Cassel left Jamaica with his family to move to Canada on his seventh birthday. It was 1971 and there was a lot to get used to. One of the coolest things of the new world was ice hockey. He loved it. Bobby Orr became his hero. Unexpectedly, there developed a fascination with tap dancing thanks to watching Arthur Duncan from The Lawrence Welk Show, which his mother made them watch every Sunday evening at six o’clock, if she called the TV first. He began taking tap dancing lessons.
One day his tap shoes fell out of his hockey bag in the change room right before a practice and, coincidentally, the little church where he took lessons was closed for renovations; no more tap dancing. Hockey was losing its allure too. When he started high school, hockey gave way to track and field, particularly, the hurdles. There was something about the “artistry” of the movement. It was like dancing (though he did not know it then) in that athleticism and technique produced something artistically beautiful. Like tap dancing, there was a rhythm to the cadence of the steps. When he hit the right groove, the movement just flowed. His hero was Renaldo Nehemiah.
The year after being undefeated and breaking records, he ended up dead last in the same Ontario high school track and field finals and, so, that love affair ended. Following the shameful defeat he watched the movie Fame, and found a new hero in the character of ‘Leroy’, Gene Anthony Ray. All he wanted to do was to dance. And he did on scholarships in Toronto and in New York City, in Canada’s Wonderland’s Best of Broadway, and in dance companies such as Judith Marcuse’s Repertory Dance Company of Canada, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, and The National Tap Dance Company of Canada.
When concert dancing ran it’s course, he branched out into musical theatre and the new world of singing, dancing and acting in ensemble and featured roles in shows such as A Chorus Line, Crazy for You, Sophisticated Ladies and at the Shaw Festival’s On the Town and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Stratford Festival’s Kiss Me Kate. What was not expected was the opportunity to act in one of the most amazing plays of the times; Canadian Stage’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika. The next big challenge was the opportunity to play ‘Mr. Bojangles’ in the U.S.National Tour of Fosse directed by Ann Reinking.
In 2004 he became aware of the story of Josiah Henson. Moving to the Kingston, Ontario area in 2014, he met Charles Robertson and Anne-Marie Mortensen of Bottle Tree Productions. In collaboration with Charles, Cassel has created a one-person play about the life of Josiah Henson. The result of this collaboration is the play Josiah Henson: From Slave to Saviour. Cassel’s heroes have always been his role models and he hopes that the triumphant life story of Josiah Henson will inspire others, young and old, as it has touched and inspired him.