BWW Interview: Actor RANDY HARRISON Discusses CABARET and His Role of EMCEE
Actor Randy Harrison is touring with Cabaret as the Emcee and will be at the Pantages performing the show July 19 - August 7. In our chat he discusses the role and what Cabaret means to him.
Describe the experience of playing the emcee in Cabaret. What makes this role such a coveted one?
Playing the emcee has been the most liberating, challenging and rewarding professional experience of my career to date. I think the role is so coveted firstly because the material is so good. The book is one of the best in the musical theatre canon and the score is rightfully iconic. And the role is unique in that it can be so many things - there can be me a myriad of interpretations that all potentially work, so it gives an actor an amazing opportunity for creativity and invention. It also spans an immense emotional and stylistic range.
You get to wear a lot of funky clothes ... or very little in this part. Tell the audience how different this version of Cabaret is from the original.
The emcee in this production loves playing with gender. It's not something that was absent in the original production but the envelope is pushed farther in this production. Weimar Berlin clubs and bars were progressive, even radical: gender roles, expression and sexuality mores were being openly subverted and explored. Magnus Hirschfeld was beginning his extraordinary research on sexuality and gender. This production is extremely tawdry, raucous, sexy and challenging in a way that is probably very similar to the actually Weimar era cabaret clubs it depicts.
What message does the emcee carry to the audience?
The potential consequences of political disengagement.
You have many fun musical numbers to perform. It's an energetic role. How are you preparing for it? Any challenges?
I've been doing it for 6 months now, so it's pretty much in my body. I have a half hour vocal and physical warm up and I need to be very vigilant about my eating and sleeping schedule.
Is this your best role to date? If so, why? How?
I have a hard time ranking my different roles hierarchically, I've loved so many of them. This is a very special role, and a show and production I believe in very deeply. It's satisfying not only to get to act and sing amazing material but to feel you are communicating a perfectly structured story that is of artistic, social and political significance.
I reviewed you in Amadeus a couple of years ago in Santa Barbara. You were very good. Talk a little about your involvement with this play.
Randy Harrison as Emcee
I've done Amadeus twice now. I did it in the Berkshires over 10 years ago and then I did it in Santa Barbara 2 or 3 years ago. It's a wonderful role, a great play, fantastic music. The role has such a clear and tragic arc, it's very fun to play. That one takes a lot of energy too. I suppose I'm getting all the exhausting roles out of my system now so in my twilight years I can just play Hamm in End Game, sit in a chair the whole show and boss other people around.
Did you ever see the original Cabaret onstage with Joel Grey? If so, how did it make you feel?
I did not see Joel Grey on stage in Cabaret. I did grow up with the movie, which is very different from the stage version. I was always fascinated by the world of Cabaret and by his Emcee.
What else is new on the horizon for Randy Harrison? Stage, TV or film!
I'll be on the road with Cabaret through February. I'm in a short film called Photo Op that has been playing festivals (Palm Springs, Soho, Outfest, etc.) And I directed a web series called "New York is Dead" that is just now completing post production.