If you go
What: Thoroughly Modern Productions’ “The Wizard of Oz”
When: 7:30 tonight, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Aug. 30, 3 p.m. Aug. 31
Where: Summit High School auditorium, 2855 NW Clearwater Drive, Bend
Cost: $20 adults, $15 children and seniors
Skylar Adams has been preparing for her role as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” since she was a little girl. Now 16, Skylar has watched the movie starring Judy Garland dozens of times. Around age 7, she made a videotape of herself acting out every part from the movie, alongside her stuffed puppy, who played Toto. As a third-grader, she took on the role of Mayor of the Munchkins in a production of the show.
Now, she is starring as Dorothy in the Thoroughly Modern Productions staging of “The Wizard of Oz” at Summit High School (see “If you go,” D4).
“I love to dance. I love to sing. I love to act,” said Skylar. This role gives her the chance to do all those things together.
Director David DaCosta said Skylar was an obvious choice for the lead, and she won the role over more veteran adult performers.
Getting the part
Skylar, a junior at Ridgeview High School, heard about the auditions from a friend. She was excited to try out for the show, thinking it would be a good learning experience even if she didn’t get the part. She was a fan of the production company’s work with “Spamalot,” which it produced in 2013, and liked the idea of working with a professional company. She thought, “I don’t care what I am.”
For the audition, she sang “My Favorite Things” from “Sound of Music” and then danced a choreographed part. She remembers thinking, “Let them see a spark” during her dance. Later, at callbacks, she sang the iconic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and acted out a few scenes.
Early the next morning, Skylar remembers getting a call from DaCosta. He began telling her she did well in the auditions, and Skylar kept waiting for him to say “but,” letting her down easy. Instead, he offered her the role.
“I shot out of bed!” she recalls.
She said “thank you,” hung up, then sprinted into her mom’s room.
She remembers screaming, “I’m Dorothy! I’m Dorothy!” then running outside and next door to her grandparents’ house, yelling, “I’m Dorothy! I’m Dorothy!”
DaCosta said he was not set on casting a teenager. He knew the part would need a strong performer, and was thinking that could be an actress in her 20s.
“It’s a demanding role. You’re on stage the entire time. The only time you’re off stage is when you’re running off to run back on … it’s two and a half straight hours of that,” said DaCosta.
But once Skylar auditioned, he and the other directors knew she was the right actress for the role.
“Skylar came out — it was just pretty much a done deal,” said DaCosta.
Skylar says she had planned to work this summer at One Street Down Cafe to save up some money; instead, her days have been filled with “The Wizard of Oz.” Three days a week, she goes to the production camp with 41 children performers, who will play Munchkins, flying monkeys and more. Most evenings, she rehearses with the other principal characters, all of whom are adults (except Toto).
But Skylar isn’t upset about her busy schedule or missing out on the laid-back summer she had planned. “The show is what drives me,” she said.
DaCosta explains “The Wizard of Oz” production is not a copy of the movie, but it does hit all the moments the audience expects. The goal is to make the show feel modern and fresh while still holding true to the overall story.
Skylar says one of the challenges is how to make sure Dorothy comes off as strong, not whiny. A lot of her dialogue is asking to get back home. Skylar and DaCosta work hard to make sure the tone is right. “She’s really strong … (she has) more sincerity. You can’t whine,” said Skylar.
Another challenge has been taking on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Skylar says right off, DaCosta told her to get the iconic version out of her head and to try to think about the song and lyrics with a fresh eye. “The whole song changed; I got goosebumps,” said Skylar. She tried to listen to the words of the song and understand the hopeful, dreamy longing imbued in the music. “It’s a big moment for (Dorothy), a big turning point,” said Skylar.
DaCosta says she pulls it off well: “Oh my god, she has the voice of an angel … very natural, very effortless.”
Skylar also enjoys interacting with the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Mary Kilpatrick, saying they play off one another well.
Some of the dialogue feels almost surreal for her to say. “I still get goosebumps when I say ‘There’s no place like home’ three times,” she said. Skylar also loves getting to say “There’s no place like home” to close the show, with everyone standing around her.
“I still get those ‘Oh my gosh, I’m Dorothy!’ moments,” she said.
Another such moment came when she got to sing the national anthem at a recent Bend Elks game, dressed as Dorothy. Since the performance was also serving as a kind of promotion for the show, she knew she needed to pull it off.
A turning point for Skylar in terms of performing came in the fifth grade, when she was cast as an orphan in a production of “Annie.” “Annie made me want to continue everything,” said Skylar. She remembers seeing the whole crowd react during the performance and that inspired her. “I love giving back and making someone’s day a little better,” said Skylar.
Since then, she has become involved with as many shows as she can. Sometimes she works behind the scenes, serving as assistant director, stage manager and assistant choreographer for “Bye Bye Birdie,” for instance.
Dorothy marks the first lead role Skylar has had in a show. “This is a really, really good first main role for me, because I’m so familiar with the show,” said Skylar. “I’m a big ‘Wizard of Oz’ girl.”
Skylar’s family is very close. She lives with her mom, RaeAnn Adams, in Redmond, and lives next door to her grandparents. The houses even share a backyard. When her grandparents, Cheryl Adams and Bill Creach, moved to Oregon to retire, Skylar and her mom followed from the Bay Area in California. “They are a big support system,” said Skylar.
She says her family is very supportive of her performing. She and her mom like to sing together at home. Skylar says she grew up with a love for music and older movies and talks excitedly about Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, “My Fair Lady,” “Easter Parade” and more. “I’m born in the wrong era,” said Skylar. She tries to bring some of that classic feel to her performance.
Performing is something Skylar never wants to give up.
“I don’t want to do anything else,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, firstname.lastname@example.org