BWW Interview: Randy Harrison as Emcee with Roundabout Theatre Company's CABARET on Tour
Randy Harrison has had an impressive career and has enjoyed performing in many different shows. Currently playing the role of Emcee in Roundabout Theatre Company's CABARET on Tour, Randy chatted with BWW about some of the experiences that lead him to be part of such an iconic classic show.
Tell us about how you decided to pursue a musical theater degree.
I pursued a career in musical theater because I could sing and I also knew that the more well-rounded you were as a performer, the more opportunities there would be for you. I didn't want to not train that aspect of what I could do. I went to a really wonderful high school that had a wonderful drama program and we did about four plays a year and one musical a year. It was my ideal percentage of work I do as far as the amount of musical theater and straight theater. I love singing and I love music so it was important to me that I get that training in college.
When did you get the bug to pursue this career?
I got the bug pretty early. I went to a production with Sandy Duncan in PETER PAN and it was awesome that I saw when I was five or six years old. I think the story was that they thought I was too young then at the last minute they couldn't find a babysitter so they brought me but I was the one that enjoyed it the most. I do kind of remember imagining that magic could happen, that gravity didn't apply. I just wanted to get to the other side, to the other side of that world. I started performing right after that in community theater.
You've had a lot of great opportunities in your life including being a part of Queer as Folk. Can you tell us about that role and some of the stand out experiences for you?
I feel like having an opportunity like that was such a gift. I felt, especially at the time, we started shooting in 2000 and I grew up gay in Georgia and kind of the first representation that I had through art and Angels in America was big in the early 90's and I knew that representation, how important it was for young gay kids growing up in homophobic environments. I knew that would be something that would be seen more than anything else at the time and I wanted to be a part of representation and it felt important socially to do that; to have a show that depicted gay love and gay sex in that way. It was very different in some ways than anything I'd done. I had just graduated from musical theater school. Being in front a television camera was brand new to me. It was terrifying and it was a thrill but it felt important. It's one of those gigs that the farther away I get from it, the more and more significant. I'm hearing from people all over the world still where the show is just getting to them and it's prevented people from despairing. That makes me happy.
Doing Queer as Folk must have been a growing experience both professionally and personally.
Of course. I was in it from when I was 22 to 27 which I think are massively growing years for anyone. And professionally, the kind of opportunities I got very much changed my career. It opened up a lot of doors for me. I don't know what I would have been doing if I hadn't had that job.
Fast forward a few years and you're now playing in CABARET as Emcee, can you tell us how you got that role?
I knew the show, I had seen it in the late 90's and early 2000's, I'd seen it like three times during the course of its first run of this production on Broadway and I loved it. I think it's an extraordinary production. I always have. I thought Alan's performance was astounding. Then when I found out they were touring the revival, I jumped at the opportunity to audition. I felt like I was finally old enough and in a range where I could be considered for the Emcee. I auditioned three times. I worked with the associate choreographer. She taught me "Willkommen". I had to do all of "Willkommen" for the creative team and they recorded it for Rob Marshall. It was an extended process and I then I waited two months while they put together the cast before I knew I got it.
What is the most challenging part about being in CABARET?
I think just trying to stay healthy on the road. We perform eight shows a week, Tuesday through Sunday and then we get on airplanes and travel all day. We live in hotels without full kitchens so trying to make sure that I get enough exercise, to make sure I eat healthy, to make sure I get enough rest, it's a lot of work. The actual performing of the show is challenging, it requires a lot of energy but it's so well structured and the audience gives me so much energy that getting to the show is always a joy provided I'm rested enough and ready to do the show. The thing about touring, I'm learning. I'm a home body. I'm a cook. This is very different for me in trying to live out of a suitcase.
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into musical theater?
I always say make your own work. Audition for everything that you can, study at every opportunity but also write your own stuff. With digital media how is it now, everybody can make a movie with their cell phones. Making your own work with your friends, people that are talented and collaborating is the best way to figure out who you are as an artist and I think it's going to sustain you longer than auditioning for other people and getting other people to make you learn. But, I think you can make your own opportunities. I think so many more actors are doing that now; so much more material especially with all the new media like Hulu, Broad City, a lot of this is being generated by the performers themselves. They're writing their own stuff. I think that's been of value to me. On the years where you have a hard time getting work, to really know that you can make your own work and collaborate with your friends and make things happen and you don't have to wait for other people to give you the opportunity is invaluable.
CABARET comes to Austin at the Bass Concert Hall from March 29 to April 3, 2016. Tickets can be purchased by going to their website.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus