‘Mind-blowing’ role

2013-11-20 00:00

WHEN Jarryd Nurden played the lead role in Maritzburg College and The Wykeham Collegiate’s performance of West Side Story in 2009, he never imagined that one day he’d be treading the boards in the same musical at the Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban.

“West Side Story was the first musical in which I played the lead [Tony],” he tells me in a break from rehearsals. “Then I left KwaZulu-Natal for four years and this is the first time that I’ve been back to perform, and it’s West Side Story, which is one of my favourite musicals.

“This time, I’m playing Tony’s best friend, Riff [the leader of the Jets, a white gang, which is at war with the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican, for control of their neighbourhood in the West Side of New York City].

“The role is very challenging ... Riff is constantly singing, dancing and acting. Rehearsals have been tough, I’m not going to lie. The amount that Riff does in the first act is vast ... and he opens the show every night.”

Nurden is also thrilled to have the chance to perform with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be conducted by maestros Lykele Temmingh and Naum Rousine.

“It’s going to be completely mind-blowing,” he said. “When I was at Maritzburg College, we did a few little soirees with members of the KZN Philharmonic ... so it’s amazing to think that I now get the chance to perform with them. I just pray that I do a good job.”

The talented young actor, singer and dancer, who recently starred in Starlight Express and Janice Honeyman’s Jack and the Beanstalk Pantomime, both at The Joburg Theatre, said that one of the best things about performing in Durban over the festive season is that his family, who live in Hilton, will be able to watch him.

“None of my people could come and watch me in Starlight and the panto, so it’s really lovely that my family, and all the friends I grew up with, can come down to Durban to see me performing in my first lead role,” Nurden added.

Asked what it had been like to perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, in which he played a hip-hop star, and got to do a lot of tricks on roller skates, he said: “It was amazing ... it’s one of the biggest, most difficult shows that I’ve ever been involved in.

“The whole rehearsal period was intense. We had to act, sing and dance on skates, and adapting our performances to skating was a challenge. It was high energy, fast paced and really just a huge learning curve.”

Those new skills haven’t gone to waste though, as Nurden has been chosen to be part of a team that is heading to the Artistic Skating World Championships in Spain in 2014.

Bitten by the performing bug while still at school, Nurden, reached the top 14 in M-Net and Pieter Torien’s High School Musical: Spotlight.

He went on to study musical theatre at Tshwane University of Technology, where he appeared in Spring Awakening and Parade, and dance productions such as Chronicles.

He has also worked with Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2012, Bailey Snyman, performing in his work Moffie, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

No amount of stage experience, however, prepared him for the feeling he got when he stood inside the Opera Theatre for the first time. “When I walked into the theatre with Nurit Graf, who plays Anita, I was so emotional,” Nurden said. “It’s the biggest stage I’ve ever performed on ... and knowing that I will be telling Riff’s story on it is overwhelming.”

As for why theatre goers should get off their couches and head into the centre of Durban to see the musical, Nurden said: “It is one of the most heart-felt stories ever staged. You get a great storyline, a 60-piece orchestra, phenomenal singing, dancing and acting ... put simply, West Side Story will give you the escape you need for two hours.”

Looking ahead, Nurden revealed that he will be starring in the Afrikaans musical Ryk Na die Sterre, at the State Theatre in Pretoria, in May 2014, but his ultimate dream is to conquer Broadway.

“I’m really pushing to go to New York because it’s every musical-theatre actor’s dream to perform on Broadway,” Nurden said.

“I spent three weeks in New York earlier this year to make contacts and speak to some agencies. I want to pursue every opportunity that arises.”

• arts@witness.co.za

WEST Side Story will be performed at The Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban from today to December 29

It tells the story of Maria (Ernestine Stuurman) and Tony (Clint Lesch), two young people from conflicting cultural backgrounds, who meet, fall in love and are ultimately torn apart by racial intolerance and ignorance.

The moving story unfolds to Leonard Bernstein’s dynamic score and includes songs, penned by lyricist Stephen Sondheim, such as Tonight, Maria, America and Somewhere.

Tickets range from R100 to R150 at Computicket.

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