Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of "Cabaret" — the 1966 musical based on Christopher Isherwood’s novellas about an ignorance-is-bliss Berlin — heads to the Boston Opera House Jan. 31. To prepare for its arrival, we chat with actor Randy Harrison who plays the Emcee about his role and why "Cabaret" is still relevant today.
“It’s a dream role. It’s one of the most iconic roles in musical theater,” explains Harrison, master of ceremonies for the Kit Kat Club. "I'm always communicating directly with the audience. My job is very much to break down the fourth wall."
Harrison’s favorite song is ‘I don’t care much.”
“I think I love it mostly because it is so different from anything else I do in the show. Most of my numbers are comic, up-tempo,” the longtime "Queer as Folk" alum says.
In contrast, "I Don't Care Much," a ballad," shows a more intimate side of the Emcee. Harrison continues, "It's this beautiful torch song that I can just stand there and sing. It's kind of the first time I feel like the veneer of the empty sort of falls away and you start to see who might actually be underneath the character that he's portraying.”
This character requires an enormous amount of energy.
In regards to challenges, Harrison admits, "I'm naturally an introverted, shy person and this character is really the opposite. I really had to find a lot of confidence in myself on the stage to own the audience, to control so much of the action and the scope of the show. So, that was fun to dig within myself."
50 years later, the show is still politically relevant.
"I feel like the show is about the consequences of political disengagement. I feel like it's about what happens when a society starts to allow hate and hate speech to be accepted." The show reveals how strong ignorance can be in allowing discrimination to grow. When this happens, the wrong people not only stay in power, but also become more fierce in their control of a people. Harrison adds, "it can lead to genocide very quickly."
As far as today, Harrison demands that our own political climate cannot be taken so lightly. "[Social media activity and TV segments] aren't jokes. They are things that have very real and devastating consequences to an enormous amount of our population potentially. If you aren't actively engaged in fighting that kind of behavior and those policies, then you might as well be throwing people in the gas chamber."
He concludes with his favorite line from the show: "‘If you're not against all this, then you're for it—or you might as well be.’ I feel like that is very true right now and I feel like the call to engagement that the show provokes I think is extraordinarily vitally important for all of us."
If you go:
Jan. 31 to Feb. 12
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St.
Tickets start at $20, ticketmaster.com