After a nearly 20-year absence from the Kansas City area, Shawnee Mission East grad and music theatre professional Mary-Elizabeth Milton is returning to the stage this weekend with Music Theatre Kansas City to take a lead role in the production of “Pippin.”
Milton is a Kansas native who now calls New York her home. She started her acting career at age 6 in her first hometown of Wichita — with Music Theatre for Young People, now named Music Theatre Kansas City, in 1986, when she played a toy alongside Julie Danielson.
Fast forward 20 years, after multiple tours across the country and dozens of roles in theatre productions, Milton is back just for this weekend to take the role of Pippin’s love interest, Catherine.
“I have spent almost half of my life in New York now, but I will always feel like Kansas is my home,” she said. “I’m a Kansas girl at heart; I root for my Royals when they’re on TV. I get really invested in the Chiefs. I still have a lot of family here in Kansas that help me stay tied to the area.”
Some of her favorite roles with Music Theatre Kansas City included Bonnie in “Anything Goes” in 2000, Mary Magdalene in “JC Superstar” in 1999, and co-choreographer for “Seussical.” She also performed at SM East and Rockhurst High School, and also with Theatre in the Park. She credits her brother, Matthew Milton, for getting her interested in music theatre.
After graduating SM East in 2000, Milton went to New York City to study musical theatre at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She worked a number of “actor survival” jobs before going on the national tour of “Footloose” in a supporting role and as dance captain. She also toured with “Sesame Street Live.”
“Truly, it was like being a rockstar for 3 year olds for a few years of my life,” she said. “It was one of the greatest experiences.”
Milton also performed with some professional theatre companies across the country, including with The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Wisconsin, the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, and with Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis. Locally, she’s worked with Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Starlight Theatre.
Nonetheless, Milton said she is grateful to the MTKC family for welcoming her back with open arms to where her theatre career started. She is also thankful for her friends, family, including parents Jolene Gilmore and Rick Milton, and fiancé, Rich Piaia, who she will marry in December.
“I think that’s one of the best parts about the Kansas City area and the Kansas City area theatre community, is that everyone is so welcoming, and they are truly invested in other people,” she said. “You truly become family when you’re doing theater, and that’s especially true in the Kansas City theatre community.”
“Pippin” is on stage June 13-16 with Music Theatre Kansas City. Tickets are available online.