By Daniella Walsh | LB Indy
At age 5, Sabrina Harper scampered across the Laguna Playhouse stage as the first mouse in a Ballet Pacifica production of the Nutcracker. Now, at 36, she is touring with the Tony Award-winning touring Broadway production of “Pippin.”
Harper stars as Fastrada, the protagonist’s scheming stepmother, in the Nov. 11-23 production at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which continues on with dates in at least six other states.
After performing in German-speaking countries of Europe for 17 years, she is enjoying traipsing through sections of the U.S. she’s never seen. But she’s also taking time while performing in Costa Mesa to return to her former hometown.
Raised by her German-born mother Brigitte and American father Thomas JamesHarper, she is fluent in German and sings without any trace of accent.
“When I saw her perform in ‘The Producers’ in Vienna and told friends that Sabrina is American, no one wanted to believe me at first,” said Charlie Quilter, a Laguna Beach resident who, with his wife Anne, visits Vienna frequently. “She was a big hit in several other productions including ‘A Chorus Line’ and a production less known in the English speaking world titled “Ich war noch niemals in New York” (“I’ve Never Been to New York”). But as her neighbor, I’ve seen her grow up as a little kid with promise. She’s always had this passion for the stage,” he added.
A Career Born on a Laguna Stage
A self-described typical Laguna kid, she attended kindergarten at the Anneliese School, went to Top of the World Elementary and Thurston Middle School and graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1996.
Outside of school, her mother shuttled her to Laguna Playhouse’s Youth Theater productions under Joe Lauderdale and to Los Angeles to act in television. As a child she met Lucy Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, now also in the cast of “Pippin.”
“Sabrina did a beautiful job playing the leading lady, Blousey Brown, in ‘Bugsy Malone’, recalled Lauderdale. “At rehearsals she was prepared and committed with a discipline that may have come from dancing, but also having clear goals,” he recalled.
In turn, Harper credits him for developing her acting chops, skills she honed further at Thurston. At age 11, she starred in “Up the Down Staircase.”
“I knew by then that I wanted to be in theater,” said Harper.
That was 1992, when Mark Dressler began directing theater in the Laguna Beach schools. “Sabrina was in my first show. She was a brilliant dancer who first appeared more interested in dance than acting,” he recalled.
Harper, who has been performing since she graduated high school, invited Dressler and his current students to see “Pippin”. She is scheduled to meet with them in-between their rehearsals for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Harper also credits her first dance teacher Pauline Kyne, proprietor of the Kyne Dance Academy in Laguna Beach, with fostering her stage presence at an early age.
Harper’s European career started with a full scholarship to the John Cranko Academy School affiliated with the Stuttgart Ballet, where she received a diploma in classical dance. Since, she performed in ballets, operettas and musicals in Vienna, Hamburg, Berlin and Stuttgart.
She particularly liked being cast as Marilyn Monroe in the musical “Marilyn.” “I would like to do meaty, thought-provoking roles down the line involving, for example, strong women like Marlene Dietrich, perhaps Eva Peron,” she said.
During a brief visit to Laguna, Harper described embracing the itinerant life of touring. Yoga, pilates and meditation help her cope. “I love the freedom and travel makes for formative experiences. I am fortunate to have never had to have a so-called day job. I am still finding my niche in life, but I am doing what I love.”
Clips of Harper’s singing, acting and dancing can be found on www.sabrinaharper.com