London-based Australian Kurt Kansley has returned home from performing in the West End, to play the role of the narrator Che in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “EVITA”. Following an incredible run in Sydney, the musical opens at the Arts Centre Melbourne from 5 December 2018, with Australian superstar Tina Arena in the lead role of Eva Peron. We spoke with Kurt about the musical, his career so far and coming home to Oz.
Can you tell us a little about your character of Che?
Che in our production of “EVITA” is based on the Argentinian/Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. As Che, I play the narrator of the piece and weave through the telling of the story of Eva Peron with a cynical perspective, an admiration and a disdain for what she did and what she represented.
Why do you think this production of “EVITA” resonates so strongly with audiences?
I believe it resonates with audiences because it is a story of a strong female who defied the odds and rose to the top from the lower classes. She is a relatable figure and an audience loves an underdog. The other thing that has a powerful resonance are the incredibly moving and memorable music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
I have many favourite moments; I love observing the chemistry between Tina Arena and Paulo Szot in “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” and in the “Dice are Rolling” scene at the end, I love Alexis Van Maanen performing “Another Suitcase”. My favourite numbers to perform are “Peron’s Latest Flame” and “Rolling on In”. The ensemble of singers and dancers are wonderful and create some vivid detail in their choices.
What are some of your career highlights from performing in the West End in London?
I have been very lucky in London and worked with some amazing performers, creatives and at some really wonderful venues in some brilliant shows. After performing in the original Australian production of “The Lion King” I was transferred to the West End cast, that show has paved the way for me in many ways and I am very grateful to Disney for that opportunity.
Other highlights include; a production of “Guys and Dolls” at The Royal Exchange, a quirky and renowned theatre and it was a reimagined version of the show set in Harlem with an Afro-American cast, “Sweet Bird of Youth” directed by Marianne Elliott and starring Kim Cattrall at The Old Vic and later the same play at Chichester Festival directed by Jonathan Kent starring Marcia Gay Harden. I performed in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the 25th anniversary company of “Miss Saigon” in the West End and earlier this year I worked with Paulo Szot in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the Royal Festival Hall conducted by Marin Alsop. Performing in “Evita” as Che in Australia is one of the biggest highlights of my career.
What do you enjoy most about coming home to Australia to perform?
Being at home and spending time with my family and the friends I grew up with is a highlight. It’s so good to enjoy the brilliant lifestyle we have in Australia that we can easily take for granted, living overseas I realise how lucky we are to live in a beautiful country like Australia.
In between your performances, is there anything you are looking forward to seeing/doing in Melbourne?
I am looking forward to having a good rest in between the Sydney and Melbourne contracts. I will be spending a lot of quality time with my family and friends. I plan to visit country Victoria and see my friends in Trentham and Daylesford and get some fresh air and space in the country. I’d like to also visit the Hot Springs in Mornington Peninsula and, of course, enjoy lots of good Melbourne coffee.
What do you have coming up for 2019? Are you heading back to London?
“EVITA” has really been a homecoming for me. I hope that it will create a springboard for me to get more roles on the Australian stage. I am an Australian and a British citizen and I have a base in both places. I have some work lined up already in London and Australia for 2019. The most exciting thing coming up for me is a project I have been creating with my writing partner over the last five years, we are called Kansley & Lidert and our first original musical (which we workshopped earlier this year) has been picked up to do a West End run late 2019/early 2020.