Now I know we’re not in Kansas!Entertainment Feature Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
Meet Dorothy and Scarecrow from the new production of The Wizard of Oz landing in San Diego March 15
What can one say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said already?
The film premiered in 1939 starring a very young Judy Garland, who was not the first choice, in fact it is said in some circles that she was third choice, behind Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin.
Whatever rumor is true doesn’t really matter at this point. Garland, at the tender age of 16, received a juvenile Academy Award for the role of Dorothy Gale and the song she sang, “Over the Rainbow” also won an Academy Award.
It’s safe to say The Wizard of Oz will be around for some time to come.
The film version was originally brought to the stage in 1987 by the Royal Shakespeare Company and in 2011 a new version of the show with additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice premiered in London’s West End.
The show hit the road in 2013 closing a year later, and reopening this past December.
This current version will ease on down the road to San Diego and will run from March 15-20.
The gingham dress, “Over the Rainbow,” Elmira Gulch and yes Toto too will all be here ready to take you back to Kansas and the magical Land of Oz, with the help of a tornado and a pair of red sequined shoes.
The role of Dorothy isn’t a role, or a pair of shoes that most actors would want to fill given the Garland history, but newcomer Sarah Lasko was up to the challenge.
Lasko’s last callback was for none other than the head honcho himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“Getting the call was incredible!” Lasko said. “I saw my manager’s name pop up on my phone and knew I was going to find out either way at that moment. It had been three weeks since the final callback where they put everything on tape and sent it off for Webber and the London creatives to give final approval, so I had been agonizing over it up to that point. When he told me I had gotten Dorothy, I started screaming and jumping up and down in the hallway, and people came out of the administrative offices of the theater to see if I was OK … it was a wonderful blur of a day.”
Lasko hails from Rockville, Md. and was raised by parents who met on the musical theater stage. She was raised listening to the likes of Sondheim and classic musical theater. Oz was one of the first films she remembers seeing and has a vivid memory of the flying monkeys and of course she wanted to be Judy Garland.
Lasko finally gets her chance with Oz.
“During rehearsals,” Lasko said, “I was given a good amount of freedom in finding that balance between nodding to Garland’s legacy in the role and being able to make it my own, and I feel happy with what came of that. When people see the show, I think they can’t help but see some of Judy Garland in the character because that role was so inherently hers, but I don’t want to be a poor imitation of her iconic performance, so I try to be as truthful as possible playing the role in my own way. And I think my Dorothy has a bit more humor to her than what might be expected.”
In the film Dorothy says to Scarecrow “I think I’ll miss you most of all.” As luck would have it, Lasko is in very good hands where the Scarecrow is concerned. Southern Californian actor Morgan Reynolds plays the man without a brain and as expected, his favorite part of the show is the saying goodbye scene.
“I have so many favorite moments in the show,” Reynolds confessed. “I have to say my favorite is our goodbye scene to Dorothy. I have grown attached to my co-stars and after we dance and sing, leaving sweat and tears on our journey to see the Wizard, once we finally have to say our goodbyes we can all lean on each other for a second and really relish in the moments we’ve just had together for the past hour and a half. It’s really something special that you don’t get in most shows.”
Reynolds grew up on the film as well and remembers a particular Halloween evening that he feels could have been the precursor to his current acting gig.
“My first memory of the film was when I was about 12 years old,” Reynolds said. “My siblings and I went as Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tinman for Halloween (I believe that to be my first “dress rehearsal”)! Being a gay man, I’ve always had some unknown draw to The Wizard of Oz and always knew I would have something to do with it in my future. There has always been signs pointing to me getting this role before I signed my contract, which made it all the more surreal to step on that yellow brick road for the first time.”
Much like Sandy in Annie, Toto could very possibly steal the spotlight from his costars, unintentionally. But both Lasko and Reynolds have only glowing reviews for their pint sized costar.
“Toto is a dream,” Lasko said. “I wish I could require time with a cuddly animal in every show contract from now on. Nigel (who is the star) and Loki (who is the understudy) are both rescue cairn terriers who are owned and trained by Bill Berloni of William Berloni Theatrical Animals. Definitely one of the coolest parts of this whole experience has been learning how to be an animal handler and bonding with the dogs. And we have sleepovers sometimes, so that’s an added perk.”
Reynolds echos Lasko’s sentiments loud and clear!
“Nigel, and Loki, are some of the most professional actors I’ve ever worked with!” he said. “We have all grown so attached to them traveling on the road, and they very much bring us all together as a family. They are constant professionals on the stage and then love to cuddle us after the show!”
We all have a special place in our hearts, oddly enough, when it comes to The Wizard of Oz. Whether it’s the munchkins, Glinda the Good Witch, the Poppies or making sure Dorothy gets home, it brings us all back to a specific time in our lives.
We also all know the outcome, but that doesn’t stop us from mimicking those famous lines we’ve heard a million times before and getting lost in this age-old story.
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