The Phantom of the Opera - The Company performs Masquerade - photo by Alastair Muir
The Phantom of the Opera - The Company performs Masquerade - photo by Alastair Muir

The Phantom of the Opera Dazzles at Kennedy Center

Theatergoers in D.C. enjoyed a dazzling performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  The Phantom of the Opera this past weekend. Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux,  The Phantom of the Opera tells the dark story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command. Against the score written by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe,  Phantom is story-line spiced with moments of laughter, suspense and intense vocals and it is no wonder that this stunning story plot is the longest running musical in Broadway history.

With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of Phantom is performed by a stellar cast and orchestra of fifty-two, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America.

Starring as the Phantom, Chris Mann, originally of  The Voice, brings a powerful voice and enigmatic fever to the role, and especially shines in his climactic solo, “The Point of No Return.” Kaitlyn Davis plays a gracefully and polished Christine Daaè, and sparkled in her magical solos, “Think of Me” and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Finally, Storm Lineberger excels as the zealous Viscount Raoul, faithfully devoted in his beautiful duet with Christine in “All I Ask of You.” Jacquelynne Fontaine as the Prima Donna soprano Carlotta Giudicelli delivers as the perfect comedic intermediary while David Benoit as Monsieur Firmin and Price Waldman as Monsieur André also dazzle with their playful jesting.

Between the stunning scenery and orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber, this Phantom is a must-see and will leave you breathless. Click here for tickets.

Photo: The Phantom of the Opera – The Company performs Masquerade – photo by Alastair Muir

Andrew Knox, Marla Caceres, Ryan Asher, Sayjal Joshi, Tyler Davis, Ross Taylor - Photo by Scott Suchman
Andrew Knox, Marla Caceres, Ryan Asher, Sayjal Joshi, Tyler Davis, Ross Taylor - Photo by Scott Suchman

The Second City’s ‘Almost Accurate Guide to America’: A Sprint Through History

When we really think about how long the America we learned about in history class has been around, it’s just a flash in the pan of the history of the world. The six comedians in Chicago comedy group The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America, playing at the Kennedy Center this month as part of the District of Comedy Festival, certainly make it feel that way, too. A smorgasbord of sketches, one-liners, improv routines and even a Hamilton parody fly at the audience in what turns out to be a hilarious – and almost tiring – show.

No sketch show ever works 100 percent of the time, but The Second City kicks off the proceedings of the show with a lot more hits than misses, touching upon and providing a satirical look at many of today’s hottest topics, including our presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees. Cast member Andrew Knox certainly must be recognized for what may be the best Trump impression I’ve seen so far in this election cycle.

The show does lose a little steam after intermission, but not for lack of trying or energy. The cast, including Knox, Ryan Asher, Marla Caceres, Tyler Davis, Sayjal Joshi and Ross Taylor, all performed tremendously. Rather, the second act reaches a little more out there, and as a result, swings and misses a tad more than in the first half. But, to stick with the baseball analogies, you still have to love their batting average.

Special credit must also be given to the cast’s combined ability as improvisers. While the show is primarily performed in sketches, the times that they did include the audience in helping to establish scenes for them to mold were truly impressive.

But this is a show about America in our nation’s capital during an election year, so how the political wackiness that currently makes up our government is displayed is a big part of whether or not this show is a success.

Unsurprisingly, there was a clear left-leaning perspective, but that did not prevent the comedians from taking shots at Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It was all of government, though, that ultimately found itself in the bull’s-eye of this group, and to hilarious effect.

You could say that it’s easy to make comedy based on the recent actions of our government, but The Second City has still created a spectacular vehicle to laugh at the madness.

The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America is currently playing in the Theater Lab at the Kennedy Center through July 31. Tickets are $49-$65.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;www.kennedy-center.org

Photo caption: Andrew Knox, Marla Caceres, Ryan Asher, Sayjal Joshi, Tyler Davis and Ross Taylor of The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America at the Kennedy Center
Photo credit: Scott Suchman

Clayton Pelham
Photo credit: Courtesy of Faction of Fools Theatre Company

Clayton Pelham Gets Physical for ‘The Miser’

At 28-years old, Clayton Pelham jumps on tables and speaks in a French accent for work. He’s neither French nor a parkour expert, but his current job requires both nimbleness of tongue and physical durability. Pelham is an actor.

