Tomas Wolstenholme trained on the Actor Musicianship program at Rose Bruford College. His credits whilst Training include Into the Woods, The Crucible, The Fall of the House of Usher (Musical Director), ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Swindlestock – A new Musical (Composer, MD). Tomas is making his professional debut in Once covering the parts of Emcee and Eamon.
Just after finishing his first full week performing in the show Tomas kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.
For anyone who doesn’t know you: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you “ended up” in the world of theatre?
Hello! So, I’m 21 and like lots of other people my age I grew up doing amateur and fringe theatre as well as having music lessons through my teenage years. All this led to me making the decision to train as an actor at drama school – I started the Actor Musicianship course at Rose Bruford College in September of 2011 and graduated this summer. During my time at college I co-wrote and produced an Actor-Musician musical called, ‘Swindlestock’. Other interesting facts about me are that I speak Spanish fluently and can solve a Rubik’s cube in a minute (or there abouts). Also, my favourite food is peanut butter.
You are making your professional debut in Once. How does it feel to perform in London’s West End?
It’s still sinking in! Even after 8 shows this week I find myself constantly remembering where I am and how fortunate I am that I was given the chance at one of my dream jobs so early on in my career. I had so much support from the cast as well as my family and close friends, but that first show was terrifying! In one of the scene changes a guitar got knocked over, putting it completely out of tune – of course no one knew that until it got played (very loudly!) As you’d expect this sort of thing does happen in the show – but it’s rare. All the same, they have emergency guitar cover protocols in place and in that moment I remembered that this one was mine! As I started to play they turned down the other guitar and put mine up. It was dead exciting, I felt like doing a victory lap but I think I might have got told off.
Once requires its cast to not just sing and act but to play instruments as well. Do you enjoy this extra challenge? Which instruments do you play?
My first study is classical guitar – I also play piano, tuba, bass guitar, double bass, accordion, mandolin, and a bit of banjo. As with those smaller plucked instruments – if it’s got strings and a fret board – I’ll have a go! I don’t have a ukulele – but they’re a lot of fun. I think I want to try cello next… but we’ll see. It’s finding the time to practice all of them!
How can we picture rehearsals for a show like ‘Once?’ Do you learn to play the songs first then rehearse them with the rest of the cast scene by scene?
I rehearsed for 3 weeks before my first show. At the start it was just me and the resident director learning the ‘track’ (which is the outline for the whole show) for Emcee. Then I had separate ‘one on one’ sessions for movement and music. At the end of week one I did my first bit of rehearsals with the cast. I watched the show a few times that week and I also had the Friday off to go to my graduation ceremony at college, which was lovely! Weeks two and three were similar except they started to get members of the cast in to fill things out. On the Friday of week 3 I did my dress rehearsal with the full cast.
Once has a so-called ‘pre-show’ in which the cast perform a couple of songs while the audience is welcome to join them on stage and have a drink at the on stage bar. What do you think of this?
I LOVE the pre-show! It really sets the show apart from other ones in town, plus if you buy a drink you get a cool ‘Once’ cup! I have 3 in my house now. The only down side to it as a new cast member is that the rest of the company know about 25 numbers already, which meant that just when I thought I’d learnt the whole show I got handed another huge folder of music to memorize…
Unlike other West End shows Once doesn’t have big costume and set changes – it’s all about the story being told through music and words. Do you think this makes it harder for a show like Once to survive in the West End? What do you think of this way of story-telling?
I’m a big fan of storytelling using minimalistic set and props. When I first saw Once I never questioned where we were. Whether we were outside, in the pub, studio – within the context of the play or musical it’s so important to keep coming back to that music. For me it’s a guide, much like how Shakespeare uses rhythm and the pentameter to suggest how the character is feeling. I can’t speak for the people who created this show, but it seems to me that the whole idea of Once is centered around it. The choreography, the scene changes, the set, and the story itself. I think it’s harder to survive because the majority of people don’t know much about what to expect from a show like this until they get there.
What’s your favourite song in the show and why?
‘Gold’, I could sit with Jack (Beale) or David (Hunter) and happily sing it for hours. I love it because it is beautiful and simple. Once does that really well in the score and often the guitar parts aren’t insanely difficult but very precise in the larger scheme of things. In ‘Gold’ we’re all putting in our bit into the song and together the sound is so full and rich.
You are covering Emcee and Eamon in the show. Is there any other part you would like to have a go at?
I want to have a go at Guy! It’s my absolute dream role at the moment and I’d love to one day have a crack at understudying him or maybe getting to do the real thing. For now though, I’m more than happy exactly where I am.
Ronan Keating is joining Once as Guy in November. Are you looking forward to having him in the show?
It’s gonna be crazy good, I think he’s going to nail it. Can’t wait to meet him and get to know him over the next 4 months.
Last question: Why should people go and see Once?
Once brings something unique to the table right from the offset, It’s an entertaining and beautiful evening like no other. The script is funny, charming and tragic, so come on down and lose yourself in the music.
Thank you Tomas!
Make sure to follow Tomas on Twitter @TDWolstenholme .
Book your tickets for Once here.