Like a best-selling novel or a hit song, some musicals 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 pre-World War II Germany, Cabaret has enjoyed numerous revivals over the decades, with its latest inception landing at Winspear Opera House May 25.
Randy Harrison stars as the Emcee, a role that earned Joel Grey an Oscar and helped make Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming 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 performers have embodied."
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. 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."
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.
“It asks one of the most important questions of the 20th century," says Harrison, "namely, how did a civilized society allow the genocide of 11 million people? It's relevant whenever bigotry and hatred enter political discourse.”
Harrison passionately says Cabaret’s appeal stems 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 Cabaret at Winspear Opera House through June 5.