Like a best selling novel or a hit song, some musicals are enduring and hold up well beyond the period in which they were created. Such is the destiny of Cabaret. The Broadway show became a hit in 1966 (and an Oscar-winning movie starring Liza Minnelli six years later). Set in the late 1920s as the Third Reich gains power in Germany, Cabaret has enjoyed numerous revivals over the decades with its latest inception landing at the Hobby Center tonight through Sunday (March 27).
Randy Harrison stars as The Emcee — a role that earned Joel Grey an Oscar and helped make Tony-Award-winning actor Alan Cumming (currently Eli Gold in The Good Wife) a star. “I have enormous respect for both performers,” says Harrison. “I grew up watching Joel Grey's Emcee in the film version of Cabaret and I saw Alan Cumming do this production twice. It's an honor to step into a role so many incredible performs have embodied. “
Set in a sleazy Berlin nightclub, the musical tells the story of a young performer’s budding romance with an American writer as the Nazis rise to power.
Harrison explains what keeps the show relevant. “It asks one of the most important questions of the 20th century, namely how did a civilized society allow the genocide of 11 million people? It's relevant whenever bigotry and hatred enter political discourse.”
Harrison, who spent five years playing Justin Taylor on TV hit Queer as Folk has been a hot commodity on the theater circuit since the show ended in 2005.
“The biggest joy about being on stage is that as the actor you are the final mediator between the story and the audience…in film and television, the actor does their job and many other artists sculpt their performance and put together the story out of the raw material the actor has given,” Harrison explains. “It's much more empowering to be on stage. “
He says playing the Emcee has provided him with some unique opportunities as an actor. “This is the first role I've had a chance to improvise portions and also directly interact with the audience. It's been incredibly liberating.“
Harrison passionately summarized Cabaret’s appeal as stemming from its many layers. “It's simultaneously a wonderfully entertaining, glitzy fun musical and a smart sophisticated challenging show. I feel like very few pieces of theater strike that balance as perfectly as Cabaret.”
You can enter the world of the Cabaret Kit Kat Klub at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts from March 22 through 27.