Cabaret

By Richard Schultz, September 2016 Issue.

Randy Harrison as the Emcee in the National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Of course, everyone remembers Randy Harrison as Justin from the groundbreaking Showtime series “Queer as Folk.”

What some fans don’t realize, though, is that this Broadway blond is all grown up now.  Harrison, 38, has quite an impressive resume, too. The most recent addition to which includes his portrayal of the emcee in the national tour of Cabaret, which is receiving rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.

In the Tony Award-winning production, presented by Roundabout Theatre Company, the action takes place in the infamous Kit Kat Klub. Here, emcee Sally Bowles and a raucous ensemble take the stage nightly to tantalize the crowd and to remind them to leave their troubles outside – because life is beautiful at Cabaret.

The score includes some of the most memorable songs in theater history, including “Cabaret,” “Willkommen” and “Maybe This Time.” John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff’s Tony-winning musical details what happens when you follow your heart while the world loses its way.

Echo Magazine chatted with Harrison on his latest role, ahead of Cabaret’s stop at ASU Gammage Sept. 13-18, and here’s what he had to say.

Echo: How did you prepare for the role of the emcee?

Harrison: I grew up watching Cabaret with Joel Grey and always found it fascinating, scary and charming. I did see the original Broadway production three times. So, I knew the role. When it was announced that they were casting the role, I knew that I had now aged into the role. I started by studying the material and music. I read Christopher Isherwood stories, Christopher and His Kind and the two Berlin stories, which the play is based on. I then watched the video production with Alan Cummings. I don’t avoid other productions because it is incredible to watch and see how different actors interpreted the role.

Randy Harrison as the Emcee in the National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Echo: How did you approach the dance in the show?

Harrison: Choreographer Cynthia Onrubia is terrific and helped me greatly to prepare for the role. This show is more about communication and not as much about precision and technique. It’s a very physical show.

Echo: In your role, you have the opportunity to interact with audiences. How has that gone?

Harrison: I break down the fourth wall and help the audience feel like they are club denizens. I am very responsive to audiences and how vocal they are. No two shows are ever alike because the audience is a character [who] changes the show. I do mingle and bring an audience member on stage. Audiences are always game. Yet, the first time someone said ‘No,’ it was a bit shocking, but I got used to it. It’s all in synch to the music, so I have a limited time to dance with someone and make jokes. I found it’s best the less I think about it. Sometimes an overly enthusiastic audience member can be dangerous because it can be hard to get them off the stage.

Echo: What is the message in this production?

Harrison: It’s all about the consequences of political disengagement. As my character, I always have a strong opinion about what’s happening on stage and the audience’s reaction to the action. I turn outrage into humor. My role challenges the audience. I enjoy creating expectations and then subverting them by pulling the rug out on the audience. The sadist in me enjoys that.

Echo: Do you have a particular moment that resonates for you?

Harrison: My role changes throughout the show. I provide commentary that is up-tempo and satirical. Yet, I really enjoy the song, “I Don’t Care Much” – it is gorgeous. It is the first time the emcee is not playing a character. He drops the façade and you see how he is being affected.

Echo: How does Cabaret speak to our times?

Harrison: There’s a political party that promotes hate, discrimination scapegoating and we are watching a demigod come to power. There are parallels to what is happing here in the United States in terms of extremism and its acceptability.

Echo: Would you consider doing a television series again?

Harrison: Sure, I would be interested in doing a series again. I actually miss television. I did a few episodes of “Mr. Robot.” I also directed for the first time a web series written by friends called “New York Is Dead.”

Echo: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about the show?

Harrison: I’m so proud of this production and want people to come see it.

Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Cabaret. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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