Thursday, June 21, 2018
Stage

Stage Planner: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Wizard of Oz,' PTSD drama 'Time Stands Still'

YELLOW BRICK ROAD: SARAH LASKO

Sarah Lasko, above, grew up on The Wizard of Oz. Now she plays Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage production, coming next week to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

"It reaches for that little bit of nostalgia that we all hold for it," Lasko said.

A native of Rockville, Md., Lasko is a triple threat, classically trained in acting, singing and dance. A diverse resume includes roles as Abigail Williams in The Crucible and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, singing at New York's Kennedy Center and dancing in The Nutcracker. She started with the North American tour of The Wizard of Oz in December. The show pays homage to the Oscar-winning film, with new songs by Webber and lyricist Tim Rice.

Lasko loved Wicked, and believes that musical might have influenced this new Wizard, which is "a little more real and more dark" than previous versions. She has also enjoyed working with Shani Hadjian, who has a mean cackle as the Wicked Witch of the West.

"She's very funny," Lasko said. "The audience is a little sad when I throw water on her."

Tampa marks the tour's last stop. Lasko said she is open to playing Dorothy again.

"When people see it, they have such a visceral connection to the story and the character," she said. "Getting to do it on stage just furthers that connection."

Until July 17, she'll be singing Over the Rainbow in a clear, high-arcing soprano. The song has been covered countless times, famously so by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy and Israel Ka'ano'i Kamakawiwo'ole. Asked who performed the best version of the Over the Rainbow, Lasko didn't hesitate.

"Judy Garland," she said. "There is no remake of that song that could be better than the original." The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and July 14; 8 p.m. July 15; 2 and 8 p.m. July 16; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. July 17 at the Straz Center's Carol Morsani Hall, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. The July 14 performance is sign-language interpreted. $32.50-$75.50. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

LIFE AFTER WAR: TIME STANDS STILL

Jobsite Theater takes on war with the opening of Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies. The play centers on James and Sarah, journalists who met in Iraq. It covers PTSD and relationships, with side roads into debates of art and the role of journalists who cover war.

David Jenkins, Jobsite's producing artistic director, plays James. Summer Bohnenkamp, the Straz Center's senior director of marketing and Jenkins' wife, directs.

Time Stands Still is "a contemporary, timely piece" that suits Jobsite's strengths, Jenkins said.

Margulies is known for his innovative use of dialogue, with characters interrupting each other or talking at the same time. His ability to render realistic characters led to a Pulitzer for Dinner With Friends.

"He clearly has an ear for (dialogue)," Jenkins said. "It rolls like real conversation."

His counterpart, Joanna Sycz, left, brings useful life experience to the role of Sarah. She served as creative director of an advertising agency in the United Arab Emirates.

"I definitely draw on experience, working with people side by side," said Sycz, a native of Krakow, Poland, and a veteran of Tampa Bay stages.

As Sarah heals from injuries sustained in Iraq, James bears psychological scars, all of which affects their chemistry.

"One word that comes into my head is 'expectations,' " Sycz said. "What is she expecting of him and what is he expecting of her? What is our relationship now about, when we are no longer subjected to this constantly heightened (wartime) life?"

The show also features Brian Shea as Richard, the couple's former editor, and Maggie Mularz as Mandy, Richard's much younger girlfriend. It opens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. It runs through July 31 at the Straz Center's Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $28. A preview at 8 Thursday costs $14. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

PASSING THROUGH: CLAYTON ENGLISH, GREG HAHN

Clayton English, a comedic actor known for playing Peanut on Tyler Perry's House of Payne sitcom, kicks off a four-day run at the Tampa Improv Thursday. The winner of NBC's most recent Last Comic Standing is off to a great start, booking appearances from Tampa to London. Shows start at 8 Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. $20-$22. (813) 864-4000. improvtampa.com.

Meanwhile, veteran comic Greg Hahn headlines at Side Splitters Comedy Club. The former Marine Corps captain has appeared in independent films and on late night TV. Hahn takes the mic at 8:30 Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 6, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday; and 7 p.m. Sunday at Side Splitters Comedy Club, 12938 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. $10-$16.50. (813) 960-1197. sidesplitterscomedy.com.

   
Comments
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Published: 06/20/18
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18