Sabrina Harper has performed at Segerstrom Hall before, and she remembers it fondly: The stage was “huge” and the auditorium was “enormous.”
Harper, who grew up in Laguna Beach, was only 9 or 10 at the time (she can’t remember exactly), a child extra in San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” Now on the national tour of Broadway’s “Pippin,” she’s about to return to Segerstrom Hall in a big way, in the leading role of Fastrada, and she’s eager to experience it as an adult.
“I am so excited to be performing there and reminiscing on my childhood and remembering being that little girl, and I’m just wondering how it will be coming back now,” Harper said. “It’s nice to come home.”
As a child, Harper took classical dance lessons at Ballet Pacifica, and jazz and tap dance with Pauline and Lisa Kyne, before spending 17 years training and performing in Europe. After two years at the prestigious Stuttgart Ballet academy, she was accepted into the ballet company at Austria’s Vienna Volksoper. That opera house presents ballets, operettas, operas, and musicals; the dancers have ensemble parts in musical theater productions.
This opened up a new world for Harper. She started vocal training and was cast in a slew of American shows there and at others theaters, including “The Phantom of the Opera” in Hamburg, “42nd Street” in Stuttgart, and “The Producers” in Vienna.
“The productions I had done were mainly the Broadway versions, but translated into German,” she said, adding that performers in Europe have a lot more job security than their counterparts in New York.
“You don’t have a situation that you’re rehearsing for a production and after a week it closes. That happens on Broadway all the time. In Europe, you get a contract for a year or six months and it’ll run for that year.”
Still, Harper always hoped to return to the United States, and she wanted to see if she could make it on Broadway. During a three-month break in early 2013, she moved to Manhattan to go on auditions. In her third week, she was cast as a swing (a fill-in performer) in the “Pippin” revival, which won four Tony Awards. She ended up performing all three female leads, including Fastrada.
“From the day I graduated from the ballet school, I had the idea to go back home. I want to try New York. But I had been fortunate—exciting things were always happening for me in Europe. I was successfully blessed to go from show to show all these years.”
“Pippin,” Nov. 11-23, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, 714-556-2787, scfta.org