History of The Young Columbians

In 1975, in preparing to celebrate the Bicentennial, Toby Orenstein, founder and Artistic Director of Toby’s Dinner Theatre received a special request to produce an evening of American poetry to be performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  She accepted the challenge, however, when she contemplated America’s greatest contributions to the Arts, the American musical kept playing in her head.  She sat around the piano with her colleagues and began to trace United States history through song and dance. This collaboration would give birth to the “Spirit of America Show.”  June 14, 1975, on Flag Day, through song, dance, monologue and brilliant costume changes, the history of our great Nation unfolded onstage before a riveted and enthusiastic audience performed by the newly founded Young Columbians.   

The show was so well received that The Young Columbians toured stages across the country with their program of patriotic songs. Their performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. was aired on television. Time Magazine called the performance “[…] one of the best productions of the bicentennial.” A copy of that television program was even placed in the nation’s bicentennial time capsule.

45 years later, The Young Columbians continue to thrive. Today’s troupe performs with a polished innocence and freshness rarely seen in our youth today. Their repertoire includes the original  “The Spirit of America” along with “Celebrate Broadway,” and “Celebrate the Holidays.” The Young Columbians have had the great honor of performing at The White House Ellipse for the National Tree Lighting Event, Wolf Trap, Washington DC Temple, Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Smith Theatre, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the Columbia Lake Front.   

The Original Young Columbians, 1975

Former Young Columbians have made headlines. 

Edward Norton: Academy Award nominee and Golden-globe winning actor
Caroline Bowman: has starred as both Eva Peron in the national tour of “Evita” Elsa in the national tour of “Frozen”and Elphaba in the Broadway Production of “Wicked”
Brynn Willians: Broadway credits include: Bye, Bye Birdie, The SpongeBob, Squarepants the Musical and 13 to name a few.
Alan Wiggins: Broadway credits include: The Lion King, Beautiful and Pretty Woman
Risa Binder – Emmy-Nominated Country Artist