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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.

Stage Planner: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Wizard of Oz,' PTSD drama 'Time Stands Still' 07/06/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 5:30pm]
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