Jarryd’s making dreams come true


Pietermaritzburg-born Jarryd Nurden, up front with blonde Carmen Pretorius, in the recent international touring production of Chicago.

BILLY SUTER spoke to singer, actor, dancer and model JARRYD NURDEN, born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, who has been cast as the tanned and muscular Rocky in the new touring production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The musical is now in rehearsal for a season at Cape Town’s Artspace theatre from December 6 to January 12. Featuring Craig Urbani as Frank N Furter and Kate Normington as Narrator, the show then runs at Johannesburg’s Teatro theatre, at Montecasino, from January 17 to March 1.

Jarryd, tell me about the new production of The Rocky Horror Show. It is the South African touring production of the “refreshed” version of the hit musical that was recently in London, yes?

It’s currently the World Touring Rocky Horror Show. It has just finished its run in the UK and now it’s our turn to take over its electric energy and immersive world of crazy, love and Rock ’n’ roll! I’m so excited to be part of this iconic musical!

You play toned Rocky. Is he likely to be in any way different in this new version of the show than audiences are accustomed to – and what do you most enjoy or dislike about playing him?

Jarryd Nurden has been muscling up for his role as Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show since he heard he had got the role eight months ago.

Rocky will be tanned and sporting a leopard-print Speedo in this production. Every production is directed with the intention of each performer finding their own statement with their character, finding a fresh X- Factor to bring to each season. So I am excited to discover what that just might be for me.

What sort of new things can patrons look forward to in the new show? And what would you say, in general, to encourage people to book for this production?

It’s bigger and better than they have ever experienced the show before! I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but just know it’s going to be a night to remember – and the perfect evening to let your hair down, dress up and go out !

Where and when did rehearsals for the show start and how intensive are they, generally and in terms of tight schedules?

We are in rehearsal now at Cape Town’s Artscape. It’s a tight, four-week rehearsal period and the show is extremely technical in deceiving ways. I guess that’s the journey of an actor: to make what is so difficult to execute, look so easy.

How long ago did you start muscling up for the role of Rocky – and what sort of strict regime and diet did you have to follow?

I started as soon as I knew I had got the role. It’s been about eight months, so far, of hard, consistent work.

I have been following my intuition for diet.  I’m a believer that we need to be conscious of where we are getting our produce from – be it vegetables or meat – as I consume both in my diet. Sourcing local, organic and grass-fed products from local small farmers is where it’s at for me. It’s 80% diet and 20% training.

I have been fortunate to get my training plans from my best friend and personal trainer in the UK, Thalia Burt. She has been killing me with cleverly designed workouts! Also, my long-time collaboration with SWITCH Playground has been keeping me fit, ripped and on my toes for this role!

Jarryd Nurden as Felicia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical.

You have been very active on the musical theatre scene, and travelling the world in shows, since your first principal role as gang leader Riff in the Playhouse Company’s 2013 production of West Side Story. What comments on your first international touring experience, in 2014/2015, as Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats?

That role and the international tour of Cats changed my life! We toured South Korea on a nine-month national tour and then travelled to Singapore for a season. It’s the hardest show I have ever done and one I can’t wait to do again one day.

You also featured in the energetic 2016 touring production of Joseph which kept you busy, locally and abroad, for a long time? What comments on that production, your role, and your overall experience with Joseph?

That musical was a life-changing experience for me in terms of my growth as a person, because the show was so long (almost two full years of triple-show Saturdays).

I learnt what true stamina really was – and how to grow a thick skin – so as to never let the integrity of the show drop after so many performances.

Jarryd Nurden… the dancer, singer and actor as model.

I loved the vibrancy of that show and my most special memory was performing it for my gran, as it’s her favourite musical of all time. We are the vessels in which we create healing experiences for audiences to enjoy at the end of the day.

Tell me about your most recent international tour as Aaron in Chicago, opposite Samantha Peo, Carmen Pretorius, Ilse Klink, Jonathan Roxmouth, Craig Urbani and others.

Chicago was a dream come true! I mean it’s Fosse! I finally got to dance this choreography that gave me chills every night. Samantha Peo is “next level”, embracing the true feminine energy that is sexy, powerful, sensitive and inspiring. It was such a special journey working and learning from her on this tour.

I also had a very special time with Carmen, as this was our full-circle moment working together after meeting on High School Musical 10 years before. She is a spectacular Roxy. I loved my leading ladies.

