PMB star tours South Korea

2014-04-19 00:00

RISING musical star Jarryn Nurden proved he was a real cool cat when he landed the role of Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, after wowing the British-based producers of Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Cats.

Now the former Maritzburg College pupil is hard at work rehearsing for the show that will be touring South Korea for nine months and then could tour to Australia.

Based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, Cats is produced by Lloyd-Webber’s The Really Useful Group.

It tells the story of a tribe of cats, called the Jellicles, and the night they make what is known as “the Jellicle choice” — deciding which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Among the most famous songs from the musical, which ran on the West End in London for an incredible 21 years, is Memory.

Speaking to Weekend Witness, Nurden, whose family live in Hilton, said he still couldn’t quite believe that he was going to be taking part in “such an iconic musical”.

“I auditioned for the show about two months ago in Cape Town. An international team came over to do the auditions and it was hectic. Cats is so challenging and people say it’s the hardest show you’ll ever do in your life,” he said.

Nurden was given a callback to read for four different characters, but wasn’t sure he’d impressed the producers.

“The Brits are so serious when they audition you, so I really couldn’t read how it had gone,” he said, “but then they called me and offered me the role of Skimbleshanks, the railway cat, and also the understudy for Rum-Tum … it’s an unbelievable dream come true.”

Skimbleshanks is an active orange tabby who lives on the trains and acts as an unofficial chaperone, to such an extent that he is considered rather indispensable to the train and station employees.

Nurden said: “I’m so excited to be playing Skimbleshanks … he’s one of those characters that audiences always remember and he has a really big number that wakes people up in the second act.”

The young actor will sing the song, Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat, and while he does so, an entire locomotive train engine will be assembled out of objects in the junkyard.

Around 1 000 people auditioned for Cats in South Africa, but only six local performers were selected to join the show’s international cast.

Cats is Nurden’s third straight musical — he also appeared in West Side Story in Durban and Starlight Express in Johannesburg — and he admits to feeling blessed with his success to date.

“It’s been an awesome, awesome journey,” the actor, who also appeared in Janice Honeyman’s Jack and the Beanstalk, said, adding that it was incredible that he had already been given the chance to perform in two of his favourite musicals.

“I watched Cats on DVD for the first time in 2009 and the same year I got to play Tony in the production of West Side Story at The Wykeham Collegiate. Then last year, I got to do West Side Story for real at the Durban Playhouse and now straight after that I get to do Cats … it’s freaky."

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