Two NEJC natives among cast of Mary Poppins opening at Starlight tonight

Kip Niven
Kip Niven

Two experienced northeast Johnson County actors will be among the cast on stage in tonight’s opening performance of Mary Poppins at Starlight Theater. Kip Niven, a 10-time Starlight veteran and Leawood native will play Admiral Broom and the Bank Chairman. Megan Walstrom, an incoming SM East freshman and returning Starlight cast member will be the youngest member of the ensemble chorus, making an appearance in five large numbers throughout the show.

Walstrom played Louisa Von Trapp in The Sound of Music last summer, and has performed at The New Theatre, The KC Rep, The MET and several community theatres around town. Niven has appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theatres and in feature films and network television.

With only about 10 days of practice time before tonight’s show, Walstrom, Niven and the cast practiced everyday from July 13 to today from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. This week they had “10 out of 12’s” a theater term for 10 hours of rehearsal from noon until midnight, with a two hour dinner break.

But the “intense” work schedule as Niven says, is worth it, when getting to perform in front of a crowd of 8,000 people, something that not many actors get to experience, especially because outdoor theater is changing.

Starlight is one of the last large outdoor musical theaters in the country, and Niven says the age demographic is shifting with many actors talking about how the age of theater-goes is getting older. However, Niven says Mary Poppins is special because it gets to bring people of all ages back to appreciating live theater.

“I love performing in a show that has such a high expectation on the part of the audience, particularly the younger audience,” Niven said. “It’s shows like Mary Poppins that are going to keep people in love with going to the theater, and getting young people in love with theater more than just watching a movie or getting a DVD.”

Both Niven and Walstrom agree that the technical aspects of Mary Poppins are what will set this musical apart. From the acrobatics involved in flying Mary Poppins across the stage and through the audience, to the difficult tap-dancing choreography, the show drew a large number of the cast and crew from New York and on Broadway, adding to the overall quality of the show.

“I’m really excited for everyone to see Mary Poppins fly,” Walstrom said. “She flies across the audience, like above them and it’s just a beautiful picture.”

Mary Poppins will have nine Starlight performances from tonight until August 2.