You were bitten by the showbiz bug after seeing The Lion King in Johannesburg in 2007, then became a member of the cast of the M-Net competition series that sought leads for a South African stage production of High School Musical. You were not successful, but what did you gain from that experience?

I gained a burning desire to perform on the best stages in the world. A desire to learn as much as I could, and to try to always be the best, truest version of myself that I can be.

Jarryd Nurden in one of the many outrageous costumes he wore as lead Felicia in the colourful Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical.

Tell me about your experience as flamboyant Felicia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical on the Norwegian Epic luxury liner. I believe you got that role through a video audition you sent to New York agents after having been disappointed not to audition for the hit South Africa production of the musical, due to Joseph commitments.

This was a gift from God; an affirmation that divine timing exists and that there is a plan for all of us. All we have to do is work hard, take action and have a little faith.

What seemed like an impossible audition option – sending a video to a casting agency in New York City – turned out being one of the biggest breaks in my career.

With a nudge, a push and a little help from friends and family, I shot my audition material and, in the last two weeks of the Joseph international tour, I woke up to an email with an offer for the lead role.

This little farm town boy from KwaZulu-Natal had booked the job, against all who auditioned in New York City. It was a blessing for which I’ll always be grateful, and the role was an absolute honour to perform.

Where did you travel to on the liner with Priscilla? Also, I understand you handed over the role of Felicia on the Norwegian Epic to Phillip Schnetler, who starred in the same role in the South African production?

Two sides of the versatile Jarryd Nurden.

We rehearsed for six weeks in Florida, USA, before flying to Barcelona to board the ship for the Mediterranean itinerary (Spain, France, Italy, Palma Mallorca), then went trans-Atlantic to America for our Caribbean itinerary.

It was super-special to hand the role over to Phil. We kept it in the family and held the SA flag high abroad.

Cats and West Side Story were productions you had always wanted to be a part of. What are other dream roles/shows? Also what other shows, that I haven’t already mentioned, have you appeared in to date?

They were, indeed, and they were the first two major musicals I did. A dream come true, for sure.

My buck-list roles would be Fiyero in Wicked, The Doctor in Waitress, Evan in Dear Evan Hansen, one of The Four Seasons in Jersey Boys and an Angel in Kinky Boots. I’d also love to perform in Catch Me If You Can, A Chorus Line and The Lion King.

Clearly I have got my work cut out for me! Goals are good to have, I guess.  Showbiz forever!

You have become a very successful model, both in print and on screen. When, where and how did it start?

I started in 2012 with Ice Genetics, under the amazing eye of director Donne Le Grange. She has been guiding and mentoring my modelling career ever since.

Jarryd Nurden… loves riding horses, taking hikes, eating out with friends (I love food) and having a good Netflix-and-chill moment.

Who are your showbiz idols, locally and internationally, and why?

My showbiz idols are Samantha Peo, Aaron Tveit, Amra Faye Wright, Safiso Mazibuko, Megan Hilty, Audra McDonald, Grant Almirall and Ryan Lowe.

 What have been some embarrassing/awkward moments for you on stage or elsewhere in the public eye?

Falling on my ass mid-performance in a show; forgetting my words mid-song; vocally cracking mid-song. I think I have experienced it all ! Smile and wave!

Away from the showbiz spotlight, how do you relax and unwind?

I love riding horses, taking hikes, eating out with friends (I love food) and having a good Netflix-and-chill moment.

You were born in Pietermaritzburg. Where is home now?

Home is where the heart is. A traveller is what I am and where I am.

What next for you – and what are your longterm plans, hopes and dreams?

Stay tuned on my social media platforms @jarrydnurden to see where I’m going next and what projects I’ll be doing after Rocky Horror Show.

Jarryd Nurden: “Chicago was a dream come true! I mean it’s Fosse! I finally got to dance this choreography that gave me chills every night:”

2 thoughts on “Jarryd’s making dreams come true

  1. Thanks so much for this interview, Billy. I actually know nothing about the Rocky Horror Show, even though I’ve sure I’ve watched the movie on TV some years ago. So I have to go do some googling tonight. I want to know who the characters are, and then find out which of our wonderful actors are performing in each role. Saw a posting on Facebook of the cast having done a hike up Lions Head, in Cape Town. Hope I can somehow find something on google about who’s who in the Rocky Horror Zoo in Cape Town before Jan 5, which is when we’ll be seing it.


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