For his most recent production, Toyan Thomas-Browne was in the cast of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical UK Tour, with the run being cut short due to the current pandemic. Prior to touring with Beautiful, Toyan played an Angel in the original UK Tour cast of Kinky Boots, where he also covered one of the leading roles of Lola. Other productions for Toyan have included Me and My Girl at Chichester Festival Theatre, playing Moe in the UK’s first all-black cast of Guys and Dolls and being part of the European premiere of the Wonderland tour. After performing alongside Lizzie Bea on the Kinky Boots tour, he has been invited as a guest on the Lizzie Bea: My Musical Journey cabaret at Above The Stag Theatre on Friday 28th May. We recently talked to Toyan about his time in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, touring as an Angel and covering Lola in Kinky Boots and being part of the UK’s first all-black cast of Guys and Dolls.
How were you finding your time on the UK Tour of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical before theatres closed and was there anything that drew you to the production?
I was having such a lovely time on Beautiful. I just think that show is so beautifully (pardon the pun) constructed as a jukebox musical, it just works as the songs are used to enhance the story instead of just being a well-known pop song. The music is the heart of the show and it was such a joy to sing every single night.
What were you enjoying most about the tour before the run was cut short?
I really do enjoy touring. I like the idea of being in a different place every other couple of weeks. Discovering new cities, having a different atmosphere in the audience at new venues and I just feel like it keeps the show so fresh because of all the different attributes to come across in a new place.
You were part of the original UK Tour cast of Kinky Boots as one of the Angels, how was this?
Kinky Boots will always have a special place in my heart. I remembered seeing it many moons on Broadway before it came over to the UK and said to myself, “I so want to be in that show one day”. I had the best time lifting spirits up all around UK and Ireland as you can’t go to watch Kinky Boots and NOT leave smiling. There is so much heart in that show and it really was the best serotonin a performer could ask for. Jerry Mitchell always has this magical way of producing shows that hit you in all the good places.
Can you say about covering the role of Lola and what do you remember from your first performance in the role?
Well, what a journey Lola was for me. I would’ve never imagined at the age I was then that I would be covering such a mammoth and one of the hardest roles in musical theatre. It certainly was a marathon. My Lola debut was at the Playhouse in Edinburgh which is actually one of the biggest theatres in the UK so I had that to contend with, and it landed on a two show day. So I was not only making my debut, I had a double debut day!! The first show was definitely a blur and I was just kind of glad that I got from A-Z but I was actually so happy that it landed on a two show day because it meant I had another go at it straightaway but I could relax into it so much more as I had just done it so I was super thankful for that.
How was it performing at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the revival cast of Me and My Girl?
Chichester in the summer is one of the most gorgeous places to be. I mean, the theatre is set upon a big grassy acre and also you’re a short drive away to the beach! What more could you ask for of summer?! Possibly one of the most gorgeous theatres too!! Me and My Girl was so fun. I mean, it was so nice to be a in rehearsal room working on a revival of a show from scratch again to modernise it so the process was very unique which I learnt a lot from. Also, the STAR-studded cast. I mean, I got to work with THE Caroline Quentin?! She was an absolute gem and I’m so blessed to be able to call her a friend now out of that show.
As part of the UK’s first all-black cast of Guys and Dolls, how did you find the experience playing Moe and being in the show?
I didn’t realise how uplifting and powerful it was to be surrounded by a cast of black people and a creative team of black people. It was absolute pure joy and I learnt so much about being proud of my roots and knowing that I can push as many boundaries as I want to push and there’s no limit to it. Be that of certain roles or just in life in general. That’s what I took most from that show and I am so, so grateful for it.
You also covered the role of Rusty Charlie, what was this like?
Rusty Charlie was a nice little featured moment at the start of the show so covering it was fun, especially the trio he gets to sing with Nicely-Nicely and Benny. I really enjoy covering roles as it gives you another layer to think about during a contract.
What was it like being part of the cast of the Wonderland tour?
Frank Wildhorn is a GENIUS at composing songs so I was super, super grateful to be able to sing his work. Wonderland has such a gorgeous score and another show that just has a really lovely message. I mean, who also doesn’t like Alice in Wonderland? It’s one of my favourite movies so I felt privileged to be a part of the European premiere of the musical show.
How was your experience performing in We Will Rock You on Anthem of the Seas?
Graduating straight into doing this show and on a Royal Caribbean cruise line was probably one of the best stepping stones I could’ve had coming out of training and into the professional industry. I mean, who wouldn’t love to be paid whilst doing the thing you love AND travelling around the world?!
Can you say more about being part of Christmas on Ice?
So, Christmas on Ice was a Christmas show that was performed in Niagara Falls in Canada where a bunch of dancers, singers and ice skaters teamed up to be a Christmas extravaganza for the festive season. It was A LOT of fun!
In 2017, you were involved with the concert of The Prince: A New Musical, how was this?
It’s always nice to be a part of new writing and work through something with a new writer and composer as it’s another part of the industry some people don’t get to witness and I think it’s such a beautiful process to be a part of. New writing is the new frontier I think and it’s so exciting to think of the prospects of these shows becoming big in the near future! Who knows where they could lead you?!
Where does your love of theatre come from and how did you start?
My love of theatre really only properly came around when I was a part of a show on the BBC where Gareth Malone went to a certain school or institute and forms a choir. One year, the secondary boys school I went to got chosen and we were part of this “experiment”, if you say, that “boys don’t sing”. I had never vocally trained before this and only did a few dance classes here and there so it was pretty new to me but my oh my did I absolutely find out that I loved performing and since then it kind of lead me to find a dance school to go to to further my craft and really pursue it as a career further down the line.
What do you enjoy doing away from your career and what are some of your favourite musicals to watch?
I love me some reading. And also I have fallen back in love with film photography which I did as one of my A Levels, so I’d probably say those two are my top two priorities out of work.
My favourite musicals to watch would be Memphis, Legally Blonde and Hamilton!!!!
Do you have any events coming up that you can tell us about?
Yes, I am guest appearing in Lizzie (Bea)‘s concert in May which I am super excited about. We met on the Kinky Boots tour and since then I couldn’t imagine my life without her!! Other than that I am free as a bird so if anyone wants to hire me to sing a few ditties or sing some demos for new musical theatre writing, please let me know ahahah?!
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