Freshman performs at Hobby Center’s Theatre Under the Stars

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Laci Hepler

While performing in “Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight,” Fisher learned from Disney stars and famous choreographers.

Abigail Poag and Noura Jabir

Over the course of two weeks this December, freshman Karli Fisher met two Disney stars, learned dances from a big-name New York City choreographer and performed in front of thousands of strangers at the Hobby Center downtown.

Fisher was an ensemble member in Theatre Under the Stars’ mainstage show, “Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight” by Kris Lythgoe, a retelling of the classic fairy tale in a British entertainment tradition known as a Panto. These fairy tales combine family-friendly themes with audience participation, allowing the actors to build off the audience’s reactions.

“It’s a super interactive show, so the fact that the audience talked back to us made it more comfortable and easier [to perform],” Fisher said.

“Sleeping Beauty” tells the story of Aurora and her curse using current pop music, the songs performed by a host of Hollywood and Broadway icons like Disney Channel’s Garrett Clayton and Tony-award winner Debbie Gravitte.

“The first day [of rehearsal], I was silently freaking out, but they’re just like normal people,” Fisher said. “They made it super easy for us to just jump right into rehearsals with them and act like we would normally.”

Fisher shares the stage with professionals including Ben Giroux, who played Silly Billy, a comedic character who speaks frequently to the audience throughout the show.

“We learned from him [how] to be comfortable being on stage and improvising because it’s difficult to improvise,” Fisher said. “He showed us [how], and he gave us tips about how to make it easier.”

In another on-stage innovation, Fisher and other members of TUTS’ Humphreys School of Musical Theater act alongside students from The River, TUTS’ school for kids and young adults with disabilities. During each performance, Fisher helps Abby, a girl with Down Syndrome, navigate the stage.

“Sometimes she wouldn’t really know where to go, so I’d pull her around stage to help her out,” Fisher said. “She would get really tired, but she was always ready and chipper to work.”

Fisher has been involved in musical theater since she was the third grade.

“My grandpa had been an actor for most of his life, so I knew that it was in my family,” Fisher said. “I went to do a little theater class at the JCC, and it just kind of sparked from there.”

After joining the Humphrey’s School in seventh grade, Fisher began auditioning for mainstage TUTS shows, which draw their youth performers mainly from the Humphrey’s School.

“I love fairy tales, and I figured that since this is my third year here, I should start getting into some,” Fisher said. “This was the perfect one to do.”

Performing in a professional production has been a different experience for Fisher than any of her previous shows.

“It’s surreal to hear all of the people screaming,” Fisher said. “You can’t see everyone, but what you can see is heads just sitting in the audience.”

Instead of feeling intimidated by her large audience, Fisher enjoys the thrill of performing in front of strangers.

“If I were in a smaller production like at school, I would know a lot of people in the audience, but since [the audience] were strangers, it made it really easy not to freak out,” Fisher said.

Fisher, who dances as a mouse, townsperson and fairy at different points in the show, learned choreography from Spencer Liff of FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and associate choreographer Mimi Scardulla.

“She [is] from New York, and she works with the ‘big guys,’” Fisher said. “She moved very fast and expected us to know a lot more, which was good. It challenged us and helped us get better.”

Many of Fisher’s friends and classmates came to support her in the show.

“It was so cool because you have someone to look for every time,” freshman Nicole Doyle said. “You put yourself into their shoes, just thinking about it. She’s on the stage, and you’re sitting all the way back in the chairs.”

Rehearsals for “Sleeping Beauty” took place over the course of only two weeks in early December, with Fisher practicing four hours each afternoon during the week and up to 20 hours over the weekend. Fisher made use of breaks during rehearsal to do homework.

“It was difficult; I struggled a little, but my teachers were really helpful,” Fisher said. “I was up pretty late a lot.”

Fisher’s love of musical theater keeps her willing to work through these challenges.

“Musical theater is like stepping out of your own life and entering into a new one,” Fisher said. “Incorporating the three elements of acting, music, and dance into one cohesive experience is really amazing.”