Musical star Oliver Tompsett had necessarily to delay a planned interview with The Oxford Times for a few days after his wife Michelle was delivered of their first baby, slightly ahead of schedule.

“He’s little George,” said the proud father. “We chose the name because we happen to like it, but it may soon” – he refers to the royal birth – “become the most popular name in Britain.”

Family members have naturally been eager to greet the new arrival – including Oliver’s mum Judy. As boss of Abingdon’s Judy Tompsett School of Dance, she has piloted many youngsters to stage success. Oliver himself cut his theatrical teeth in shows with Oxfordshire Youth Music Theatre, of which she was director.

That the stage was in Oliver’s blood on both sides is evidenced by the fact that his dad John, a retired quality efficiency engineer at Harwell, was a leading light with the Abingdon Operatic Society for many years.

One of the roles he took was as the male lead, Tony, in West Side Story, a part that his son was later to play during his three years of training at Arts Educational Schools London. Oliver remembers with amusement: “My aunt came to see it and said to mum: ‘He’s not as good as his father.’”

With the family background, it is hardly surprising the careers of both of Oliver’s older siblings followed a creative path, Amy as a performer and Ben as a musician. Independent of his stage career, Oliver works with his brother on musical projects. Full details of these can be found at oliver, where there is a free download of the song Forever Strong.

Born in 1981 and brought up in Abingdon, Oliver was at Dunmore Primary School and then John Mason School where his principal interest was sport. “I played everything I could — basketball, football, rugby, tennis, cricket, hockey. The trouble was I was jack of all trades and master of none, which ruled out a career in that area.”

Happily, he had developed another possibility through his stage work with the OYMT. “Sometimes I was in a major role; sometimes mother would put me in the ensemble or chorus line. The productions he was involved in included Me and My Girl, Godspell and Anne of Green Gables.

As his schooldays neared their end, he applied for places at five drama schools and was offered scholarships by four of them. This suggested he was on the right track. He chose Arts Educational Schools where for the next three years he explored every aspect of stagecraft.

“This served me well because me first job after leaving college was in the West End, in the Madness/Tim Firth musical, Our House.” Next came other West End roles in Richard Stirling’s Over My Shoulder: The Story of Jessie Matthews and Mamma Mia!, where wife-to-be Michelle was also in the cast. This was followed by a part in Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre production of Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Steadily building up through these and other shows were the acting skills he was eventually able to employ in a lead role when he was cast as the Arjiki tribe prince Fiyero in the smash-hit musical Wicked.

He played the part for nearly three years before opting for a recording contract with Warner Brothers. This move did not work out. Better, he thinks, to work independently in this area. Back to the stage, he originated the role of Drew in Rock of Ages, for which he was nominated for a best actor award by A discernible theme in his career, says Oliver, has been musicals that have become successes despite a critical mauling. This is the case where his present role is concerned in the Queen/Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You. As the lead character Galileo, he gets to belt out classics like I Want To Break Free, Under Pressure and, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Inevitably, one wonders how he approaches his performance in the long shadow left by Freddie Mercury.

“Well, there is no point offering an impersonation. Galileo is not Freddie Mercury, but a troubled young man. “But the songs are so well known you have to respect them. “You can’t get so far away from the familiar tunes that they don’t sound like the original.”

Oliver is among leading showbusiness figures lending their support to Stage Door, a planned digital radio station dedicated to musical theatre. Alongside Oliver, Hadley Fraser, Kerry Ellis and Ramin Karimloo are some of the other West End and Broadway stars who have already signed up to present. An Indiegogo campaign has been launched to help make the station a reality.
Stage Door stemmed from a chat between Wise Buddah’s head of content Simon Willis and Mothership Management founder Rebecca Sichel-Coates. Simon is a radio and TV producer and musical theatre fan with 15 years’ BBC experience and Rebecca is a music professional who has worked with Robbie Williams, Diana Ross and Corinne Bailey Rae.


We Will Rock You
n Dominion Theatre, London