The return of Miss Saigon to the West End has delighted and excited many people, taking fans who remember the original for a fond stroll down memory lane while bringing its unique brand of epic entertainment to a whole new generation. Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular musical, which centres on the love story between an American GI and a young Vietnamese girl during the fall of Saigon, has been revived in an all-new production in the musical’s 25th year.
Still in its preview period at the Prince Edward Theatre, it has received glowing feedback from audiences so far and it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to believe that the critics will respond in the same way come opening night on 21st May 2014. The show boasts a wonderful cast, including several performers who have appeared in previous editions of In Profile. Both understudies for the lead role of Chris, Niall Sheehy and Dale Evans, have featured in the series which turns the spotlight on members of the ensemble from West End shows, and this week it’s the turn of Miss Saigon ensemble member and understudy Kurt Kansley.
Kurt Kansley is an extremely talented performer who has garnered a worldly wealth of experience on the stage. This accomplished entertainer originates from Cape Town, South Africa but grew up in Australia, which is where he received the training which has stood him in such good stead in his career. He studied Dramatic Art at the Monash University and Music at the Melba Conservatorium of Music.
He has been involved in numerous stage productions during the years spent in the land Down Under, performing in such shows as Godspell, Only Heaven Knows, Show Boat, RENT, Naked Boys Singing and I Do in Caroline Springs. He also played the role of Leroy in a production of Hair and Jimmy in The Grand Hotel, but one of his most notable pre-West End theatre credits comes courtesy of popular musical The Lion King. Kurt was part of the original Australian company of Disney’s The Lion King, in which he performed onstage in the ensemble and also covered the lead role of Simba.
It was The Lion King which led to him making the trip halfway around the world to make his first appearance on the West End stage. After a year in the show, he was invited to make the (sizable) jump from Australia to the UK to join the cast of the West End production; a move which turned out to be a very good thing for our theatre fans. He covered and played the role of Simba once again at the Lyceum Theatre, while also understudying the role of Banzai.
Since that first West End appearance he has gone on to perform in various other productions, both in and out of the West End. He has also been part of a number of UK and European touring productions, including Rock Around The Clock, The 12 Tenors and Hair, this time playing the role of Berger in the latter, which was directed by Gary Lloyd.
He was seen in the 2011 production of Ragtime at the Landor Theatre which was directed by Robert McWhir and loved by critics and fans alike. He performed in the 21-strong cast alongside the likes of Louisa Lydell, Rosalind James and John Barr and was received much praise for his performance in the reviews, with The Stage commenting that ‘Louisa Lydell as Mother and Kurt Kansley as Coalhouse Walker deliver generous performances that ground the piece with an emotional maturity.’ He later appeared in the production which ran at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, this time playing Tom Snout and covering the role of Demetrius in the company which featured such great stage names as Rosalie Craig (Mother), David Birrell (Father) and Tamsin Carroll (Emma Goldman) – the latter of whom he’s been reunited with in Miss Saigon as she plays the principal role of Chris’ wife Ellen.
His other theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, The Love-Girl and the Innocent at Southwark Playhouse (Kolodey/Munitsa) and Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic (Jacky). He also features on the concept album of the musical The Last of the Mohicans as Ulcan and was lead singer for Royal Caribbean Cruises and The Grand Wazoo soul and funk band. Between November 2012 and February 2013, he also appeared as a coach and performer with musical director Peter McCarthy at the Harlequin Performing Arts Academy’s Buccament Bay resort.
He is not only an accomplished musical theatre performer, but also an accomplished pianist, composer and teacher. He provided the musical arrangements and accompaniment at the cabaret Songs I’ll Never Sing, which starred Rachel John at the St James Studio as part of the venues Cabaret Nights series, and has taught singing and repertoire at such renowned performing arts institutions as Arts Educational Schools. He is also the Guest Musical Director at Gleekschool, a drama school based in South East London and established in 2010.
Kurt Kansley is now appearing at the Prince Edward Theatre in the company of the newly revived Miss Saigon. He performs in the ensemble team and is also 2nd cover to the leading role of John, American GI and friend of Chris. In his biography on the show’s website, he comments that he is ‘honoured and so excited’ to be part of the 25th anniversary production and credits the musical – which was the first professional show he saw on stage – with inspiring him to pursue acting as a career. For anyone who has seen him perform, it’s a fortunate turn-of-luck that he did as this talented and praiseworthy actor is a joy to watch and makes a wonderful addition to any show. His presence in the West End only enriches it and the longer he stays here the better.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Miss Saigon at Prince Edward Theatre
Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Age Restrictions: Suitable for ages 12+
Saturday 17th May 2014