On stage role in Matilda the Mu­si­cal brings Kiwi dancer home.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED - heartofthecity.co.nz.

Ro­torua born and bred, Travis Khan has paid a price for in­ter­na­tional dance fame – his kiwi ac­cent.

Th­ese days Khan has a dis­tinc­tive Aussie twang, a con­se­quence of a role he per­formed in Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Mu­si­cal 10 years ago.

“My Kiwi ac­cent wouldn’t have worked in Priscilla so I trained un­der an Aus­tralian ac­cent coach to change it, and yes, I re­ally do have an Aussie ac­cent now,” he says.

Khan is back home for the first time in 10 years pre­par­ing for his 760th per­for­mance in Matilda the Mu­si­cal based on the Roald Dahl novel and which opens in Auck­land on Au­gust 18.

He plays Ru­dolpho, the ball­room danc­ing coach of Matilda’s mother Mrs Worm­wood, a char­ac­ter not in Dahl’s book but cre­ated es­pe­cially for the mu­si­cal.

It is the ninth mu­si­cal Khan has per­formed in since leav­ing home in 2004 af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Unitec dance course in Auck­land and the New Zealand School of Dance in Welling­ton.

In those years he has found fame and for­tune not only on the dance stages of the world but in tele­vi­sion and film with parts in pro­grammes like Neigh­bours and dance se­quences in Peter Jack­son’s movie King Kong.

“I al­ways wanted to be in the per­form­ing sec­tor,” he says. “I did my first show at six, I would do pan­tomines and lots of am­a­teur pro­duc­tions; at one stage I wanted to be an ac­tor.”

Af­ter leav­ing school he au­di­tioned for a place at Unitec, af­ter ini­tially only go­ing with a friend to give moral sup­port.

“I ended up get­ting in and de­cided to use the op­por­tu­nity to work hard; they told me I had po­ten­tial but was ‘raw’. I’ve still got a copy of my au­di­tion video from that time and when I look at it now I can see what they meant.”

Grad­u­at­ing from Unitec, Khan went on to the New Zealand School of Dance, which is where his big break came.

Spot­ted by cast­ing agents for The Lion King he was in­vited to Sydney to au­di­tion.

“They of­fered me a job on the spot, but it was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion. I asked them for time to think about it, came back to Welling­ton, had lots of dis­cus­sions with my teach­ers and de­cided to take it.

“I thought I would only be there for a year, but I found I loved it and nine mu­si­cals later I’m still danc­ing,” says Khan. “It feels like home, I feel very grate­ful and hum­ble.”

Khan has been with Matilda (the show has won over 70 in­ter­na­tional awards in­clud­ing 15 for best mu­si­cal) for over two years, the pro­duc­tion just hav­ing fin­ished its 759th show in Aus­tralia. With its Auck­land sea­son soon to open, he is tak­ing the time to see fam­ily and friends in Ro­torua and Welling­ton be­fore re­hearsals be­gin.

“This show has been seen by over a mil­lion peo­ple and it gives me an ab­so­lute buzz when I think about the scale of what we are do­ing.

“To be back home (he has three sis­ters in Ro­torua and a brother in Hamil­ton) makes my heart sing; it brings me back to where it all be­gan.”

Khan says he read lots of Roald Dahl books as a kid.

“I was in­tro­duced to him by a teacher at Western Heights Pri­mary School in Ro­torua who was a huge fan and I would get his books out of the li­brary; the way he wrote res­onated with me.”

# Matilda the Mu­si­cal is the story of an ex­tra­or­di­nary girl who armed with a vivid imag­i­na­tion and a sharp mind dares to take a stand and change her des­tiny. The Auck­land sea­son opens at The Civic The­atre on Au­gust 18 and runs un­til Oc­to­ber 22.

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