Tyrone Huntley has Tea With Wilma
You have performed in some amazing shows so far in your career like The Book Of Mormon, Memphis, Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls. What have been some of your highlights?
It all began with Sister Act. I’ll never forget it. TJ was a gift of a role for a new graduate and I had so much fun on tour. Also, If it wasn’t for this job I seriously doubt I would be where I am now. If I hadn’t worked with the awesome Ben Clare and Tara Wilkinson on this show, both Mormon and Memphis may not have happened for me and without Mormon, Dreamgirls might not have happened.
Having grown up listening to Dreamgirls and watching the film as a teenager, getting the chance perform in it’s long awaited London premiere was a real pleasure and honour.
Memphis will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first principle role in the West End and my character’s song ‘Say a Prayer’ remains one of my favourites.
Porgy and Bess was special too – the music, the company, performing in the open air for the first time. I look back on that summer with the fondest of memories and I’ve had a photo of the cast as the background on my phone ever since – is that weird?
You are about to reprise your critically acclaimed role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regents Park Open Air Theatre. What is the show about and what attracted you to the part you are playing?
The show is based on the final week of Jesus’ life – I’d say it’s the first three quarters of the would-be Easter Musical! I play Judas and what’s cool about this version of the story is that we put a spotlight on his journey and follow it alongside Jesus’. I suppose that’s what attracted me to the role – historically Judas is deemed the ultimate traitor but here we get an opportunity to explore his motives and perhaps even empathise with him as he struggles to decide whether or not to betray his friend.
How does it feel to be going back in to the role a year on? Are you approaching playing the character any differently?
I’m so happy and lucky to be returning to this role. Last year was great but I put a lot of pressure on myself which meant I couldn’t enjoy it as much as should have. My approach is unavoidably different this year because I’ve done the show before. I’m more comfortable with the material and I have last year’s experience as evidence of my ability. I can afford to trust myself more, not take myself too seriously and have more fun!
Who are your biggest inspirations in the theatre industry and why?
My childhood drama teachers Lesley Crawford, Jolyon McCarthy, Rachel Yarsley and the late Dee Moylan who made me believe that a career in the performing arts was a realistic goal.
My friend Giles Terera because there is nothing this man cannot do and he just makes me want to be a better person.
My agent and friend Stuart Piper who has way more faith in me than I have in myself and who’s constant encouragement to push my own boundaries has resulted in some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
Note to self: jot that all down for my Oscar speech.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I’m very much a creature of habit so I always develop some kind of ritual but it’s different for every show. I’m usually very particular about the order in which I put my costume on and I’ll have to do it the same for each performance. If my routine inadvertently changes and I subsequently have a “good” show, where possible, I will add that change to my routine from then on!
What West End show would you like to see make a comeback and why?
Probably Parade. But only on the condition that I could be in it! We did this musical in my final year of drama school and I had a great time playing Jim Conley. I’d love to do it again at some point.
If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
Firstly, if you spoke to my friends they’d probably ask you when you saw me last, if I’m still alive and if I got their last 8 texts because I’m so bad at getting back to people and I’m not that vocal on social media either! I have to put aside a couple of hours once a week just to make sure I’m up to date with all my correspondents!!!
I’m pretty sure I know what the three words would be though…
Simply the best.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I played the Genie in a pantomime version of Aladdin a few Christmases ago. That’s it.
I’m obviously kidding!! But honestly, it was the most hilarious stage experience of my career. I laughed every day. Two moments in particular come to mind. I had a scene with Aladdin (Charlene Ford) and for some reason for the entire duration of the run, our lines for that particular scene just wouldn’t stick. Most of the time we were making it up which meant that we couldn’t get through the scene without corpsing. Even when the scene went well, the memory of when it went wrong made us corpse. This scene came immediately before I had to sing Stevie Wonder’s You Are the Sunshine of My Life which was always a mess because I was trying to sing on the edge of a laugh which is pretty much impossible!
The other incident happened on our opening night. My first scene was at the end of Act 1. I, as the Genie, emerged from a cave through a combination of smoke clouds and spectacular pyrotechnical effects. Unbeknownst to me, as I entered, the cave was set alight by the pyrotechnics and was aflame and smoking away for the duration of my number. I had no idea because it was all happening behind me and the audience seemed to be loving what they thought was some really impressive stage magic. Their misconception was understandable because the song I was singing was Disco Inferno…. Synchronicity at it’s finest.
Apart from performing, what is your biggest passion?
Cake. Eating not baking. I’d love to be as passionate about some of my interests and hobbies as I am about cake because if I were I’d be a concert pianist, Olympic gymnast, a hit making songwriter and most importantly, a few pounds lighter!
We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
Coming to America, for sure. I can’t believe it hasn’t been made into a musical yet – has it? Again though, only if I can be in it! FYI, I’d happily play Prince Akeem or Semmi.
I think its already in development but I also think Clueless the Musical is long overdue AND (I know I’m cheating by saying more than one!) I think Catfish (the TV show) would make a really interesting Jerry-Springer-the-Opera-esque musical – so many… interesting characters!!
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
Most of the shows I’ve been a part of have had strong female leads – Dreamgirls, Sister Act, Porgy and Bess, Memphis, The Color Purlple – and I always enjoyed singing along to their songs backstage and would relish the chance to have a go at all of them for real! However, thinking outside of the box I’d probably say Anita in West Side Story – A Boy Like That, enough said!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma