Starring in the revival of OKLAHOMA!, actor Mitch Tebo brings his 40 years of theater experience to the stage as Andrew Carnes. Tebo originally played the role on Broadway before joining the National Tour. He speaks with Phindie about both experiences and how the touring show differs from the original production.
OKLAHOMA! will be making its Philly premiere at the Forrest Theatre March 8- 0, in partnership with the Kimmel Cultural Campus.
Debra Danese: OKLAHOMA! was your Broadway debut! Tell us about that experience.
Mitch Tebo: It was delightful and challenging. The Broadway community is relatively small and the producers, casts, and crews of the other shows welcome you with enthusiasm and open arms. They understand the hard work and sacrifice that has gotten you there and cheer your arrival. Plus, everything is BIG. Press events. Opening night. The Tony Awards. The Today Show. Celebrities in the audience. Fans at the stage door. All very intoxicating. And then there is the daily challenge of bringing your “A” game eight times a week. That can be exhausting, but the energy you get from the audience as you travel the journey together is healing and revitalizing. And when it all clicks, there’s nothing like it.
DD: What was the best advice you received before starting the national tour?
MT: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Give 100% when onstage, but remember to take care of yourself. Warm up vocally and physically before each show. Eat healthy. Get rest when you can. Eight shows a week is hard on any performer. Add to that the inevitable difficulties with traveling these days and you will certainly need to husband your energy for the long haul. Enjoy. Roll with the punches.
DD: What major differences are there between the original production and the revival?
MT: Oh my. Where to start? First, it’s a new take on the show as directed by Daniel Fish. The story is told by eleven principal characters plus a single lead dancer, so don’t expect dozens of colorful extras at the barn dance. The actors share the stage together in what resembles a community hall, with trestle tables and folding chairs, and step into scenes as needed. And it has been orchestrated by the Tony and Grammy-nominated Daniel Kluger for a seven-piece country-bluegrass band (accordion, bass, violin, cello, mandolin, banjo and steel guitar) that really gives Rogers’ score an intimate, acoustic sound without losing any of the lushness and vibrancy of his tunes. Also, the original Agnes DeMille Dream Ballet, with its combined classical ballet and modern dance vocabulary, and its narrative of Laurey’s conflicted yearnings for both the romantic and the sensual, has been translated by choreographer John Heginbotham into a kaleidoscope of modern dance idioms with new orchestration by Kluger that focuses on Laurey’s emotional schism. Joyously danced by the extraordinarily talented Gabrielle Hamilton, by the way. This production drills down on the story in the text as is, bringing the darker aspects of the Curly-Laurey-Jud triangle and the community’s response to an outsider into sharp focus. Still lots of laughs and glorious music, but a telling that resonates more to our modern culture than that of 1943.
DD: What’s a memorable moment related to the show you’ve had so far?
MT: It would have to be during previews in the Broadway run. Exiting from the theater into the lobby and being greeted by Diane Keaton in full DK drag- big hat, lace gloves, patterned black and white skirt-and-jacket combo- with outstretched arms taking the time to tell each cast member how much she loved the show and their work. I believe my jaw can still be found on that lobby rug.
DD: What’s your go-to audition song?
MT: Nope. Sorry. Don’t have one. Don’t have a “book.” Don’t know how I got cast in a musical. In my dreams it would be Puccini’s “Nessun dorma.”
DD: Favorite role from high school?
MT: Amazingly enough, another musical. This time Charlie Dalrymple in Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon. Back when I still had an adolescent tenor, a recognizable waist, and legs that didn’t look too shabby in a kilt.
[Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut Street] March 8-20, 2022; kimmelculturalcampus.org