Nobody puts Kurt in a corner

As the self-proclaimed ‘greatest export from Townsville’, Kurt Phelan (Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story Onstage, Singin’ in the Rain, Witches of Eastwick and Priscilla Queen of the Desert) slid his way into Sydney to bring his acclaimed cabaret showPhelan Groovy, to Slide.

Opening with a modified version of ‘Feeling Good’… of course changed to ‘Phelan Good’, Phelan set the tone for his show: a balanced blend of comedy, drama, seriousness and just darn good entertainment value.

With a ‘story for every song and a song for every story’ and accompanied by Nigel Ubrihien on piano, Phelan regaled the audience with stories of his home birth (on the laundry steps of a mango farm for anyone interested), his (mis)adventures in love, his first musical, gropey fans in Brisbane, what it is like to work for Disney, his admiration for Debra Byrne and other life stories.

Whilst I felt that some of Phelan’s timing and jokes could do with a little tweeking, I did appreciate how easily Phelan transitioned from the suave, sophisticated showman to the cheeky, charming comedian.

Kurt Phelan in Phelan Groovy

Kurt Phelan

The songs Phelan has included in his show span a diverse range of genres and eras, with some adapted for the comedic elements (for example, a TMI mashup of ‘What’s Love Got to do With It’/’Under my Skin’/’Burn for You’) and others adding tonality to some more serious moments. A beautiful rendition of ‘A Thousand Miles’ in memory of friends lost to mental illness was particularly moving, especially as it a personal issue for me.

What remains with me though are two standout songs: ‘Let It Go’ – adapted as an ode to all Dad’s tormented by Elsa and Frozen and ‘Memory’ – performed as Deb Byrne at a particularly memorable Hats Off show. These songs will never be the same again!

Gradually undressing as the show progressed – first went the jacket, then the shoes (Phelan obviously more comfortable in his QLD slippers), then the vest before a quick change into a tropical shirt and shorts – I felt Phelan also relaxed as the show progressed.

Phelan closed the show with ‘Yellow Brick Road’ from the Australian musical CROSSXROADS. This is a stunning song and Phelan certainly did it justice with his range and emotion.

Although Phelan stated ‘what happens at a cabaret, stays at a cabaret’, his show is too enjoyable not to share and recommend it!


Dates: Friday 28 October
Time: 7pm dinner/8:30pm show
Venue: Teatro Vivaldi Restaurant, ANU Arts Centre, University Avenue, Canberra
Cost: Dinner & show – $70 to $90, Show only – $30 – $50
Bookings: or (02) 6257 2718


Dates: THU 01–SAT 03 DECEMBER, 2016
Time: 8:45pm
Venue: Studio 53½
Cost: $25 – $28