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Clarkston grad lives Broadway dream



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Nic Thompson performs in Mary Poppins. Photo provided (click for larger version)
May 09, 2012 - Clarkston native Nic Thompson is living his dream. His Broadway debut began on Feb. 28 in Disney's Mary Poppins, which has entertained over 8 million people and grossed over $600 million.

While growing up in Clarkston, Thompson knew he would end up in New York City, but his journey wasn't easy.

"It's taken 10 years of pounding the pavement to get here. TV shows like American Idol make it seem instantaneous, and that's not the case."

At times Thompson would do three or more auditions a day.

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"After a while, you don't think 'did I get it?' You just go on to the next one. There's a large amount of rejection you have to face," Thompson explained.

His former drama instructor, Jeff Tice, who teaches at Clarkston high school and taught Nic for four years, attributes Nic's success to his "tremendous drive and commitment to his art."

Before joining the cast of Mary Poppins, Nic attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy where he currently teaches tumbling. He also traveled to Europe as a part of The Who's Tommy, a rock musical.

For now, Thompson loves living in New York and still finds many of the songs fun to sing and exhilarating to perform.

"'Step in Time' builds so wonderfully. It is impossible not to feel excited," Thompson said.

Broadway's version of Mary Poppins blends elements of the novel written by Pamela Lyndon Travers with the popular 1960s film based off the book.

Popular songs from the movie like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "A Spoonful of Sugar" are featured in the Broadway show along with new tunes like "Anything Can Happen," which is one of Thompson's favorites.

The lyrics of "Anything Can Happen" state, "Go and chase your dreams you won't regret it. Life is out there waiting so go and get it. Once you've started living life you just can't get enough. Anything can happen."

It is the last song of the show, and Thompson finds it inspiring.

"To be living my dream and singing that song is really awesome," Thompson said.

Playing a statue that comes to life, a giant toy soldier, and a chimney sweep tap dancing on the rooftops of London may sound like fun, but Thompson admits that it is hard work too.

"It takes a lot of stamina. 'Step in Time' is 12 minutes of tap dancing and singing, and there are no recorded vocals on Broadway. It's all live."

Thompson performs in eight shows a week, and one day a week he performs two shows in a day.

"On top of doing the shows, we go to the gym and take dance and vocal classes to stay in shape," he said. "It's a full time job and then some."

Nic Thompson's advice for others who dream of making it to Broadway is "study as much as humanly possible in all three disciplines: singing, dancing, and acting."

He added, "be kind and nice to every single person you meet along the way because people get wrapped up in competition, and you don't want to burn any bridges."

Although Thompson is far away from Clarkston, he feels very positive about the town where he grew up.

"I received astronomical support from people in Clarkston. They always gave me encouragement and kind words, and I knew they weren't just saying it to be nice," he said. "People were also very giving of their knowledge."

From the perspective of those who know him best, it wasn't a matter of sharing knowledge because Nic "came out of the womb saying he wanted to be on Broadway," Kathy Thompson, Nic's mother, said. "He always was singing and dancing around the house."

Tice agreed. "It was easy to see that he was very special. In musical theater, we go for a triple threat (acting, singing, and dancing), and Nic had that as a ninth grader."

In fact, he was one of the few freshmen who had lead roles in the school's productions. As a senior who gradated in 2002, Thompson was the only male cheerleader on the team, which helped him develop his talent for tumbling and flipping.

His mother remembers that he "took some razzing" for being the sole man on the team, but she thinks his experience gave him strength.

Nic's mom is a teacher at Clarkston High, but she admitted that her son has taught her a few things. His talents have "brought an enrichment to our lives" and given her family, who she described as "sports people," a "new appreciation for the arts."

Kathy has watched her son perform in Mary Poppins three times, and each time she tears up. It isn't only because she's proud of Nic, but also because of the production's message expressed in "Anything Can Happen." Hearing the song, "keeps me motivated to tell kids, don't give up!" Kathy said.

Nic Thompson certainly didn't give up on his desire to make it Broadway, and he plans to continue living his dream of dancing, singing, and acting in Mary Poppins until 2016.

Clarkston News reporter
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