PROLOGUE

Kurt, whose given name was James William Peterson, saw his first musical, a high school production of Finian's Rainbow, when he was in grade school in the small town of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The next day he was painting sets for the drama department and "closet singing" in his basement to his sister's 45s. After a brief football career as high school quarterback where he perfected the now legendary "end over end" pass, he quickly realized the clear and present danger of the huge corn-fed defensive players of the Middle West and decided it might be wise to get some attention and dates by singing rather than suffering.

He tried out for The Boyfriend, the high school production that year, and despite his shaking knees, he got the role of Bobby Van Heusen and soon discovered that he loved being up there on stage. He followed with Sid in The Pajama Game, Compton in Lily The Felon's Daughter, the juvenile in Ten Little Indians and Death in Death Takes a Holiday.

In his junior summer he was a walk-on at the local University Summer Theater and at that time a "New York Actor" handed him a brochure from AMDA, The American Musical and Dramatic Acadamy, which was the then small school on 25th and 2nd Avenue in NYC run by Phillip Burton, Richard's adopted father. After high school graduation, promising his family he would return in the fall, attend the University of Wisconsin and become a chemical engineer, he left for an eight week summer course at AMDA. He arrived in NYC with fifty dollars and a straw hat, checking into The McBurney YMCA. Long story short, he fell in love with the study, the theater and the City and with the threat of disappointing the country's scientific community and the frightened blessings of his parents, he returned in the fall as a full time student. He auditioned and got a scholarship from Dina Merrill, who was on the board of the school and he was off and running. During his summer study he played his first professional role, The Frog Prince, in Lambertville, New Jersey, and first appeared on the New York Stage in An Ordinary Miracle Off-Broadway that Autumn.

 Kurt (second from right) and Tommy Tune (far left)

Kurt (second from right) and Tommy Tune (far left)

In his second summer he went to an open call and was cast in the chorus by choreographer Tommy Tune, who was doing a full season at The Milwaukee Melody Top. Kurt played a baseball player, a pink bunny rabbit and a sailor and sang and danced in a summer that included Jane Powell and Tommy Tune in The Boy Friend, Gretchen Wyler in Sweet Charity, Patrice Munsel in Lady in the Dark and his hero, John Raitt, in Carousel, where he watched and listened to him shake the tent with his "Soliloquy" every evening for two weeks. He was in heaven.

With that job, Kurt joined Actor's Equity and informed his mother the good/bad news. He had gotten a great first job... and he had to find a new name. Jim, James and Jimmy Peterson were taken so he, his parents and friends made a list and whittled it down.

He was now officially Kurt, but when he entered the business side of the Theatre, he named his production company James William Productions... in honor of his parents.

The road he didn't take.

A month before his graduation from AMDA, Kurt was offered a record contract and a chance to be promoted as a Pop/Rock Star (see photo). When he was told it didn't make any difference "whether or not he could sing," he politely declined. No regrets here.

Kurt's first professional song.

Woe Is Me
by Harry Huret

Bewitched by a witch was I
Which is why this frog you see
For truth to tell
I'm under a spell
And what you think you see
Isn't me.

Oh woe is me
I'm a frog, I'm a frog so small!
Oh woe is me
for I'm really not a frog at all.

I'm just a poor little frog on the outside
But I'm a real royal prince on the inside.
Oh woe is me
for I'm really not a frog at all.

I'm really not a frog
I'm really not a frog
I'm really not a frog
at all.