finds inspiration from equally epic musicals Les Miserables and Ragtime. Relax and Take Ten with this two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee then get yourself to Toby’s to share her “Life Upon the Wicked Stage!”
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
The first show that ever had an effect on me was not one that I saw in person but one I heard. From the moment I heard the music from Les Miserables as a young girl I knew I wanted to perform. Hearing that score and seeing the effect it had on my older brother as he listened to it made me realize I wanted to be able to effect people in the same way that music did.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
The first show I was ever involved in was The Sound of Music in middle school. As I said in my first answer I had been singing Les Mis for years and my parents kept telling me I should audition for the drama club but I was hesitant. As soon as I was cast I was hooked.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Ragtime is probably my favorite show of all time (although I have to admit this was a tough question to answer as there are so many amazing shows out there). The book and score are both beautifully written and the message is so powerful that even though it represents a time long past it's still relevant to this day.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
I honestly can't think of a "horrible" day job I've had. I've worked at Panera, Macy's, and the YMCA and I enjoyed working at all three places. I enjoy working with all different kinds of people and learning about their lives and what makes us who we are.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
Thankfully my most embarrassing moment in theatre happened at a rehearsal and not during a live show. We were rehearsing The Producers and I was playing the part of Ulla. We were doing "The Prisoners of Love" number and all I had to do was walk on stage like a show girl dragging a ball and chain behind me. Well, the ball got stuck under the stairs and I tried yanking it out with my foot and lost my footing and fell flat on my face.
I am really enjoying the reactions from our audiences. It is so beautiful to look out at their faces during curtain call when we are singing "Can't Help Lovin’ Dat Man" and see them singing along. Some are smiling, some are crying but all are being affected and it is such an amazing feeling to know we have given them a special experience.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
I would have to say Mandy Patinkin. I would love to sit and chat with him about his career and what it must have been like during the height of his theatre days.
8) What is your dream role/job?
I have already had the pleasure of performing one of my dream roles, Mother in Ragtime. A dream role I haven't had the chance to play yet is Fantine in Les Miserables.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
Wow, again this is a very hard question to answer. I want to see the original cast of Sunday in the Park..., Evita, and Once Upon a Mattress but I guess the one I would want to see the most would be the original cast of Les Miserables since that was the show that started my love of theatre.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
I would tell an 8-year-old who is smitten with theatre to go out and find as many productions as they can to be a part of and to learn as much as they can while they are young because it will help them tremendously when they grow up and are looking to have a career in theatre. I would tell an MFA basically the same thing. Study and learn as much as you can. Soak up all of the advice and life experience from people around you as much as possible. You become a better actor when you learn it's not about you but the people around you and trusting and listening to them.
ELIZABETH RAYCA has been performing in musicals since seventh grade. She has a BFA from Penn State University and performed a contract with Disney Cruise Line. Since then her marriage has brought her to the D.C. area where she has been performing regularly for the past 8 years. Some of her favorite roles that she has performed for Toby's Dinner Theatre include Ulla in The Producers, Ado Annie in Oklahoma (Helen Hayes nominated), Alice in the The Addams Family and Mother in Ragtime (Helen Hayes nominated) and currently, Elizabeth is performing as Ellie Mae Chipley in Show Boat. She feels so blessed to be a part of this theatre community and to have the opportunity to perform while also growing her family. She is so thankful for her husband and their two little girls' support.