Starlight Theatre’s summer season is homecoming for two young women from Overland Park who are living their dreams of Broadway careers.
Lisa Karlin, a 2001 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, is in the cast of a national tour company’s production of “Pippin,” the 2013 winner of four Tony Awards that opened Tuesday at Starlight and runs through July 5.
Kaitlyn Davidson, a 2005 Blue Valley High School graduate, is with another national touring company, bringing “Cinderella” to Starlight July 7-12, starting two days after “Pippin” ends. Davidson plays Gabrielle, an evil step-sister, in “Cinderella.”
Karlin stars as Player in “Pippin” and understudies the roles of Leading Player and Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother. She’s been on Broadway in “The Addams Family” and “Ragtime” and with tours of “Cats,” “Evita” and “Sweet Charity.”
After high school, Karlin majored in musical theater at Illinois Wesleyan University, then it was on to New York City in 2005.
“I didn’t have an agent. I went from audition to audition hoping to land a role,” Karlin said. “Meantime, to pay bills I got a telemarketing job selling tickets to Broadway shows.”
“Obviously, that wasn’t why I came to New York, but I never seriously thought about giving up,” she said. “I’d been to college. I knew I could get something else. But I was given one life and I was determined to live it the way I wanted to.”
“When I began getting theater work I embraced New York City living. I’m kind of a homebody, I guess. I like to cook and have friends in. I pay my bills and I’m living in the city. I love doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
“‘Pippin’ is an interesting show. It’s about Leading Player and a troupe of acrobats and circus performers doing feats of magic as they lead Pippin though changes in his lifestyle,” Karlin said. “It’s a magical, gorgeous production I’m proud to be part of and bring to my hometown.”
Karlin said she’s fortunate to have an opportunity to understudy Leading Player. “It’s a demanding role. She’s a storyteller, a narrator. She interacts with the audience from the show’s beginning inviting them to the circus. Everyone is a Player, except Pippin,” she said.
“I’ve filled in as Leading Player several times since the tour began nearly a year ago. It’s challenging but I really enjoy doing it,” Karlin said.
“I’ve been telling our cast what a beautiful theater Starlight is. I’m going to take the meat-eating members to Oklahoma Joe’s for barbecue,” she added. “It’s wonderful to be home and performing before family and friends.”
Davidson, too, is excited about playing in a show in her hometown again. “This will be the first time I’ve been in a show in the Kansas City area since I moved to New York. I was invited to be guest presenter at Starlight’s Blue Star Awards in May but I couldn’t stay long,” she said.
Davidson was voted Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role at Blue Star Awards in 2004 and 2005.
“Living in New York City and being on Broadway was my dream growing up. When I got there after graduating from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 2009, the city was as exciting as I expected … and a little scary,” Davidson said.
“College prepared me to accept rejection. That was important when I got to New York,” she added.
Her first Broadway show was “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” in which she had a role and was assistant dance captain. She also did two tours in “White Christmas” playing Judy Haynes. Then came “Cinderella” and the role of Gabrielle in 2014. She’s also Cinderella’s understudy. “I’ve filled in for her several times. That’s pretty exciting,” she said.
“I enjoy being on tour, going to different cities making new friends and visiting old ones. When I signed for a year with the ‘Cinderella’ tour, I decided to put my furniture in storage and move out of my apartment to save money,” Davidson said.
“It’s surprising how many people from the Kansas City area are in show business in New York. Someone said there must be something in the water in Kansas City. Most of them, like Lisa and me, took lessons at Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice in Overland Park.
Davidson will be home a few days before her show starts so she can have more time with friends. “I’m staying with my parents. We plan to spend July 4th in St. Louis. Dad has promised to take me to a Royals game. It’s going to be a fun week,” she said.
“I love show business and I love the life I’m living. It can be challenging when there are periods without work. But nothing has ever made me want to do anything else,” Davidson said.