The Book Of Mormon marks a “coming home” for cast member (and Orange County native) Anthony C. Chatmon II, a graduate of both Cerritos High School and UC Irvine’s prestigious musical theater BFA program (Class of 2012). Having had the pleasure of seeing Anthony’s work in two productions of Hairspray (at PCPA Solvang and at Long Beach’s Musical Theatre West) and as Richie in A Chorus Line (3-D Theatricals, Fullerton), I couldn’t be more thrilled to be seeing the talented triple-threat again when The Book Of Mormon makes its upcoming stop at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts. Here’s my recent chat with Anthony!
Your upcoming two weeks at the Segerstrom Center must be an exciting “coming home” to you! I’m guessing you saw shows at OCPAC growing up or while doing shows in school, right? How does it feel to know you’ll be up on that same stage in just a couple of weeks?
I am so excited to be performing at Segerstrom. One of my favorite experiences at OCPAC was seeing Spring Awakening’s First National Tour back in 2009, I believe. It was during Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS and I remember seeing the actors after that show with their buckets thinking, “Wow, they are so normal, like me!” The theater is absolutely gorgeous. I think I am going to have a blast being on that stage.
Anthony as Richie in A Chorus Line
You’ve been with Book Of Mormon just since the beginning of the year. Can I say “Dream Come True”? I’m guessing that this was on your list of must-do shows, and to book the National Tour must have been big news, right?
This was definitely a dream come true. The timing was superb. A psychic in New York told me that my life was going to change drastically at the beginning of the next year. I thought she was giving me “New Years mumbo-jumbo” but lo and behold she was right! It was a little spooky to say the least.
I know that getting cast in a major National Tour is no easy matter. Can you talk a bit about the audition process? I imagine it didn’t happen overnight.
Well, let’s see. I first went in for the show back in 2012 in NYC. After that I went in three different times in 2013, the last of which was in December 2013. I was about to leave for California for the holidays. My plan was to stay in California through January because I missed home and basically wanted to avoid as much winter as possible because I loathe the winter months on the East Coast. Before I left for home my manager called me to tell me that I would need to fly back to New York for a final callback in front of the creative team in early January. I booked the cheapest flight, not realizing that I had booked a flight with a layover in Salt Lake City, another spooky moment.
The day of my callback we danced and sang everything that we had done before. It was quick. I flew home the next day and two days later my manager called to tell me that I needed to fly to San Francisco to start rehearsals the following Monday and that I would return the following week to Los Angeles for a 16-week engagement.
How did that feel?
It happened so fast. I didn’t really have time to put it all together.
Growing up in the OC was hardly the same as growing up in Uganda, where Book Of Mormon is set. How did you go about getting ready for your track in the show?
Luckily I had an obsession with the African dialects for the past year or so. I had a manager at the restaurant that I worked at who was West African and I used to imitate him to all of my co-workers. I became quite good at it. I also turned to the Fox Searchlight film The Last King of Scotland.
Can you talk a bit about what you do as an ensemble member? I’m guessing more than one role and one costume, right?
Well, actually I probably have one of the easiest tracks in the show as far as costuming is concerned. I play the Doctor who goes by the name Gotswana in the show. He is infamously known for having “maggots in his ‘region‘.” In Uganda I’m always the same person, which means I never really change clothes. The only time that I play a different character is in the Hell Dream scene where I’m a skeleton.
Book Of Mormon’s success on Broadway (and now in two simultaneous National Tours) has been phenomenal to say the least. Why do you think the show has become so popular?
Because regardless of content, it is musical theater at its best. There’s never really been anything quite like it. The content appeals to a wide range of ages and genders. No matter how much you do or don’t like theater, you will love this show!
I can’t help but wonder, have you met any LDS theatergoers at the stage door, and if so, and how has their reaction been?
The ones that I’ve met have loved the show! They love that they understand everything. They know all the jokes. But I think that through the past three years that general response to the show has shifted.
Since booking your first tour out of New York, you’ve hardly left Southern California, right? How excited are you about starting to really tour, and what are you most looking forward to?
Vegas! Ha ha! I haven’t left Southern California yet. I’m excited to just have the chance to see other cities.
When were you first bit by the performing bug?
It was known before I could talk that I would be performing. I just loved it so much.
How did you get into doing your first shows?
My freshman year of high school, I saw the school play titled Girl In The Mirror and it was heartbreaking and spectacular and everything that I wanted to be. I auditioned that spring for Anything Goes and did every show at the school from there on out.
Anthony and Jenna Locke in Hello, Again, at UCI
In addition to your UCI credits, you’ve already racked up quite a few professional ones here in Southern California. How did these gigs get you ready for Book Of Mormon?
I think working in these Equity houses allowed me to work with so many people who had already toured and been in numerous Broadway companies. Their advice and wisdom is really what carried me.
In addition to being a musical theater performer, you’ve also performed at Amateur Night At The Apollo in New York! What was it like performing on the same stage as the R&B greats who were there before you?
Amateur Night was amazing. It was something that I just felt I wanted to check off a bucket list. I grew up watching the television version and I wanted to see it live for myself.
Anthony, one last question. How would you like to see your career develop over the next five years?
I would love to do some new works. Originating a Broadway show would be amazing. I dipped my hand in a bit of film while I was in New York and I would love to see that flourish more.
Thanks so much! I can’t wait to see Book Of Mormon at the Segerstrom Center and catch up at the stage door afterwards!
Anthony’s Book Of Mormon bio:
Absolutely thrilled to be joining the cast of The Book of Mormon. A recent graduate of UC Irvine (BFA Music Theater). Credits include A Chorus Line (3DT), Hairspray (MTW) and Figaro 90210 (Morningside Opera). Sincerest thanks to Tony, Carrie, Dad, Mom, Granny, Hillsong Family, friends, Professors and the entire BOM team!