CHARLES TOWN – Karilee Grossnickle, who brings to life the character of Princess Fiona in the Old Opera House’s fun production of “Shrek: The Musical,” first connected with the Old Opera House because she’s a “Legally Blonde” fan.
When she auditioned for a role in OOH’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” earlier this year, the 23-year-old Hagerstown, Md., resident had never seen a show at the historic George Street theater.
But because she’d enjoyed productions of “Legally Blonde” at theaters in the region including in Hagerstown and Chambersburg, Pa., she came out for the casting call and ended up making her OOH debut in early September as one of Elle Woods’ sorority sisters.
Grossnickle, who works in Hagerstown at Leitersburg Cinemas and as an executive assistant at High Rock Studios, discovered a desire to perform as a child. “Growing up, I went to a church that surrounded me in music,” she said. “I was a part in countless Sunday school holiday programs and I just loved the gospel choir music we had in services.”
She started performing on the stage in middle school and landed her first musical role in high school. Starting at age 16, she spent three years with Hagerstown’s Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater.
As a student at Hagerstown Community College, she took theater classes and performed with the Robinwood Players Theatre Club. Since graduating, she’s won roles including in “A Christmas Carol” at the Apollo Civic Theater in Martinsburg and in “Xanadu” with the Landless Theatre Company in Frederick, Md.
Grossnickle said she loves the chance to adopt a new persona on stage while remaining authentic to her own personality. “The coolest thing about theater is being able to be a completely different person while letting the audience see a little bit of yourself, too.”
She admits she found the “Shrek” auditions intimidating because so many actresses were seeking to portray Fiona, but she felt she had to try out because the role so matched her own personality.
“I was drawn to the role of Princess Fiona because she’s so much like me,” she said. “She’s a little crazy, goofy, strong, messy, and quite the perfectionist, but she’s also the sappiest and sweetest at times.”
So with “Shrek” an enormous hit for the OOH and Fiona a particular audience favorite, is Grossnickle mulling a move to Broadway? She said she would love New York theater a try, but says she finds the idea of not having a steady paycheck unnerving. She also realizes many talented performers never make it in the cut-throat world of show biz.
But OOH patrons shouldn’t be surprised if Fiona isn’t Grossnickle’s last role at the OOH. She calls herself “an addict” when it comes to performing musicals, explaining she likes to start a new show just as one is closing. And she’s become quite a fan of the theater scene in Charles Town.
“Live theatre is my hobby and it’ll be around as long as it is supported by its community.”