WHILE EARNING HIS BFA at Ohio’s Otterbein University, actor Anthony Cason appeared in several classic musicals, including Sweet Charity and Les Misérables. So it seems somehow fitting that the Thespian alum would receive his Broadway break in the musical often credited with launching them all: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! The show won the 2019 Tony Award for best musical revival for its decidedly modern reimagining of this seminal work about frontier life at the turn of the 20th century.

Anthony Cason

Anthony Cason

As New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote, the revival “reconceived a work often seen as a byword for can-do optimism as a mirror for our age of doubt and anxiety. This is Oklahoma! for an era in which longstanding American legacies are being examined with newly skeptical eyes.”

For Cason, that approach provided exciting opportunities. The Toledo, Ohio, native portrays federal marshal Cord Elam, a pivotal character during the plot’s unsettling climax, and understudies the role of peddler Ali Hakim. Cason has been with the production since its 2018 Off-Broadway incarnation at St. Ann’s Warehouse, and he will help close out the Broadway run at Circle in the Square on January 19, 2020.

What sparked your interest in theatre and acting in particular? 
Two instances come to mind. One, I remember doing a Christmas play at church when I was young and instinctively knowing how to tell the story. Two, I grew up watching television soap operas. General Hospital was my favorite. I didn’t have the language for it then, but I believe what appealed to me was how pedestrian the performances were. Yes, the plotlines were out there at times, but I still found the actors believable within their circumstances.

What are your favorite memories or productions from your time as a Thespian in Troupe 6793 at Toledo School for the Arts?
We did a production of Much Ado About Nothing set in a circus. It was BRILLIANT. My director and acting teacher, Rosie Best, had the idea and brought it to life. I played Don John and — within this circus — I was a sad clown.

The best moment for me was the process of having my character introduced. I entered, had a small scene, then left the stage for a few minutes before I had to reenter. Within those few minutes, I had to paint my face with sad clown makeup and put on this epic black and gold robe. It was such a delicious part to tackle.

Can you describe what Oklahoma! has meant to you, participating in a production that challenges people to look at a show they think they know intimately in new, perhaps challenging, ways?
I feel very thankful to be a part of a piece that is challenging audiences. Eight times a week we invite people to reexamine a story they already know. One they think is black and white, right and wrong, and easy to decipher. By holding a mirror up in a subtle way, we focus on the gray areas of the production that reflect on society. If people are open to these aspects, I feel they will leave not only with a whole new idea of what Oklahoma! can be but also an understanding of how it isn’t much different from the world we live in today.

You moved to New York in 2015 and have been working steadily as an actor since. What have been the keys to your success? 
I moved to NYC the second semester of my senior year at Otterbein, in January 2015. We were required to do an internship, and I interned with NBC Casting and the Dramatists Guild Foundation.

I grew up with parents who told me I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. That’s been my driving force since I was a child. You have to believe in yourself before you can expect anyone else to [believe in you]. My foundational beliefs coupled with acting training at Toledo School for the Arts and Otterbein University left me feeling ready to be an artist.

What advice would you give Thespians interested in pursuing a career like yours?
Remember that you are beautiful and wonderful just the way you are. Do that work on yourself first. It the most important work you’ll ever do. Listen to your intuition, and you can’t go wrong.

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