His career path has been anything but boring, leading him from DC to Atlanta to Los Angeles before returning to the nation’s capital to finish his training at Studio Theatre’s Acting Conservatory in 2015. Pelham has always found success in his undying desire to bring joy to an audience.

This weekend, Pelham and the rest of DC’s Faction of Fools Theatre Company will put a close to their latest show, Molière’s The Miser. Before he takes the stage tonight, On Tap got a chance to speak with the young performer about his character’s love lust, the sometimes physical exertion in his roles and his level of silliness.

On Tap: Tell me a little about the play, and what drew you toward the characters Cléante and Maître Jacques?
Clayton Pelham:
Cléante is young, naive and foolishly in love. You can’t go wrong with playing a lover. It’s very fun and I guess that’s what drew me to the character – just the challenge of finding the innocence in everything he’s saying and doing. Everything for him is dire, do or die. It’s fun to play that. Jacques is really fun. Playing him is very physically demanding, and I find myself doing a lot of stretching and testing myself physically. It has to be clean and coordinated, too. It’s not just a bunch of people jumping on tables.

OT: Do you have any similarities to the characters?
CP:
I always start from a place of self. What do I recognize in my characters and in myself? And I amplify these things. For this play, it’s that Cléante is an optimist and a hopeless romantic. I kind of relate to that, wanting to pursue that special someone out there. And the youngness of it – the acting foolishly out of desires. For Jacques, it took me a long time to develop. It was almost like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. I had to work on the voice, the characterization, the physical part and how the mannerisms are. Once it came together, and even right before the opening, I was still making adjustments to the character.

OT: What drew you to the fast, silly, physical commedia dell’arte theatre form?
CP: I thought I could take on the challenge with commedia dell’arte, and I knew it was something different. I knew it would stretch me in something that was a totally different form of acting. I didn’t want to just stick with dramatic roles – my comfort zone. I wanted to be flexible. I wanted the challenge artistically. When I felt like I was getting the hang of these very physical shows, I thought it was my niche, and this show has proven that I’m more capable of handling these demanding shows. It’s made me aware of what I’m capable of.

OT: How did you get into acting? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
CP: I was introduced to Studio Theatre when I was 17, and I worked in [Studio’s] young actor’s ensemble until I turned 18. Then I wanted to try an adult class with older actors. I was able to get so much out of working with people with so much life experience. You could just see and feel the emotions, and you can’t get it from a bunch of 18-year olds. I did my final class [at Studio], a performance of Fences, and after that I felt so full, and that’s when I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I felt so alive from it. It was one of my favorite performances as a young actor, because I knew I was good at it.

OT: Would you describe yourself as a silly person?
CP: Yeah, I’m silly. But it’s a dry silliness. I think of times when I’m with my niece. The silliness comes out, especially with kids. When I’m working with children and teaching them to act, it’s almost a requirement to be silly. That’s sort of how I am with an audience as well, depending on the show.

The Miser runs until Sunday, June 26. Tickets are $12-$25.

Gallaudet University’s Eastman Studio Theatre: 800 Florida Ave. NE, DC;www.factionoffools.org

Photo caption: Clayton Pelham in The Miser
Photo credit: Courtesy of Faction of Fools Theatre Company

AFI Docs film festival,
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jolson Creative PR Group

‘Phil’s Camino’ Continues Trek at AFI Docs

The Camino de Santiago has received the silver screen treatment a couple of times in recent years, including in the 2010 feature film The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. The stories that come from this famed pilgrimage trail traversing across Spain (and other parts of Europe) to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela and the shrine of St. James are plenty ripe for movie treatment. And one remarkable story in particular will be showcased at the AFI Docs film festival, which runs downtown and in Silver Spring, Md. through this Sunday, June 26.

Filmmaker Annie O’Neil, a Georgetown graduate (class of ’81) has had a hand in telling her own and others’ stories from the Camino as a participant and producer in the documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. Following the completion of that documentary, O’Neil discovered another Camino almost as far from Spain as you can get, but that she felt spoke just as true to the experience she and countless other had had.

After watching Walking the Camino, Seattle native Phil Volker, who is suffering from stage-four cancer, reached out to O’Neil to tell her how much the film meant to him, and how he had created a Camino of his very own in his backyard. He was walking and keeping track of his journey as if he was on the real thing. He signed his letter to O’Neil with a request: “Come walk with me. Love, Phil.” As fortune would have it, O’Neil and her husband were on their way up to Seattle for a business trip, and so she took the time to meet with Volker.

