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Broadway Q&A: Mitch Tebo of ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Why Mitch Tebo returned to performing after 15 years

Mitch Tebo plays Ado Annie’s father, Andrew Carnes, in the beloved musical Oklahoma! This masterfully pared down Oklahoma! has been called one of the most potent and powerful Oklahoma! productions in the show’s history. Directed by Daniel Fish, the show was nominated for eight Tony Awards ,and won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Now on Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre until Jan. 19, 2020, the show features standards like “Oklahoma!,” “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “People Will Say We’re In Love” and “Surrey With A Fringe On Top.” Tebo also played Carnes where the production originated at Bard Summerscape, and then St. Ann’s Warehouse. His credits also include Plaza Suite, The Tempest and HBO’s Divorce.

The cast of ‘Oklahoma!’ on Broadway (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

The cast of ‘Oklahoma!’ on Broadway (Photo: Little Fang Photo)

What is the joy of doing Oklahoma!?
Mitch Tebo: It is such an intimate production, with just 12 principal cast members and no chorus. So it's just us on stage with the audience in a very intimate setting. That draws the audience in – in a way that may not happen in more traditional productions.

What went through your mind when you were cast in the show?
What went through my mind was, “What am I doing in a musical comedy?” I am a legit drama kind of actor. I thought, “Oklahoma!, well, this'll be fun.” But then as we got into rehearsals with Daniel Fish, the director, I realized that this was going to be a very, very different take on Oklahoma! It became a real challenge to do. We tread that line between comedic impulses of the piece and the darker elements of community, exclusion and scapegoating that occur in the play. We bring those to the forefront. It has been really, really interesting to try and get that balance, and get it to happen every night.

What qualities does Andrew Carnes have the you love?
MT: I love that he is an observer of what is going on. He has some agendas that he is trying to make happen, in terms of his daughter and her behavior. He has an agenda regarding who she should marry. Who she shouldn’t marry. At the same time, he is very much a part of this community. I think he is aware of the trouble that is brewing in the triangle going on between Laurey, Curly and Jud. He stays focused on that as he moves through the play. And then, at the end, he becomes part of the solution to the tragic end of that relationship.

And isn’t Oklahoma! your Broadway debut?
MT: This is my Broadway debut. I was working in the theater until the mid-nineties. I dropped out for about 15 years. And I came back about about eight years ago. I've been re-establishing myself in this new, more mature category. So this is a very exciting step for me.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw I ever saw?
MT: In 1973, I lived in New York City for about a year. And while I was here, one of the first productions I saw was Uncle Vanya with George C. Scott and Nicol Williamson at Circle In The Square. It was a wonderful, wonderful cast. As a young theater person I thought, “Oh my God, I would just love to be there at some point.” And 40 years later, here I am.

What gave you the courage to come back after so many years?
MT: I decided that I needed to explore performing again. And what I had been doing, which was very nine-to-five in the publishing business, was no longer satisfying in any way. I needed to get back into a creative process. That is what drew me back.


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