From NYC with LOVE (Kurt Phelan)
From the moment Queensland-born performer Kurt Phelan shares weird puppet musical “Avenue Q” song ‘Purpose’ as one of the opening songs of his “From NYC with LOVE” show from COVID-19 seclusion, it is clear to his online audience that his purpose is to entertain. As his love letter show from inside the epicentre progresses, this truth is realised, and not only through his tell of how he was just days out from directing and choreographing a now-on-hiatus show in Kansas City when the pandemic hit.
Phelan, who been living and working in New York for the past year, has not only been experiencing “Rent” in real life courtesy of the city’s East Village setting, but the charismatic NIDA graduate has played both Mark and Roger in various productions of Jonathan Larson’s generation-defining musical. And his thoughtful ‘One Song Glory’ certainly recaptures the first moment we all fell in love with struggling musician Roger, even when cleverly inset with some “American Idiot” moments. Indeed, there is a clear comfort in Phelan’s musical theatre numbers, and pleasingly, amongst anecdotes of side-hustles from while in upstate New York quarantine, the musical memories keep coming courtesy of “Tootsie” number ‘I Won’t Let You Down’.
Accompanied by his husband, Emmy Award-winning composer Lance Horne, Phelan presents a characteristic hour of songs, stories and cabaret cheek, as his versatility takes the audience from a topical ‘Catch My Disease’ and ‘I think We’re Alone Now’ to a reappropriated ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. There are also pop-up Aussie music nods amongst the show’s eclectic set list, courtesy of Divinyls and Peter Allen numbers. In particular, Phelan’s tender and compelling ‘Tenterfield Saddler’ showcases his impressive vocal technique and serves as a touching reminder that we will soon be welcoming the actor, singer, writer and choreographer back home to Australia.
When it comes to intimate shows, one from someone’s Upper West Side home, is about as cosy as it can get, especially when it comes complete with some familiar new-normal shared screen technical issues. Even through these hic-ups, however, Phelan’s infectious energy and character shines through … and that’s the way we like it.
Photo c/o – Austin Ruffer