“When we were sitting at his kitchen table with his wife getting ready to walk, I felt exactly the same way I had felt in Spain right before walking the actual Camino,” O’Neil says. “I just felt like he had created something really wonderful.”

O’Neil quickly realized that this was a story that was worth putting on film. But Volker was a little more skeptical.

“I’m just a guy walking in the mud,” he told O’Neil.

But, in a stroke of luck that has led O’Neil to joke that one of the executive producers on the film was St. James himself, Volker was granted a chemo holiday by his doctors, giving him 28 days to travel to Spain and walk the Camino. His trip may serve as the narrative arc of the short documentary, but it is not the message that O’Neil found or audience members are likely to take away.

By creating his own Camino in the woods near Seattle, O’Neil says Volker did “what we all forget to do, which is just to start and let it be different than what we had planned it to be. He just started from where he was, and I love that message that we can all start exactly from where we are.”

In addition to his Seattle Camino and the one in Spain, Phil’s walk – thanks to this film – has taken him and O’Neil to South by Southwest and the deadCenter Film Festival, and will take them to a number of more over the next few months (the film will be screened at three festivals this week, including AFI). And according to O’Neil, Phil is just enjoying the ride.

“He says that he is grateful for three things in his life,” O’Neil explains. “The Camino, being a Catholic and cancer.”

O’Neil says that during filming, he asked her, “How can I be mad at cancer if it brought me all of this?”

Phil’s Camino will screen as part of the “Points of Departure” shorts segment on Saturday, June 25 at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Md. AFI Docs runs until Sunday, June 26.

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center: 8633 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, Md.; 301-495-6700;www.afi.com/silver

Photo caption: Phil Volker walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jolson Creative PR Group

La Cage Aux Folles
Photo: Courtesy of Signature Theatre

Gender-Bending Comedy La Cage Aux Folles Comes to Signature Theatre

Fans of the Robin Williams and Nathan Lane film The Birdcage already know this, but La Cage Aux Folles is among the funniest stories in 21st-century theater. From France with the 1973 play and 1978 film to the U.S. with the 1983 Broadway musical and 1996 comedic masterpiece The Birdcage, La Cage has undergone many transformations. And now, the hilarious play about a gay couple whose son asks them to tone it down for dinner with his fiancée’s hyper-conservative parents comes to Signature Theatre through July 10, offering a fresh take on the classic comedy.

Director Matthew Gardiner has always been fascinated by the Tony Award-winning musical, and is taking his own approach with Signature’s production that he hopes will encompass the best parts of each chapter in La Cage’s 40-year history. He prefers the most recent Broadway revival for turning the play’s setting in a St. Tropez nightclub – with drag shows galore – into a small, intimate setting that’s a natural fit for Signature’s space. The revival, much like The Birdcage, taps more into the heart of the story whereas the original production and film portray a more stereotypical view of gay men, according to the director.

However, he definitely plans to emulate the element of glamor in the original Broadway production à la Danny La Rue and other famous female impersonators, especially through the chorus line – “Les Cagelles.”

“I think there are ways that we’re using the Cagelles throughout the play that allow them to be seen as more three-dimensional gay men than just funny drag queens that romp around onstage,” he says.

But arguably the director’s biggest focus is to highlight the relationship between nightclub manager Georges and his partner Albin (also the nightclub’s star) and their son Jean-Michel. He notes a scene in The Birdcage when Nathan Lane (who plays the equivalent of Albin’s character) goes into his son’s room (who is in town for the impending dinner with his fiancée’s parents) and begins picking up his clothes while still in full costume from his last show. And in that moment, Gardiner says it’s clear that this is a family.

To the director, it’s the musical that enhances the familial ties that bind the three characters. He says a musical brings heart and love to a story, and “automatically makes the story more emotional and goes beyond its silliness.”  The musical creates an emotional pull, allowing the audience to truly see the heart of the play.

“[ La Cage] is a story about loving your family for who they are and not trying to make them something that they’re not,” he says. “Life is lived in and people are lived in, and anytime I see characters onstage that feel like cartoons [or] clowns – I don’t want that. That’s always my goal in any musical – to make it feel as human and relatable as possible.”

