There’s no place like home, and Rockville native Sarah Lasko doesn’t need a wizard’s help to get there. The actress just needs to wait one more week until the North American tour of The Wizard of Oz blows in to D.C.
After months of clicking her ruby red slippers on stages across the country, Lasko will perform the role of Dorothy at The National Theatre, a treat for a young woman who grew up sitting in the audience.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment since we opened,” she says. “I couldn’t wait to bring it to D.C. and to perform at the National, because I’ve seen shows at the National. I grew up watching shows at the National.”
This stage version of the timeless film features all the songs audiences expect plus new ones by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s a new production, but Lasko says sweet, pure-hearted Dorothy has the same appeal in 2016 as she did in 1939.
“She doesn’t haven’t an agenda as a character, and I feel like that’s really fun to play because that’s not how most people are,” Lasko says. “I just love getting to experience the show through her eyes because I feel like Dorothy is having the same reaction to what’s going on that the audience is. She’s mirroring what they’re experiencing, meeting these crazy characters like the Wicked Witch and Scarecrow and Lion and Glinda.”
She says that though it’s set nearly a century ago, The Wizard of Oz is a timeless story. “The message of the show and the characters are so universal and relatable even now,” she says, “I feel like it also touches that little bit of nostalgia in all of us because we all watched this movie as children and fell in love with it as children.”
Lasko says that familiarity with the story makes her job easier. “People are willing and ready to accept the world of Oz and the world of Kansas when they sit down,” she says, adding that the technical elements of this production help audience members believe in that world over the rainbow.
“The production values are incredible, and so I feel like the second people sit down they get to experience the browns and the sepias of Kansas in the set design, and the lighting and the costumes,” she says, “it really is an other-worldly experience for people.”
This will be Lasko’s first time performing at the National. However, audience members might recognize the University of Maryland alumna from her work on other local stages. “I love the D.C. Metro area, because there’s so much theater and there are so many great companies to work with,” says Lasko, who doesn’t reveal her age.
Her local credits include work at Montgomery College, Rockville Musical Theatre, The Keegan Theatre, Artists’ Initiative, Signature Theatre, Imagination Stage and the Kennedy Center.
“I feel like I have grown up in this really great community where the arts are really valued and there’s such great work,” she says.
Kathryn Chase Bryer, associate artistic director at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage, directed Lasko last summer in Double Trouble, a musical adaptation of The Parent Trap, in which Lasko played unsuspecting twin sister Lisa.
If the young starring lady does have an ego, Bryer says she didn’t notice it. Lasko is not an actor who is sensitive to having her ideas shot down, Bryer says.
“She was a person who would give me 10 different ideas and say, ‘Pick which one you like,’ and that’s just so much fun to work with,” she says. “For her, it was a real collaboration, and I think she felt the importance of what we were doing in terms of it being a new play and musical.
“I watched her on Facebook all year while she was touring, and I think the thing that struck me the most about her … was how curious she is, and how every moment is an opportunity,” Bryer says. “She would post these little moments that were so sweet and important to her that normally we don’t all notice” — moments that included like how much Lasko appreciates working and snuggling with her canine co-star, Nigel (Toto).
Bryer notes that for Lasko to land such a substantial role a few years out of college is “a pretty big break,” which does not happen often. It boils down to a combination of being in the right place at the right time and having a lot of talent. Lasko certainly has the latter, Bryer says. “I expect to see her on Broadway in the next couple of years, certainly.”
The Wizard of Oz is Lasko’s first national tour, and has been an “incredible” experience.
“I feel really lucky kind of getting to do my first national tour with such a massive, beautiful show, playing the lead,” she says. “I think that’s just really unique and exciting, and I feel like I’m being spoiled on this tour because we’re seeing all of these great cities and really getting a chance to sit down in them for one to two weeks, which is great.”
The Wizard of Oz runs at the National Theatre through May 15.
Lauren Landau is a Washington-area writer.