What a guy – musical theatre star Oliver Tompsett

CURRENT JOB: Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls on the West End.

PAST JOBS: Paperboy, sales assistant at Superdrug, giant promotional banana.

VOCAL RANGE: Lowish to pretty high…I stopped worrying about notes a long time ago. Apply your technique and either hit or don’t.

VOCAL ROLE MODELS: Stevie Wonder, Michael Bolton and my Dad.

WHAT DID YOU THINK AFTER YOUR FIRST PRO JOB? Wow doesn’t doing it eight times a week take away some of the fun! But hey it’s better than a nine to five job.

NAME DROPPING (TELL US SOME OF THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE WORKED WITH): Brian May, Roger Taylor, Idina Menzel, Shane Ward, Darren Day and most of the West End between the ages of 30 and 40.

SHOWS YOU HAVE BEEN IN: Our House, Mamma Mia, Over my Shoulder, Kismet, West Side Story, Royal Hunt of the Sun, Wicked, Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You, White Christmas and Guys and Dolls.


WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE MT SINGER: Kerry Ellis, Louise Dearman or Alice Fearn

FUNNIEST (UNSCRIPTED) MOMENT: Delivering the a “I’m the man” speech in Guys and Dolls before Sit down you’re rocking the boat and upon exiting walked face first into the pole right behind me. Or just most shows performing opposite Rachel Wooding in We Will Rock You.

iSing: You’re currently playing Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls on the West End, what are the challenges of the role?

Oliver Tompsett: The challenge at first was to honour the incredible world and characters that Damon Runyon had created. To play a tough chauvinistic gambler that the audience will like but yet believe has lived a life of sin and is actually kind of dangerous is difficult. I also have to remain the charming loveable romantic male lead, so it is a hard tone to hit spot on. I still think I can push the boundaries each way to see what I can get away with. If I can make Sarah Brown (the female romantic lead) wary of me, yet charm the socks off her, then hopefully the audience should feel the same. I have done a lot of high tenor roles but Sky is a low baritone role so it has been a challenge to find the vocal tone not to mention the low notes, but I’m getting there.


iSing: Are there many similarities between you and professional gambler Sky?

OT: I like a gamble every now and then but I’m not a massive risk taker with money. I tend to avoid danger but I am not frightened by it. I have always had the utmost respect for women. Saying that I am a chancer – if I need to get my way I will always turn on the charm offensive. I love a game and I love a challenge. I remember as a young lad enjoying the chase of the opposite sex but I am also a bit of a romantic and have my own Sarah Brown now – minus working for the Salvation Army.

iSing: You’ve had a number of roles in big West End productions, what is your career highlight so far?

OT: It’s very hard to compare all of my roles as different jobs come with different perks. How can you compare the pleasure of being part of the legend that is Wicked versus playing the part of Drew in the original London cast of the show that was a party every night in Rock of Ages? How can you compare singing Bohemian Rhapsody in We Will Rock You at the Dominion with Roger Taylor and Brian May playing alongside you versus the actor’s gift of a role such as Sky Masterson in arguably one of the best musicals of all time Guys and Dolls. It’s impossible to choose. I realise just how lucky I am. It sounds like I’m bragging but honestly I find it impossible to compare. If I thought I had already had my career highlight I would stop driving forward to achieve more and surprise people. Never underestimate what someone might achieve.
INSERT VIDEO – Don’t Stop Believing sung by Rock of Ages West End cast

INSERT VIDEO – Don’t Stop Believing sung by Rock of Ages West End cast

iSing: Performing in a West End show can be gruelling, how do you look after yourself and your voice? What’s your vocal routine?

OT: I try to stay on top of my voice with discipline and through seeking the advice of the most respected singing teachers. But fitness and health are a massive factor in how strong your voice may feel. So I try to start with myself and my well-being before trying to improve on my voice. Different roles demand different vocal qualities and to remain working in top flight theatre you have to be a chameleon. 

iSing: Do you have any rituals/tricks to help deal with the pressure of performing?

OT: Once when I was stressing about a show, making myself tense and worried about what might happen if I mucked up, someone said to me “You’re not packing parachutes”.
This phrase now calms me down instantly. If I have a bad one no one dies – just a bit of my ego. I think it is healthy to have a good ego debt every now and then.

iSing: You’ve worked a lot with composer Scott Alan (and recorded an album of his songs with Cynthia Erivo last year). Can you tell us more about that collaboration?

OT: Over the years Scott has become a dear friend of mine and when I can I will always rock up and sing one of his songs. His lyrics are heart breaking and his melodies soar. What’s not to like.

iSing: The blogosphere is very complimentary about your performances of Scott’s work. What makes singing his songs so special?

OT: Scott has great pop sensibility which is rare in musical theatre writing. There are way better pop singers out there and there are better MT singers out there but I sit somewhere in the middle marrying the big melodies with the heart of an actor and I guess that I get Scott and I understand where every lyric comes from (nearly).
INSERT VIDEO – Stay by Scott Alan performed by Oliver Tompsett


iSing: What’s the best piece of advice about the business someone has given you?

OT: Take every performance opportunity there is be it karaoke, monologue open mic nights, school productions or local theatre. We are all capable of being free on stage and acting the socks off a character or singing like we do in the shower but it’s the little voices of inhibition that stop us from being great. The little negative thoughts that go off in your head need to be fought with the voices of self-belief. Negative thoughts will always be there for most but the more you put yourself in challenging situations the more confident the other positive voices will get and cover those negative voices with cheers and words of encouragement. If you had done an exam 10 times you’d feel a lot less nervous doing for the 11th and even more confident on the 100th and so on. Once you’ve done 50 auditions you’re likely to feel better in auditions so if you have sung a song in 30 karaoke bars or at a local theatre or even your living room for your friends and family you are going to feel better than if you just do it for the first time. There’s that saying: “If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail.”


iSing: What drew you to musical theatre in the first place?

OT: I was attracted to all aspects of storytelling – through dance through dialogue and through music. Sadly in this country it is hard to prove you can tell a story through several mediums and not get pigeon-holed. Yes my career has been predominantly musical theatre but I am an actor, I am a singer and I am sometimes an average dancer, but I am proud and grateful for the work I have done. The snobbery that goes against musical theatre in a lot of cases comes from other performers shortcomings. I have done a few plays and it is a whole lot easier finding the truth and telling a story with heart when you don’t have to break into song and dance every five minutes. I know you didn’t ask that but it just came out!

iSing: Where do you see yourself in five years?

OT: Hopefully happy that I have no idea where I’m gonna be in another five years.

Website: olivertompsett.com

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Bronwyn Bidwell is an Australian journalist and editor based in London. She enjoys writing about music, books, history and popular culture.