Signature’s cast is entirely based in DC, with the exception of Broadway favorite Brent Barrett (who plays Georges and is perhaps best known for his role as Billy Flynn inChicago). Gardiner says this will be local actor Bobby Smith’s first time in a lead role at Signature (as Albin), which the company is very excited about. The theater is offering backstage tours led by a La Cage actor at 5 p.m. on Saturdays from June 11 to July 2 for up to 30 people at a time, allowing audiences to get up close and personal with the behind-the-scenes aspects of the production.

Audiences can also catch post-show discussion nights on June 7 and 15 to “get a more in-depth look at what went into creating the show…and a more personal perspective from the actors,” Gardiner says. But the real pièce de résistance is the pride nights on June 17 and July 1. The themed LGBT nights will include post-show receptions with DJs, drag queens and more.

“It’s going to be a big to-do,” Gardiner says.

La Cage Aux Folles runs until July 10, with tickets starting at $40. Don’t miss the show, and definitely watch The Birdcage if you haven’t already. 
Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; 703-820-9771;  www.sigtheatre.org

Photo: Courtesy of Signature Theatre

GI Film Festival
Photo: Vithaya Phongsava

For First 10 Years, It’s Mission Accomplished for GI Film Festival

The business of Hollywood is an odd and hectic one for executives to occupy. They deal with multimillion-dollar projects, deadlines and larger-than-life personalities. So when a Hollywood executive found himself traveling to the DC area to speak at a small independent film festival, he may not have been overly enthused about the opportunity, as GI Film Festival founder Brandon Millett describes it. However, things quickly changed.

After speaking with wounded warriors one night during the festival, the Hollywood executive had a change of perspective. He called Millett and said how “consumed” he was after meeting those outstanding men and women, and wanted to find out more about how he could help.

That has been the main goal of the GI Film Festival, founded by Millett and his wife Laura Law-Millett in 2006, a veteran who left the military in 2008.

“Our mission is to preserve the stories of military veterans through film, television and live special events,” Millett says. “One of the objectives we hope to accomplish is to connect the 1 percent who serve with the 99 percent who do not.”

With the festival celebrating its 10th anniversary this Saturday, May 21 through Sunday, May 29, it is easy to see they have achieved what they originally set out to do.

The depiction of the military in film and television back in the mid-2000s was one of the inciting incidents for the couple to create the GI Film Festival, and the corresponding GI Film Group. Many of the military characters being portrayed onscreen did not represent Law-Millett and others she had served with.

“We decided to show the other side of the story,” she explains. “The stories of courage and sacrifice, and what the majority of the people with whom I served are like and the struggles they faced instead of what Hollywood was doing at the time.”

The original thought was to hopefully show a few films in a community rec center or a similar location. However, when word got around about what the pair was trying to do, a strong wave of support came in. Celebrities like Jeff Ross, R. Lee Ermey and especially Gary Sinise, who has been a major contributor to the festival over the years, helped build a strong foundation for the festival, which showed 28 films in its first year and took place at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

“The festival took on a life of its own after that,” Millett says.

Bloomberg News has called it ‘Sundance for the Troops.’ And all the stops are being pulled out for this year’s festival. Kicking things off this Saturday, Gary Sinise will perform at the Howard Theater with the Lt. Dan Band.

A 30th anniversary celebration of Top Gun is taking place with the United States Navy Band playing prior to the screening as well as a jet flyover, followed by a Q&A with actor Val Kilmer. There will also be a special advanced screening of the new film X-Men: Apocalypse.

But all of the flair is just an added bonus to what really makes this festival special to the couple. Law-Millett remembers one year after a screening, a Vietnam veteran came up to them and revealed that watching a film during the festival was the first time he had cried in 20 years, because he finally felt that his story was properly told.

“That really took our breath away,” she says.

The couple will look to make that kind of connection again this year with the 78 films that will be screened throughout the festival that they say cover practically every branch of the military and all major conflicts, from the Civil War up to Iraq and Afghanistan.

While it would be easy enough to simply enjoy the success that the festival has had thus far, the pair isn’t interested in that. Later this year, in partnership with PBS, the festival will hit the road, hosting mini-festivals in more than 20 cities across the country. Other events are planned, like a GI Film Festival West and special screenings on military bases.

“We had a filmmaker a few years ago who said that every city needs to experience the GI Film Festival,” Millet says. “That really stuck with us, and it’s something we hope we can accomplish.”

The 2016 GI Film Festival will take place from May 21-29. Check www.gifilmfestival.comfor details.

