Kurt Cracks the Big Apple

Kurt Phelan has announced he's landed his first role in a musical in New York. PHOTO: Supplied

Burdekin-grown triple-threat Kurt Phelan has today announced that he’s landed his first musical role in New York, set to star as Roger Davis in an upcoming production of RENT at The Secret Theatre throughout September and October.

The NIDA Graduate is no stranger to the generation-defining musical, having playing Mark Cohen some years ago in Australia. Kurt was kind enough to chat with us at 2am New York-time, to fill us in:

Congratulations on landing the role of Roger in NYC – how did this happen?
Well, since being in NYC, I have met the most amazing crew of artist who all meet for “Mondays in the club with Lance” at Club Cumming (Alan Cumming’s bar) and sing our hearts out. You just never know what they are working on or creating in their minds. One of those people is the director of RENT – Lauren Elder (Hair, Sideshow-Broadway); she asked me to come in and audition for the team. And next thing I know, I was getting the call!


How do you expect this experience to differ from playing Mark here in Australia?
The main difference is me… I’ve developed a greater understanding of life than I had when I played Mark back then. I don’t think Mark has a great understanding of how hard things can be – he assumes he does, but he sits on the fence a lot. Like I used to. NYC has changed a lot since the 90s when RENT is set, but the people, places and stories are still there if you ask. Getting to feel this city’s heartbeat everyday and being a part of it, puts me in the best place I could be to play this role. I was totally a Mark, but I’ve grown into a Roger. Kinda scary, but kinda awesome. 

What is it about RENT that has you returning to the show?
Its RENT. It defined my generation; just Like Hamilton has, and before that Hair, and before that Oklahoma (yes, believe it or not Oklahoma pushed many boundaries back then). I had no idea that a musical could make you feel that way, when I first saw it. It has a special time and place in the world, that will never disappear for many of us. The story, the music, the circumstances around its first Broadway run, all made it so special. Nothing will ever be like it.

What does it mean to you to land your first musical role in NYC?
Firstly, its a big thumbs up from the Universe. Phew! Secondly, it gives many people a chance to come and see me do what I do. Casting agents, directors, artistic directors, you never know who is watching. Yes, I have done a lot of great work and many lead roles in Australia, but no one knows that here. Here, its just words on a resume. It’s always better to see what someone can do for yourself. To be given this chance within the first three months of moving here is more than I could have hoped for.

Kurt Phelan will star in RENT at The Secret Theatre, New York, 19 September – 6 October 2019.

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