Interview: British Actor Tosh Wanogho-Maud on His Game-Changing Role in ‘Joseph’

“Welcome to my world,” says Tosh Wanogho-Maud when I tell him that the lyrics to pretty much every single song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat had been stuck in my head since I saw the show. As a die-hard child fan back in the days of Donnie Osmond starring in the beloved musical in Toronto in the 90s, I couldn’t wait to see the most recent version when it returned to the city – and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Wanogho-Maud, a British musical theatre star, plays the role of Pharoah in the current Mirvish production of Joseph, joining the company following a run of playing one of the drifters in the West End smash-hit new musical The Drifters Girl. Perfect for the part – complete with a show-stopping musical number – Wanogho-Maud didn’t even have to audition for the coveted role.

“I was in a production of The Drifters Girls, with Michael Harrison, who produced the show,” explains Wanogho-Maud. “I had just finished that, and when I was wrapping up, he said to me, ‘Look, have you thought about doing this role? I think that you’d be great at it. I then proceeded to have a nervous breakdown about it [laughs], wondering if it was even a real thing, for this prolific producer to offer you something like that. It’s a great honour for an actor and it doesn’t happen very often. That’s someone saying to you that they have faith in your abilities. So, there’s a pressure there that I’ve got to be good at this, or it’s just going to be awkward for everyone.”

And it’s safe to say he was, giving the role a new lease on life with a memorable performance – including a high-energy solo that jolted the audience to life. “I think Joseph in general in the British industry is something we all kind of know,” says Wanogho-Maud of his pervious exposure to the musical. “I knew of Joseph and saw a production of it that was done by Bill Kenwright many years ago – I think probably 2002,” says Wanogho-Maud. “So, I was familiar with it, but this version is so much different than that version. I never envisioned myself being in it.”

It’s also a different type of musical than The Drifters Girls – which Wanogho-Maud refers to his “audition” for Joseph when reflecting upon the two. “Joseph is quintessential musical theatre; it’s the core of what musical theatre is,” says Wanogho-Maud. “When I think of these kind of shows, Joseph is kind of your introduction to musical theatre. As a result, there’s something that is very different about a family show. There’s a different level of entertainment needed to appeal to everyone.”

With just one, extremely colourful and high-energy number, the role requires a great deal of stamina, says Wanogho-Maud. “With my role, you kind of have to come out with all guns blazing because you only have one number for the entire audience to understand who your character is and what their place is in the show,” says Wanogho-Maud. “Ultimately, they have to like the character straight away. So, that brings with it its own challenges in that you don’t have any time to be switched off; you have to be always on and come out with 100% energy straight away and maintain it throughout. Then, just when you think you’ve given it your all, you then have to top that and add an extra layer. That itself is the challenge for that role, I think.”

In addition to the colourful costumes, intricate set, and catchy music, the audience particularly got a kick out of the local children who starred in the show. “Any time you can be supporting local talent in the country you’re in, it’s wonderful – especially young talent,” says Wanogho-Maud. “There’s something so exciting about that; fresh eyes and fresh talent. It’s phenomenal to see them act and hear them sing; it seems like some of these kids are adults in little people’s bodies.”

Tosh Wanogho-Maud also applauds the show for its merging of British and Canadian talent and the cultural diversity represented on stage. “I think that any time we can share cultures, it’s wonderful,” he says. “And to have that on one stage – the fact that the cast is so multicultural – it somewhat represents what we want the word to look like. So, what I would love audiences to take away is; yes, the joy of coming to see a really great musical, but also to walk away feeling like they can see themselves in that – whether their age or walk of life, they can come in and watch this show and feel like they’ve been seen.”

The role of Pharoah has rarely – if not, at all – been played by a person of colour in its decades-long run. “That in itself shows that the important conversation is being had,” says Wanogho-Maud. “I think for a long time, Joseph got flack for its representation of people of colour. I think the fact that we’re in a position where we’re having these conversations and producers are making certain decisions in their casting is great. There have been intentional decisions that have been made – two out of three of the leads of this Joseph are both people of colour. So many of the young kids are people of colour. I think having that, to be in that space and making these conscious decisions is great and can’t be ignored.”

There’s still time to check out the feel-good musical; it’s in town until February 18 (so hurry). In the meantime, when he’s not working, Wanogho-Maud will be busy falling more in love with Toronto.

“Oh my gosh, the list is endless!,” says Wanogho-Maud when asked about his favourite things in the city. “Ok, I love all the food options – so great; I love all of it. There are so many different cuisines everywhere; it’s dreamy. The people are wonderful; obviously you Canadians have the reputation of being really nice. But that is absolutely true. I don’t think I’ve bumped into one person who I haven’t found lovely. I love that there’s dogs everywhere, everyone has a cute dog, which is perfection for me. Oh – and I love the fact that there’s an entire city underground. The architecture is also great. Our skyscrapers aren’t anywhere near as big.”

His only disappointment? At the time of our interview, he had yet to see a moose. “I feel like I’ll like moose, but I’ll need to go and see some,” says Wanogho-Maud. “I thought when I came here there’s just be moose roaming around, so – of course – that’s ridiculous. I thought I’d be taking taxis and there’d be a moose next to be just trotting around [laughs].”  But everything else about the city – including the multiculturalism reflected on both the streets and the stage – gets top points in Wanogho-Maud’s book.


Joseph runs until February 18th in Toronto and is in various productions around the world. For tickets and more information click here. 


Erin Nicole Davis

Erin Nicole Davis

Erin Nicole Davis is a Toronto-based writer and actor. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies (at least, in pre-COVID-19 times). Follow Erin: @erinnicoledavis