Photo: Vithaya Phongsava

Billy Connolly
Photo: www.celeb-true.com/content/billy-connolly.html

Billy Connolly at The Warner: A Hilarious Journey

There were times throughout Billy Connolly’s performance of his “High Horses” standup tour at the Warner Theater on Saturday, May 14 where a map could have come in handy, but I was too busy laughing to care. Armed with a series of anecdotes, that he swears – and I wish – were true, Connolly hopped from joke to joke, often going in tangents that could last five minutes, only to return like a boomerang to the original thread. It might’ve been a distraction, if each story had not been as hilariously enjoyable as the one before it.

Many of you might know Connolly best from his supporting role in the cult classic filmThe Boondock Saints, but may not be as aware of his long and storied career as a standup comedian. But those who showed up at the Warner Theater last Saturday sure did. It was clear walking through the atrium, and from the cheers when Connolly referred to specific areas of his native Scotland, that his performance brought many of his countrymen out to the theater. But it didn’t matter whether they were natives of Glasgow or Capitol Hill – all were able to enjoy his unique stories.

Connolly joked about a breadth of topics, from the obligatory Trump joke with his outsider’s perspective – long story short, how has this “wanker” made it this far – to his annoyance with the person who handled the weapons on the set of The Boondock Saints.

What made his standup a real treat, though, is the honesty that he shared with the audience. The first instance was his acknowledgement of his health. Connolly is dealing with Parkinson’s disease, and as he revealed in his act, he also found out – on the same day, he said – that he had prostate cancer. He revealed it not to make a joke, but more as a way to be straight with the audience. He did find a way to use it in his favor, however, by telling some truly memorable stories. And it is his experiences that truly made the show. He hasn’t crafted jokes; these were stories from his life and career, and he retold them with a heightened sense of humor.

But it’s not just his stories that made it such an honest performance. Connolly couldn’t help himself from cracking up on multiple occasions throughout the night. Whether it was his recollection of the absurdity of his stories, or the sound effects and voices he used to help convey them, he’s having as good a time as any on the stage. It was infectious.

You can go to almost any comedian’s show and be pretty sure that you are going to have some good laughs, but what made Connolly’s performance such a treat was the wide-ranging journey that he took the audience on.

Photo: http://celeb-true.com/content/billy-connolly.html

CityDance DREAMscape
Photo: Courtesy of CityDance

CityDance’s DREAMscape Brings Together Top Dancers

Non-profit dance organization CityDance is holding its annual DREAMscape event with some of the dance world’s biggest stars on Saturday, May 7 at U Street’s Lincoln Theatre. Proceeds benefit CityDance’s flagship DREAM initiative, a dance training and mentorship program designed to keep students in school.

Founded in 1996, CityDance is “rooted in the belief that dance can transform lives and inspire change,” External Relations Manager Megan Piluk says. To that end, the organization offers professional training and general classes. DREAM is the program that truly speaks to the organization’s activist ethos.

DREAM started as a program for third through fifth grade students in partner DC public schools. The level of interest prompted the organization’s expansion to include sixth through twelfth grade classes, all provided free of charge. CityDance currently works with six schools in DC, and provides classes to hundreds of students each year. But it’s not just dance training that DREAM is offering.

“We use dance as a pathway to help students graduate and pursue their dreams,” Piluk says of the overarching goal behind DREAM.

With mentorship, tutoring and other support, the program has led to a marked increase in school engagement and dedication, according to Piluk. After being honored at last year’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, DREAM will expand in 2018 to include a dedicated space in the U Street corridor: the DREAM Center for Dance.

This year’s DREAMscape will bring together some of the dance world’s best talent, including Matthew Golding, who Piluk describes as “the Brad Pitt of dance,” with DC’s own Rasta Thomas directing.

Tickets for general admission start at $25, while VIP packages start at $250. But if you can’t make it on the 7th, CityDance is taking over the Lincoln Theatre on the 8th as well for a free performance by the stars of the show themselves: the students.

Other upcoming events include CityDance’s celebration of Georgia O’Keefe at the Phillips Collection on May 12 and the organization’s annual Conservatory Dancers in Concert event at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Md. on June 11 and 12. For more information, visit
DREAMscape at Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; 202-888-0050;www.thelincolndc.com
Photo: Courtesy of CityDance
The Taming of the Shrew
Photos: Courtesy of STC

STC’s Unique Take on The Taming of the Shrew

For Shakespeare Theatre Company’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew beginning on May 17, director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar is harking back to the days of the Bard himself, when the playwright’s productions were performed by a cast of all men. Popular TV actor Maulik Pancholy (Weeds, 30 Rock) takes on the role of Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate character referred to in the title of the play.

“This play is often thought of as this ‘battle of the sexes,’ and so part of what’s interesting to me is to see what happens when we take that out of the equation by stripping away some of the assumptions we might have about gender roles,” he says. “What happens when we start to blur those lines? Hopefully, it allows us to look more deeply into these characters’ specific lives and not just think man versus woman.”

The story revolves around the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina, the shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio tempers her with various psychological torments – the so-called “taming” – until she becomes a compliant and obedient bride…or so it seems.

Although learning to walk in high heels has been a challenge, Pancholy admits that his preparation for playing Katherina was no different than any other role he’s played throughout his career.

“It’s been about mining the text to get to the core of who she is, and doing the homework around the parts that aren’t familiar to me, which in this case means exploring how specific women move through the world and how the world treats them,” he says. “I’ve been playing with physicality, and investigating the incredibly complex emotional journey she goes on. And for me, it’s always ultimately about staying open to that magic space where you allow the character to speak to you.”

While The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays still performed, Iskandar has added some of his signature differences, such as the inclusion of numerous contemporary pop songs sung by the actors, and an intermezzo.

“It is kind of amazing how people keep coming back to this play, isn’t it?” Pancholy asks rhetorically. “I think it’s because – like all of Shakespeare’s plays – there are so many beautiful and very human things being expressed about love, and individuality, and how we exist within our social structure. We’ve been really interested in the idea of Katherina as an ‘other,’ someone who doesn’t conform to what the world wants her to be. And I think we can all relate to that on some level.”

The Taming of the Shrew is the first of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) path-breaking Clarice Smith Series: New Directors for the Classics. Iskandar is well known for his immersive works, and the audience’s experience will go beyond what’s up on the stage.

For example, throughout the show’s run, Sidney Harman Hall will host a local artisan market – a series of workshops led by DC artists and performances surrounding the show itself. Pancholy says STC is creating an experience that starts on the streets outside of Sidney Harman Hall and continues into the lobbies and the theater, and then on to events during intermission.

“Hopefully, [the experience is] something that people will live with long after they’ve left the performance space. I think people will find it to be something they’ve never seen before.”

The Taming of the Shrew runs from May 17 to June 26. Tickets start at $20.
Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org
Photos: Courtesy of STC
Sarah Lasko
Photo: Courtesy of National Theatre

Local Actress Sarah Lasko Stars in The Wizard of Oz

At four years old, Sarah Lasko knew she was destined to act. The DC area native was in awe of the stunning dresses and parasols donned by actresses in Hello, Dolly! at Howard County Summer Theatre. In her young mind, “that was just the epitome of living.”

Fast forward several decades later, and Lasko is playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at National Theatre from May 3-15. This stop on the production’s seven-month national tour marks Lasko’s debut at the District’s renowned venue.

The University of Maryland, College Park graduate has previously performed at the Kennedy Center and Keegan Theatre, and a myriad of Montgomery County theaters including Olney Theatre Center. On Tap caught up with Lasko while performing in Boston, and the actress says the tour has been an incredible experience thus far.

“What I love about this show is that it brings in an audience that might not typically go to the theater,” she explains. “I’ve gotten many messages from people who came to see the show, saying that it was their first ever experience with live theater, and they loved it.”

The musical features all of the classic songs from the 1939 film, and four new ones written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for characters like the Wicked Witch and Glinda, giving audiences more insight into their characters. Lasko’s favorite is Glinda’s “Already Home,” which she says is a touching moment in the story featuring the gorgeous, soaring voice of soprano Rachel Womble.

The music isn’t the only element of the production that Lasko is smitten with. She’s drawn to the play’s ability to be breathtakingly spectacular while also having so much heart.

“As a lover of the film, I really want the show to feel all-encompassing, but also to retain the beauty of the characters in the movie, and that’s a balance I think this production strikes beautifully.”

Plus, she says the play brings out a bit of nostalgia for all of us who grew up with the film.

“You never forget how you felt as a kid watching the winged monkeys, and the house flying to Oz, and seeing the four friends skipping down the yellow brick road. It’s just as enjoyable now as it was then.”

Learn more about Lasko at www.sarahlasko.com. Tickets to The Wizard of Oz start at $38.
National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-628-6161;www.thenationaldc.org

Photo: Courtesy of National Theatre