Sabrina Harper has hopped the pond. After 15 years performing on European stages in major Broadway productions, Harper made her 2013 Broadway debut in the TONY award winning Best Musical Revival PIPPIN. Next week she’s at ASU Gammage as Fastrada, Pippin‘s evil stepmother, when the national Broadway tour arrives in Arizona. Yesterday, she shared with Examiner about PIPPIN and about her career of contrasts.
“Fastrada is sure it’s all about her,” her quest to be queen, said Harper of the Charlemagne-age, original desperate housewife character she plays.
The royal, dance-heavy role in a spectacular circus-heavy show fits like a body glove on Harper, whose career years ago twirled from formal classical ballet to musical theatre in what she labels a “fortunate transition that lengthened my career.” The PIPPIN story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence is set in motion by her character’s manipulative conniving.
“Her egotistical motives become the catalyst for Pippin’s scary journey of self-discovery,” Harper said of Fastrada, noting as a smiling aside, “…And my feet are very happy about the demanding, beautiful, sensual, Fosse-inspired choreography.”
“Fastrada may have ridiculous streaks of evil, but she’s no less real than Pippin, who signifies every one of us who is questioning who we are or what we’re doing,” observed Harper. “It’s almost cult like, I suppose. We [the characters in PIPPIN] are these people in your head, pushing and pulling your desires and decisions.”
In addition to flipping from ballet to musical theatre, Harper has leapt continents, and considered the different way the arts are treated and perceived across the world. “Performing Arts are very, very supported in Europe, a given part of the culture,” she commented. “Comedy is more bawdy. There’s no fear or hesitation about nudity.”
“But they’re evolving, too, embracing American musical theatre,” she said as an actress who has played CHICAGO‘s Roxie Hart and danced Chorus Line in Switzerland. “….And the translations! The way the writers transform these shows for German-speaking audiences is unreal. To achieve the rhymes and retain word nuances is huge.”
Lyrics wove the conversation back toward PIPPIN, a story first told on Broadway 4o years ago. Harper mused, “Stephen Schwartz [famed original composer/lyricist who worked with the cast in preparation for the National Tour] sees himself as a lyricist first and then a composer. His genius is in how those words transport the story.”
“This Pippin comes along in a culture obsessed with reality shows. He’s the epitome,” Harper concluded about the title character in the production that plays December 2-7 in Tempe. “The audience wants a person to go the furthest, to push all limits. That’s exactly what the show delivers.”