From education to employment

Winchester Musical Theatre graduate makes professional stage debut

A Musical Theatre graduate has made his professional debut within weeks of completing his studies at the University of Winchester.

Toby Vanhaecke made his debut a member of the ensemble in Frinton Summer Theatre’s My Fair Lady this week.

The show, performed within a big top in the Essex seaside town, stars Jennifer Louise Jones as Eliza Doolittle, Alan Cox as Henry Higgins and Clive Brill as Alfred Doolittle. Clive also directs the production

Toby, who was born and grew up in Essex, was director’s assistant for the Summer Theatre’s 2022 production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  This year in addition to performing as part of the ensemble he is once again director’s assistant.

Dr Matthew Lockitt Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre said:

“It’s really exciting for us to see our graduates achieving various degrees of success, and Toby pursuing and getting this ensemble role, so soon after completing his training with us, is inspiring to the rest of his cohort and to our students who are following him through the programme.”

Matthew added: “Toby’s cohort are the first group to study on the University’s revamped, industry-focused degree, with increased skills tuition in acting, singing and dance, but also industry training covering auditioning techniques and Swing training*.”

Toby said of his course: “It was a really healthy competitive atmosphere where I always felt pushed to be my best, personally, not to be better than others. I felt encouraged by my classmates and lecturers to be as a good as I could possibly be.”

During his time at the University of Winchester Toby performed a variety of roles including as the vegan spider Spindle in the New Musical Theatre Production of Just Bee in his second year, Che in Southampton Operatic Society’s Evita, and shared the role of Jesus in the University’s production of Godspell at the Theatre Royal Winchester in May.

The 21-year-old has also been signed by the agency Sound Check Group in London along with fellow Winchester graduates Francesca Waters and Morgan Groser. They will be represented by agent Simon Pontin, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry and is also a Winchester Performing Arts graduate.

Find out more about the course at BA (Hons) Musical Theatre – University of Winchester

*A swing is a performer responsible for covering a number of ensemble parts (or tracks) and must know their lines, songs, costume changes and prop collection/drop off points backstage and be able to switch between the roles, sometimes at a moment’s notice.

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