Above: A later costume in “The Wizard of Oz” is the favorite ever for Sarah Lasko, who stars as Dorothy.
By Gabrielle Cohen
Washington, D.C., native Sarah Lasko stars as Dorothy, and Aaron Fried, who hails from Toms River, N.J., is taking on the role of the Cowardly Lion.
It’s Fried’s fourth national tour and Lasko’s first.
Both actors had strong Jewish upbringings.
Lasko said her family was and is active in the Jewish community in the Washington area.
Her mother is a preschool teacher at the Jewish Community Center, where Lasko herself worked for a time. Because of her grandmother’s enthusiasm for the holidays, she has strong memories of celebrating Passover and Chanukah with her family, which became an important part of her childhood.
Many of the themes in “The Wizard of Oz” relate to Judaism, Lasko said. “It’s such a Jewish story line to me because what Dorothy cares about most is her family and her community, which is such a Jewish sentiment. The story of her going far away and going on a long journey over the rainbow and finding community there, but then realizing how important your roots are back home, is an inherently Jewish story line. It means something extra-special to me because when I’m playing Dorothy onstage every night, the people I’m thinking of are my family and my heritage, so I think it ties in really beautifully.”
Lasko does a lot to prepare for her time onstage. Though warming up is a standard thing to do, not many people must warm up with dogs. She is sure to put on music that will get her in the mood to be dramatic for 2½ hours.
This “Wizard of Oz,” which has new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in addition to the classics from the Judy Garland film, contains Lasko’s favorite costume, she said. Though she doesn’t want to spoil it, she wants anyone who sees the show to pay attention to her dress during her time in Emerald City.
Fried grew up close to his Conservative synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel, in Toms River, the oldest of a large group of siblings and close cousins. He was active in USY and did USY on Wheels during high school. He continues to practice Judaism while touring.
“I love to have a Passover seder if I’m touring during that time,” Fried said. “I make sure to light all the candles during Chanukah. I even have this cardboard menorah that I’m able to pack and bring on the road with me, so that’s fun and interesting.”
Before going onstage, Fried likes to find a quiet place where he warms up and immerses himself in his character. His favorite costume also comes from “The Wizard of Oz”: “There are so many different parts to the costume, but in particular my tail is especially outrageous in this production.”
He said he feels a special connection to the Cowardly Lion. “I grew up not being able to accept myself, so all of those feelings of how important self-acceptance is and the feelings that you need to be something that you aren’t ring especially true with me.”
What: “The Wizard of Oz”
Where: Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St., Midtown
When: One or two shows daily through Sunday, June 26
Tickets: $30 to $95; foxtheatre.org/events/wizard-oz or 855-285-8499